Tag Archives: psychology

Secrets, Secrets, are No Fun…

I found myself yesterday trying to figure out how much a character would say about their past. To anyone, a stranger, or to someone they were very close with. How long would it take them to spill the beans about something important and personal to them?

Privacy is another factor that relegates how much is told about the character at one point, it’s what defines what other characters around them find out, and how they find out. It shapes the story, gives it more or less conflict, and puts a more obvious time stamp on what will be revealed when, and how.

It’s as simple as comfort, but if you take into consideration that some people feel the need to talk to others about heavy topics because they have no one else to talk to them about, it adds another dimension.

The inspiration for this comes from an experience where I was asked a bunch of more personal questions that I’d talk to a trusted friend about, and, they were someone I trusted and wanted to talk to about those things. Except, there was someone behind me who I didn’t care to let know anything about my life, personal or otherwise. When she found out certain things and started asking questions, I got prickly, and felt like walling up.

I noticed it was something I had a few of my heroes do before. You earn that trust, and the ability to know that information. Some are a little more lenient, though, deeming certain information able to be heard by others, some strangers, pending phrasing and vagueness.

So I guess the question then becomes about the trust issues the critters have.

And trust goes so much farther than just conversation, it is the basis of most actions and is why we do what we do most days. It builds into love, care, and affection, it’s a reason for effort and time spent, it’s what makes us want to go out of our way for others, to help.

Stepping back away from the psych side of things… I realize that another thing to consider is what they have to had. Whether it’s because they’re afraid of ridicule, or because they’d rather keep quiet than deal with reactions, good or bad. Maybe they’re tired of saying anything about it. After spending a day getting asked about an obvious injury, it’s not hard to imagine wanting to hide it so that the questions can finally stop.

Will something happen if they let the secret loose? It’s chaos in an instant, and suddenly the story is thrown for a loop and they’re trying to do damage control. Hah! But is that what you wanted all along? To find a way to get those secrets out in the first place, because the character is too walled up to let it out themselves?

Ultimately, it’s another side of them that makes them something more dynamic than just a vessel for a story to be told. They become easier to relate to,  to sympathize and empathize with both. Filling out their secrets and feeling out their boundaries is just another part to definition and development. A rather fun one, if you ask me.

-The Novice Wordsmith

“…Wasn’t a good idea because of the shell shock–­­” “PTSD,” she corrected, prodding him in the ribs.

My last post got me to think about something bigger, after a short conversation in the comments.

When I was younger, I played a lot of games, and if you can recall the fuss about video games, you know that there’s violence in them. This isn’t about how violence influences children, but how it influences your characters, when they’re thrust right into the middle of it, be it war, a gang related felony, a city riot, or an isolated incident.

Psychology is something that I didn’t think about when considering a character for a while. When you pull the character out of a violent game or you put them in a violent setting writing wise, there’s bound to be some kind of damage.  It also comes down to what you want for them; do you see them being the type to be in action, front and center, or are they shipped somewhere with very little? Do you want them to be ruled by the trauma, or would you like to see them conquer it?

If they aren’t fazed by it, why? Is there something else there that keeps them from being tortured by it, are they hardened to the difficulties, have they seen it frequently for very long, or do they have a disorder that keeps them from feeling emotion at all (and if so, in your world, is it independent or genetic?)

There are stories that revolve around the psychosis, as well. A short story I wrote over the winter included a young girl who watched the massacre of her family and developed Disassociative Identity Disorder (Multiple personality disorder), and was based on her journey through dealing with it.

Trauma is not always a hindrance to the character, as I once thought it was. It shapes them, it makes them more human, as Victoria (http://en.gravatar.com/vdavenportwrite)said. It gives them a more real dimension that fleshes them out, and you can use it as a strength or a weakness.

In the project that I’m currently working on, which the quote is from, a new recruit is shoved into combat with a hostile alien race for the first time. After that encounter ends, he finds himself feeling more guilty from getting his friend nearly killed instead of watching the invader die before him. The difference here is played on by a thought that the less human or relative it is to that person, the less guilt there is, because they don’t see it with the same sympathy as someone else. It is, as I think about it, likely to be associated with xenophobia, really: “it’s strange, different, and I hardly know what it is, but it was going to kill me.”

On the other hand, there are others yet who could barely justify killing insects, no matter how different, physically and otherwise (obviously) they are. Everyone has varying levels of comfort with violence, toward everything. What kind are your characters?

-The Novice Wordsmith