Thursday, May 26, 2011

Psychology 101 - For Writers

My husband is excellent at finding characters acting “out of character” in fiction. His main complaint about books is that authors write characters and then they don’t stay true to character. I think the reason he is so great at finding these discrepancies is that he not only has a BA in, but also a talent for—psychology.

This had led me to believe that writers must also be armchair psychologists. We all hear we need to know our characters motivations, but that could mean a million things.

Here are 10* questions that should help. You need to be able to answer these questions to have a well fleshed out character:

  1. What is their background? How does it affect their actions today?
  2. What is the defining moment in their life?
  3. What do they want most?
  4. What will they do to get it?
  5. What is something they assume to be true that is not?
  6. What do people believe about them that is false?
  7. What are their talents? How did they develop them?
  8. What are their flaws? How did they develop them?
  9. What is their main goal?
  10. How do they go against stereotype?

If you can answer all of these you are well on your way. If not take a deeper look. The answers could help and even drive your plot—especially #4.


*Some, but not all, of these questions came from a class it took on Characters by J. Scott Savage and Deanne Blackhurst


Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Yummy- can I say that your little posts are so wonderful!

I hate it when characters act out of character as well BUT as a writer it gets tricky in rewrites and the like. I vow,here and now, to be more careful, for you husband and all psychologist out there ;)

Angie Cothran said...

Thanks Shelly!

It is one thing to write for sympathetic readers who are along for the ride, but quite another to write for the detail oriented who see our mistakes. I guess that is what husbands, critique groups and editors are for :)

taio said...

excelente post

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