Value Driven Stories

Value driven - A Beautiful Mind
A Beautiful Mind is a value driven story

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GOOD STORIES are value driven. They are more than just about the outer journey that the Hero embarks on in pursuit of a difficult but worthy goal.

In How to Make a Good Script Great, Hollywood screenwriting consultant Linda Seger reminds us that something more meaningful has to occur to deepen the story – it has to address some aspect of the human condition and the values that underpin it.

Value Driven Stories

A value driven system can be a negative or positive one. In the film, Gladiator, Maximus’ actions seem ostensibly to be driven by his desire to revenge the slaughter of his family. But a closer examination reveals that he is also driven by his need to right the wrongs of government that arose as a consequence of the emperor’s death.

The search for justice, the pursuit of excellence, the striving for honour, the need for fulfillment – these are all aspects of a character’s inner journey that help audiences and readers identify with the Hero.

In A Beautiful Mind, John Nash needs to solve a great mathematical problem in order to prove his worth. He is driven by great intelligence, which manifests, in part, in his condescending attitude towards his peers and teachers.

Yet, at a deeper level, he strives for things of the heart, rather than just those of the mind: he makes up a fictional government agent who appreciates his abilities and encourages him to solve a puzzle which can save the world – a mark of his superior intelligence and his need to serve the greater good.

A story’s value system can spring from a character’s desire for authenticity, as in Driving Miss Daisy, in which Miss Daisy discovers her true self is more connected to those below her social sphere than she realises.

A value system can also espouse social values – a fight for peace, justice, and freedom, as in Thelma and Louise and A Few Good Men. Whatever the emphasis, values underpin a character’s actions, helping to guide, inflect, and often create a story-enriching inner conflict.

Summary

Value driven tales make for good stories. Values guide a character’s actions; a story’s value system is revealed by the theme, which is typically settled at the end of the story when the clash between the Hero yields the victor.

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Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

2 thoughts on “Value Driven Stories”

  1. Interesting post. If I understand it correctly the value of a story lies not in the quest of the character’s outer journey but rather in the character’s discovery of something that he was never looking for. In Sherk the main protagonist is bound and determined to claim back his home and resume his life of isolation. The value in Sherk’s journey lies in Donkey’s friendship and falling in love with Fiona – something Sherk only realizes after having accomplished his ultimate goal of getting back his swamp. There is a reason why after more then thirty films produced by Dream works animation that Sherk is still the only film to have won a academy award – Sherk’s character arch.

    In short : By the end of the film your character need’s to be change men and women when they wake up the next morning.

    1. A strong story rests on the bedrock of values, Gerhard—integrity, honour, honesty…the sorts of old-fashioned values we seem to have forgotten in our know-it-all modern world.

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