Applying Psychology to Character Development [Resources]

Last month my family underwent a traumatic incident in real life which still sits with us to this day. For several weeks I found myself unable to lift a keyboard to continue on my writing tasks. In fact, I could barely operate at any kind of level. I was aware of this, annoyed by this, but also aware that trauma and grief on any level needs to be worked through and given time. Sometimes the world does have to stop.

Now that I’m back into a little writing, and have returned to work on characterisation efforts, I have some resources to share. Understanding a little applied psychology for any character development is always helpful, and thankfully we have some good resources out there.

Psychology

Sarah Fine – Traumatizing your Characters

Author Sarah E. Fine’s old blog stopped in 2014, but in 2013 she posted a ten-post series on how to traumatize our characters. As a child psychologist, Sarah imbrues the posts with different types of trauma, treatments, and pieces about PTSD.

Link:

Thrill Writer Psychology Series

Author Fiona Quinn writes thrillers, and keeps her own website and blog up to date with information ranging from Law & Order, to Villains & Survivors. My favourites are a small series on Post Traumatic Stress through Disasters, and some posts on applying body language, especially for characters in love (or lust),

Link:

Writerology

Another current favourite of mine is Faye Kirwin’s Writerology website. Faye’s blog is worth bookmarking as it has lots of posts on character development, but also check out her specific psychology posts.

Also – Faye offers an insider membership (for free) – just sign up to her regular newsletter and you’ll gain access to some hidden PDF files – these are worksheets for her post series, and there is also an ongoing A-Z series of topics members get to vote on.

Some of my favourites from Writerology are –

  • Fearful and Anxious – writing about Cluster C Personality Disorders (Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder)
  • Emotional, Erratic and Dramatic – writing about Cluster B Personality Disorders (Histrionic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder)
  • A to Z Psychology for Writers (membership access required)
  • There are also posts and sometimes worksheets on amnesia, PTSD, love triangle theories, false memories, obsessive-compulsive disorders and forgiveness.
  • Faye also has a series on the mind of the writer, applying psychology to many of our own writerly ways.

Links:

  • Mind of the Character general index – leads to the psychology and storycraft posts.
  • Don’t forget to sign up for free “Storycrafters” membership to access the on-going A-Z Psychology posts, and additional workbooks and PDFs supplementing some of the public posts.
  • It may be easier to find what you want if you use Faye’s Psychology for Writers Pinterest board.

Vivian Lawry – Psychology for Writers

Here’s another post series, up to date at February this year. Vivian Lawry has posted about anything from toxic people to uncertainty, for writers and characters alike.

Link: Psychology for Writers Index post.

Others

Carolyn Kaufman, author of ‘The Writer’s Guide to Psychology’ sadly passed on a few years back, but her book remains available, as do some older guest posts at the QueryTracker blog and Psychology Today, plus her old blog site, Archetype Writing Blog remains here.

Another writer for Psychology Today, Joseph Burgo, is an author of books, ‘Why Do I Do That?: Psychological Defense Mechanisms and the Hidden Way they Shape Our Lives’  and ‘The Narcissist you Know’ which also are applicable to fictional characters as per this post at Writer Unboxed. Joseph rewrites fairy tales in a modern and psychological sense, and had many good posts on his own blog, After Psychotherapy.

Phil Lowe has a post series of psychology for scriptwriters on the Script Angel website. You will find these all under this link. 

Other Books: 

  • The Psychology Workbook for Writers: Tools for Creating Characters & Conflicts in Fiction‘ by Darian Smith
  • The Criminal Mind: A Writer’s Guide to Forensic Psychology‘ by Katherine Ramsland

  • Psychology for Screenwriters‘ by William Indick

Other Resources:

There are several Tumblr blogs run on the topic of character development which often combine psychological aspects. And from time to time other blog posts are sighted with psychology applied to characterisation. Without attempting to list all of the best, you can find these in my own curations, either on the tumblr blog, Everything 4 Writers, or my Pinterest boards. I recommend the Character Development Board, and the Writing Ref – Psychology and Medical, both are boards which link to posts on these topics.

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