Saturday, September 17, 2011

Using Psychology To Build Your Characters

One of the great advantages to working at a college is that you have access to its library resources. Today I spent a little time flipping through magazines and found an interesting article on character in Psychology Today.

It's called 6 Clues To Character and appeared in the June 2011 issue of the magazine. The first thing I thought of as a writer was my characters - of course. The six areas the article mentioned were intelligence, drive, happiness, goodness, friendship and intimacy.

Although the article was talking about how you can measure your mate or your child, I was thinking how I could measure my protagonists, antagonists, etc. One line in particular stands out:

"But psychology knows that the future grows out of the past, and both tend to be built on observable aspects of character and behavior."

Doesn't that get you excited! When you want to ensure a character's future makes sense, include some tie to his or her past. How do you do that? Clues again in the quote above: build scenes where readers can observe your character's behavior. You want readers to see your characters do stuff or be exposed to stuff that makes them who they are.

For example, if your character has a certain tendency for moral ambiguity, then have a scene from his childhood where his mother is cheating on her taxes or where a sibling is shoplifting and recruits your character as a lookout. Even a mere suggestion of such past experiences can help with characterization.

Check out the article and let me know what wisdom you gathered from it.


  1. Where is the citation for the article?

  2. If you want to check out the article, just follow the link and it'll take you right to it. Thx for the comment.


Pedro Is Still Writing

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