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Understanding Human Psychology to Craft Compelling Characters

human psychology

So, you want to create characters that readers will remember long after finishing your story. To make your characters come alive on the page, it helps to have a basic understanding of human psychology. What makes people tick? What motivates their actions and reactions?

Learning about how the human mind works can help you craft authentic and compelling characters. Here are some critical psychological concepts to remember as you develop your story’s personalities.

human psychology

A healthy expression of human emotion helps build strong bonds

Motivation – All human behavior is motivated by some underlying need, desire, or goal. Whether it’s something basic like survival or higher-level wants like achievement or belonging, understanding what drives your characters will make them feel dynamic and realistic. What are the inner forces propelling each character forward in your story? What do they genuinely want, and how far will they get it? Fleshing out your characters’ motivations will give them dimension and purpose.

Emotions – We’re emotional creatures, and our feelings strongly influence our thoughts and actions. Ensure each character expresses a full range of authentic emotions throughout the story. Show how anger, joy, fear, sadness, and other core feelings color their perceptions and sway their decision-making. Drawing on your own emotional experiences can help you convincingly portray the inner lives of your characters.

In the “Balm of Angels” by Charles Dennis, the protagonist, Oliver, seems confused about who he is based on his memory loss and inability to recall basic details about himself. This could indicate an identity crisis brought on by old age and dementia. His confusion about his age suggests an unclear sense of self.

Personality – We all have distinct personality traits that make us individuals. The big five traits of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism provide a valuable framework for developing varied, nuanced character personalities. Consider where each character lands on these continua to give them realistic, memorable quirks and styles of interacting with others.

Relationships – Humans are fundamentally social beings, so focus on how your characters relate to others. Do they seek out companionship or prefer solitude? Are they nurturing or abrasive in their interpersonal style? How do they perceive and get along with friends, family members, rivals, and strangers? Strong character relationships will make the psychological aspects of your story come alive.

“Balm of Angels” portrays complex emotions between friends and family. Lydia, the protagonist’s wife, develops an attachment to Denny Cosgrove, which seems anxious/ambivalent given her worry over his commitment to her. Oliver displays signs of secure attachment as he seems caring and protective towards Lydia. Cosgrove’s detachment shows avoidant attachment tendencies.

Cognition – Our thinking patterns, beliefs, perspectives, and knowledge bases color everything we experience. Consider realistic characters’ general intelligence level and unique cognitive traits. Do they approach problems with logic or intuition? What assumptions do they hold about themselves and the world? How do their upbringing and education influence their thought processes? Tap into the complexity of the human mind.

Background & experience – Ultimately, our personalities and behaviors emerge from the dynamic interplay between innate qualities and life experiences over time. To give your characters psychological depth, think through formative elements of their personal histories. Where did they grow up? What challenges did they face? How did key relationships and life events shape who they became? A character’s background richly informs their present-day mindset.

human psychology

Emotional security helps couples build healthy relationships

With an understanding of core human psychological concepts, you’ll be well-equipped to craft fascinatingly complex characters that readers will genuinely connect with and care about. Whether developing a single protagonist or an ensemble cast, prioritize making each personality multidimensional through their specific motivations, emotions, traits, relationships, cognitions, and backgrounds. Bringing the human condition to vibrant life within your characters will ensure readers will be emotionally invested in your story from beginning to end.

Charles Dennis Has Just the Book for You!

In “Balm of Angels,” legendary actress Dame Lydia Lark finds her quiet life disrupted by the arrival of befuddled writer Oliver Courtland—suffering memory loss, Courland mistakes himself for his spy novelist alter ego, Conrad Stocker. Meanwhile, insurance agent Dorothea Haynes has been tasked with confirming Courland’s identity. Flashbacks reveal Lydia’s past as a bright young performer in wartime London. Charles Dennis skillfully weaves these narrative threads with his signature flair for characterization. Layered with history and heart, Balm of Angels treats readers to a charming dramatic puzzle that celebrates theater, memory, and second chances. Fans of witty novels will be enthralled. Grab your copy today.


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