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The Importance of Reputation

Tweet: There was a time and place when a man was only as good as his word and integrity was paramount. #writingtips

A clansman's oath was to the death. Tribesmen the world over made verbal contracts often involving an exchange of blood.

If you lived in merry old Europe during most of the regent-named eras, a reputation was considered more important than currency. A man might be poor, but he could still have his good name. Lots of citizens indulged in lascivious shenanigans, though most turned a blind eye while they did so. As long as the shenanigans took place in private and the “public” remained ignorant, all was well and good. Shift the curtains and allow a passerby to see inside the facade and the person in question was ruined.

Are honesty and integrity important in your story world? Is it more valuable than currency? 

Is it important for Dick to have a “good name?”  What will Dick have to do to maintain or regain his reputation? Many a tale hinges on someone trying to repair a damaged reputation. Dick’s integrity might be one of his hot buttons. Others will challenge it at their own risk.

Dick might be proud of his reputation as a womanizer and guy’s guy. Jane might look down her patrician nose at him for being so superficial. In many a love story, she finds out her initial prejudice was unfounded.

Jane might have a reputation as a loose woman with a sharp tongue. When forced to work with Jane, Dick might realize Jane has been unfairly demonized. She is really quite lovely.

How important are honesty and integrity to the characters that move about your story world? 

Not all of them will value the same things. To some, virtues will be of the highest importance. To others, vices might be of higher importance.

Is it better to give than receive? Depends on who is giving and who is receiving, doesn’t it? If Dick is giving money to a charity, it’s a good thing. If Jane is giving crucial intelligence to Iran, not such a good thing. Both might have a reputation as a “giving” sort of person.

What if Dick has earned a reputation he does not deserve? What if he is held aloft and admired by millions for something he didn’t really do, or for doing something that appeared benign when it was secretly malignant?

It might be Jane’s story goal to strip him of his “good name.”

A business’s reputation is worth its weight in stocks. A single incident can trash a business’s reputation. The business may never recover. The stakes are high when a company is fighting to keep, change, or restore its reputation. Those at the top of the corporate pyramid may turn lethal if their reputation is challenged. If Dick orchestrates a coup with the sole purpose of destroying a corporation, the game is on.


To learn more about the mannequins and how personality types create conflict for your characters, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, available in paperback and E-book, and Story Building Blocks: Build A Cast Workbook available in paperback and E-book.

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