Value Exchange

by | Jan 24, 2024 | Tips and Tricks

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“Value exchange” refers to a change in values or priorities. The dictionary defines ‘value’ as ‘worth’ or importance, and it’s subjective. Human or character, we each possess many values, and any value can change from positive to negative or negative to positive. 

Every genre has one main “value at stake.” This value at stake describes the primary change that’s going to take place over the course of the story. In a romance novel, the value at stake is love. An action story or a horror story has life itself as the intrinsic value. A western is about freedom and subjugation; in a mystery or crime, it’s justice or injustice. It’s what the main character stands to lose or gain over the course of the story. 

Values change constantly in fiction and in life. StoryBuilder’s concerned with value exchange at the scene level. A scene is a story in miniature- an action through conflict in one time and place that alters the condition of a character’s life. 

Value exchange can be a subtle or gradual process, or it can be sudden and dramatic. The exchange can involve a character adopting new values or beliefs, or can involve a change in how a character prioritizes or balances her existing values. 

For example, in The Old Man and the Sea, the boy Manolin appears only in the beginning and the end of the novella. In the opening we learn that Manolin’s father has ordered him to abandon the old man, whom he loves, and crew with other, luckier, boats. But at the end, after he’s found Santiago sleeping in his hut, and seen his mangled hands and the skeleton of the giant marlin, he vows he will fish with the old man regardless of consequences. This is not only a sign of his love and respect for the old man, but a coming of age for Manolin, a value exchange:

Value exchanges can be positive (here, timidity to confidence), or negative. 

Overall, value exchange at the scene level can be a powerful tool for writers to reveal character development and create dynamic scenes. 

A value exchange is also a quick way of summarizing the change that takes place within a scene. If you don’t put some kind of change in every scene, nothing interesting will happen, and the reader won’t be involved. Such a scene doesn’t belong in your story. Not every scene may involve full-on conflict, but the scene can still have a value exchange. A lay-of-the-land scene describing a small town off the main roads can describe closed stores and run-down streets, a change from affluence to poverty.

StoryCAD’s Value Exchange  story property is a work in progress, but still worth trying. The concept of value exchange, and its usefulness in planning your story, are beyond doubt.