My Opinion on Opinions
The word opinion is thrown around a lot nowadays, usually accompanied by things like entitled and freedom of speech. You want to know mine? Well, this is my blog, so I’m giving it to you anyways! Ha! I think the word opinion is the most abused word in the English dictionary, right alongside terrorist. In fact, many are confusing the definition of opinion with that of oppression. (here’s looking at you, scaremongers) Current day politics aside, opinions are things we need to be aware of and take advantage of in our writing.
The Google searched definition of opinion is as follows: a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Imagine that! Opinions are constructs of our minds, a gathering of truths, half-truths, and lies we mash together and form into words meant to persuade someone to our way of thinking. How those opinions form and the strength of your conviction affects how you go about their daily life.
Keep this in mind: racism or the Nazi mindset didn’t develop overnight. That was years, and sometimes generations, in the making. Everyday events may persuade you to develop new views or even change old ones. There are those who flow from one opinion to the next, ever changing as new facts or events present themselves, while others are a stubborn and unchanging as crocodile DNA.
Some people dole out their opinions as if the words coming from their mouths are so nourishing they might just solve world hunger. Others fear their words might anger or put people off. Often, people give their two cents whether you asked for them or not. Ever been pregnant? Enough said. There is no filter for out-dated or silly opinions and, unfortunately, no Google search that can prove/disprove the words coming out of their mouths, though you might stumble across those with similar ideas or beliefs. And don’t we just love finding kindred spirits now?
Another thing to keep in mind when developing your character’s personality: the stronger the person feels about said opinion, the louder their presence will be. Ever spent any time with a person who still believes in “a woman’s place?” The scathing remarks from both the speaker and the feminists would be similar to a comments section in a controversial news article. Opinions are meant to make you feel something, whether that be anger, fear, justification, righteousness, or anything else in between.
Freedom of speech is especially evident in social media. Ever read the comment sections on religious, political, or parenting topics? If you value your sanity, don’t do it. But they do provide a type of research on debates, or more often, how not to debate an issue. Aka: Name calling, finger pointing, spitting out whatever comes to mind without facts of any kind, acting like the perfect person with the perfect family and whatever the article is about would never happen to you. People are often set off by the most inconsequential words, and the internet does not translate tone or sarcasm very well. These are all great flaws to give your characters, after all!
And don’t get me started on religion. Everyone has an opinion on what this or that religion is about, most of it based on fear in great part thanks to selective media coverage.
Keep all this in mind when you create your characters. Their upbringing, surroundings, and current events will color their thoughts and affect what comes out of their mouths. A person growing up in a racist family would have difficulties digging themselves out from that mindset. It would spark internal debates and take a conscious effort to rise above the hate.
How often do you think about what you say before you say it, especially when you’re around people you know? In order to create believable characters, you have to let them blurt out their opinions without first posting paragraphs and pages of deliberation. Those scenes come afterwards – the results of their careless words.
Fashion is another industry that’s technically based on someone’s opinion of what’s cool or in for the season. In essence, it’s a form of non-verbal opinion. One man’s tuxedo is another man’s penguin suit. Every few months someone whose opinion has serious weight poises their pencils above a blank sheet of paper and decides what the world will wear. Tulip shaped skirts and nipple pasties anyone?
On the flip side, how often have you formed an opinion based on someone’s appearance? His suit is crisp and clean, hair slicked back, briefcase in hand: he must be important. Her clothing has holes in it, yesterday’s spaghetti smeared across the skirt, her hair a tangled mess: she has no self-esteem otherwise she’d care for herself better, possibly homeless. In reality, the man is a struggling graduate, who hasn’t had a meal in three days, returning from an interview he’s sure he bombed, and that woman has no memory of what happened after her first drink at dinner last night.
Ok, not every backstory needs to be tragic (where’s the fun in that, though?) The hipster breakdancing in the streets could be the CEO or ruler of the city. Your prim and proper officer might be perceived as a stick in the mud but is actually notorious for playing pranks. Whatever the case, what they wear affects first impressions, something to keep in mind when your characters interact with others.
I could continue dishing out examples of how our opinions shape our perception, but you get the point. Consider the two following points when dealing with opinions:
A: Opinions can and do change. You are allowed to adjust your perception no matter how strongly you believe in something, and the same can be said for your characters.
B: Opinions, which are often shielded by the notorious freedom of speech amendment, are not free of the consequences they incur. Your words, your character’s words, can set events spiralling out of control. In truth, it’s your job as a writer to do exactly this!
Words have power, wield them wisely.