We’ve looked at dress, speech, and movement all of which builds into an idea of how people in our fictional worlds are expected to behave. It’s important to remember that our worlds should have expectations of the way characters should behave but that doesn’t mean it is how they behave. We may have a divide between the public and the personal or conformity and non-conformity or we may make different divisions but as soon as we have that gap between expectation and reality we have a conflict in our world.
Conflict can come from people trying and failing to conform to these standards, openly refusing to, or not fitting society’s idea of behaviour in anyway. We only have to look at the real world for examples of the conflict between cookie cutter grouping and the reality of being human. Presenting this conflict can make our stories more complex and give them a sense of reality whereas not showing this conflict can make our stories seem flat.
The reason stories without this conflict can seem flat is because it simply doesn’t ring true for many people who have experienced any form of discrimination. Nor does it ring true that everyone would fit into society’s expectations and if they don’t that no-one would comment on it. Whether right or wrong people have opinions and a tendency to express them so the idea that no-one would say anything about the person who stands out in the crowd feels wrong when people read it.
We’ve probably all met at least one person in our lives who thinks they’re always right and have to comment on everything, even things they know nothing about. In some parts of some societies it’s expected for people to behave that way and point out when people are wrong. A common theme in fiction is taking a person from a poor background and putting them amongst wealthy people and the interaction between the two. In British society it’s not unheard of for people of inherited wealth to complain about people who’ve come from a working class background having a lack of ‘good breeding’. This immediately tells something about that person and the attitudes of the society they grew up in. The mere fact they feel they’re entitled to say it tells us something about the place they’re in and their relation to it.
What people say, how they dress, and move all builds into an image of the society we’re creating and the conflict they may have with that society.