Psychology Tips for Writers

by | Jul 1, 2023 | 0 comments

How to Write Psychologically Consistent Therapy

I want to discuss how to create psychologically consistent characters in fiction. Often, characters in fiction can feel one-dimensional and lacking depth. As a writer myself, I understand the desire to overcome writer’s block and develop nuanced characters that resonate with readers. In this article, I will share some insights on how to achieve psychological consistency in your characters, drawing from concepts such as childhood influences, personality parts, and the notion of the shadow.

Where Learn We are Loveable

One essential aspect to consider is that none of us exist in a vacuum. Our childhood experiences shape us, and we often learn about our lovability or purpose from our opposite-sex parent. This knowledge influences our sense of altruism, creativity, or productivity. Similarly, we acquire coping mechanisms and ways of navigating the world from our same-sex parent. These influences can sometimes create tension within a character, leading to intriguing complexities. For instance, a character may genuinely care about others and strive to help them but display a mean and forceful demeanor. Exploring these contradictions can make characters more captivating and authentic.

Different Parts of Self

To overcome writer’s block and develop well-rounded characters, it can be helpful to explore the different parts of their personality. Just as we possess an inner critic, which often surfaces as self-critical thoughts, characters can also have inner voices that influence their actions and inner monologues. By incorporating these internal conflicts into your writing, you can add depth and authenticity to your characters’ inner lives.

Another crucial personality part to consider is the “pusher” self, a part of our psyche that constantly urges us to keep moving and avoid confronting difficult emotions. This part often emerges from our experiences as social beings, where academic and social pressures overwhelm us. Characters with a pusher self may exhibit obsessive behaviors, addictions, or compulsions. By incorporating these psychological aspects into your characters, you can create more believable and psychologically consistent individuals.

When designing a character’s backstory, it’s essential to consider their origins and how certain personality parts may have developed. For example, humor, that intuitive spark enabling individuals to decipher people’s thoughts and desires, often stems from a childhood where they didn’t receive the acceptance they needed. To cope, they developed the ability to wrap uncomfortable truths in jokes, ensuring acceptance while sharing their authentic selves. On the other hand, individuals lacking this early experience may not possess genuine wit or use humor as a coping mechanism.

By exploring these various psychological dimensions, you can enhance the richness of your fictional characters. Aligning their actions, thoughts, and dialogue with their psychological makeup will make them more engaging and relatable to readers. These principles not only apply to creative writing but can also offer valuable insights into the human psyche in therapy.

The Repressed Self

Additionally, it’s crucial to acknowledge the concept of the shadow, representing the parts of ourselves we refuse to acknowledge due to conflicts with our self-image. When writing characters, consider incorporating elements of the shadow. These are the aspects that characters may be unaware of or deny, but that ultimately drive their growth and development. Exploring the shadow can provide a structure for character arcs and create compelling narrative tension.

In summary, crafting psychologically consistent characters requires a deep understanding of their influences, personality parts, and hidden aspects. By considering characters’ childhood experiences, their internal conflicts, and the complexities of their personalities, you can create authentic and multi-dimensional individuals. These principles can help you overcome writer’s block and breathe life into your fictional characters.

Mapping Characters’ Psychology

Rather than resembling a typical book on writing, this article adopts a structure more akin to a psychotherapy guide. It avoids delving into complex psychological concepts taught in introductory psychology courses, focusing solely on providing enough clinical information to help you map and construct your characters. By understanding the psychology of your characters, you can not only make them relatable to your audience but also create a network of characters that behave realistically and intriguingly.

Unleashing Vivid Characters

By psychologically mapping your characters, you will develop a deeper connection with their essence and unique voices. Whether you employ character maps to outline your primary point-of-view character or a minor character navigating your plot, this approach will prevent you from getting stuck in decision-making loops and allow you to genuinely engage with each character’s story. Writing theorists often discuss two predominant approaches to fiction writing: plotting and pantsing. However, this article proposes a third approach—an innovative way to create structure through psychological mapping.

Plotting vs. Pantsing

One common pitfall in character writing is when a character unintentionally becomes a transparent mouthpiece for the author. This alternative method advocates for constructing characters who possess an independent drive, freely forging their own stories across the blank pages that initially daunt us. Well-crafted characters are imbued with desires and narratives that the author may not have initially planned. Traditionally, writing theorists have debated the merits of being a “plotter,” meticulously outlining the novel’s plot beforehand, versus a “pantser,” who writes by the seat of their pants, allowing the plot to unfold instinctively. While plotters excel in efficient storytelling, their characters may feel shallow and contrived. Conversely, pantsers rely on intuition, often discovering their characters during gripping moments. Although pantsing can lead to intricate and superfluous story sections, it also nurtures realistic characters and spontaneous plot developments.

I hope you found these insights helpful. Stay tuned for more in-depth discussions on character development, as I am currently writing a book on this subject. Feel free to share your thoughts, and thank you for taking the time to read this article. I look forward to engaging with you in future conversations.

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