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The psychology of character development

Last night, as I read and explained some chapters of Trouble in Trondheim: Bikers and Gangsters to my brother, he pointed out to me that some of the actions taken by the main character were so morally wrong that he probably wouldn’t be able to sympathize with him.

I found this very interesting. It made me see the character in a new light, and now I want to try to change him, or at least the actions that he takes.

When creating a character, as an author you’re creating a character purely out of your own egotistical need to see that particular character come to life. Without that, there is no motivation.

On the other hand, you’re also trying to create a character that the audience will root for (in this case, because it is the protagonist) and perhaps even identify with.

But, of course, you can’t please everyone. Even out of those who actually read your story, not everyone is going to like it – certainly not equally much!

Therefore, the best thing you can do as an author is to create characters that you love (or despise, if the character in question is the antagonist). And by “love”, I mean such that you would defend their actions to your grave – unless someone provides a very concise argument why their actions are such that they would be very hard to sympathize with. Or why they make no sense in the context of the plot, usually meaning you have a deeper problem in regards to plot rather than character.

This goes straight to the heart of good storytelling (regardless of medium). Somehow, if you manage to create a story that is loved by its audience, you’ve manage to uncover a vital part of their psychology. More often than not, it means your audience is more like you than you’d be comfortable admitting to.

Published inWriting

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