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Psychology in Fiction Writing

January 15, 2013

Why do your characters act the way they do? What made your villain so evil? This is the psychology of writing. Psychology is the study of the mind, and it can be referenced to develop rationales for why people behave in a certain way. Although this is typically thought of as a field used only in the real world, it can also be important in literature because it delves into the background of the characters.

As a reader, looking into the psychology of writing can help to illuminate the reasons behind the way the characters are portrayed. It helps explain how they get to the point they are at in the story, and it can show why certain characters connect better than others. In some cases, it can even demonstrate why these characters are in the story at all.

As a writer, the psychology of writing is extremely important. Even if a writer chooses not to include this aspect of the story in his actual writing, thinking about the psychology allows the writer to get a much better feel for the characters. The writer should understand why the characters behave in the manner they do. Even if certain behaviors may seem strange to the readers, the writer must know why and how these behaviors come about. There is almost always an explanation, and contemplating this rationale can lead to new insights about the characters.

I specify fiction writing rather than all writing because in fiction, the psychology can be explored in a very real sense. The fiction writer determines everything about his characters, so when he wants to examine his characters from their foundations up through their actions, he can do that without fear of making incorrect inferences. Psychology is just as important in real life, especially since this is the context in which the field is typically referenced, but a nonfiction writer has to be more careful when using it. Nonfiction deals with real people, so messing around with psychology can easily become very controversial if judgments are made that slander someone’s image. Fiction writers do not have to worry as much about this because the characters are largely their own creation.

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One Comment
  1. Very good post. This is critical to draw the reader into the story and obtain a connection with the characters. Well said.

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