Why People Have Favourites

I always say that my favourite colour is purple.

It’s been purple for as long as I can remember. But I don’t own anything purple, and at work I secretly prefer the red mug. (It’s too late to admit the truth.)

If I stop to think about it, the truth is obvious: I don’t have a favourite.

How can purple be better than green or orange? While I prefer different colours in different contexts, no single shade stands out as supreme. So why do I cling onto my childhood answer instead of owning up?

Some writing advice I once read stated that in order to write believable characters, you need to understand them. You need to get into their skull. Write their diary entries. And list their favourites.

Knowing someone’s favourites is portrayed as an indication of knowing a person. But what does it actually tell you about them?

Perhaps I’m looking at this the wrong way.

Discussing favourites is a conversation starter, a way to find common ground. And, in writing, it’s a way to discover what truly matters to your character.

The important question isn’t what their favourite colour is — but why.

Does your character love red because it reminds them of blood, or because it’s the colour of love? Does green make them think of deathly poison, or of newly grown grass? Pinpointing your character’s thought processes is the best way to get to know them.

And if your character turns out like me, and doesn’t have favourites? At least you know they’re comfortable with ambiguity.

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