The Psychology of Writing: 5 Ways to make your Characters “Click” with Readers using Vulnerability, Proximity, Resonance, Similarity, and Shared Adversity
For those of you who write fiction, Casey Lynn Covel at Meek-Geek has some advice for crafting compelling characters:
In this article, I’ll be discussing a unique, psychological-based approach to creating this connection, built on collected research from noted organizational expert and psychologist Ori & Rom Brafman. Read on to learn five ways in which you can make your book and characters “click” with your readers.
Think about her information in relation to my recent post Literary Life Stories: The Character Biography over on my literature blog.
The ambition to create “real”, believable characters has been a cornerstone of literature since the 19th century. The Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin praised Fyodor Dostoyevsky for his ability to give each of his protagonists their own sets of beliefs, “as if the character were not an object of authorial discourse, but rather a fully valid, autonomous carrier of his own individual word”.
Fast forward a hundred years and writers such as Joseph Conrad and Virginia Woolf were even more enthralled with the idea of character autonomy.
Here’s another take on how writers create compelling characters. This article looks at how advances in artificial intelligence (AI) may foster character-building in computer games:
For authors who’ve fantasised about their characters leading a life of their own, could the situation of AI avatars roaming a fictional world, interacting based on their own individual drives, offer greater freedom of expression? Or is it likely to result in hundreds of dead-eyed puppets walking repeatedly into the sides of houses? Don’t stories require direction?
“I don’t see AI replacing human authors in the creation of existing forms of literature — novels, short stories, poetry and the like,” says artificial intelligence expert Malcolm Ryan from Macquarie University. “Rather I envision new literary forms that will be enabled by narrative AI.”
Common knowledge holds that the best way to become proficient at any skill is to practice, practice, practice.
But here Joanne Yatvin, a past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, offers a different slant on how students can best become writers:
Now, as a writer myself, I still believe that the best way for students to become writers is by reading as much good writing as possible and internalizing the various structures and techniques they encounter. For extras, the habit of reading will also increase their vocabulary, improve their spelling, and help them grasp the fact that many of the conventions of written language are different from those of spoken language.
Yes, all those writing-advice books tell us to avoid the passive.
But, as Steven Pinker points out here, sometimes the passive voice is exactly what the writer needs:
The passive is the voice of choice, then, when the done-to is in the spotlight. In recounting the climax of Oedipus Rex, in which a messenger explains the backstory, it is more natural to say The messenger had been given a baby to get rid of by a shepherd from the Laius household than A shepherd from the Laius household had given the messenger a baby to get rid of. All eyes are on the messenger, so the sentence should begin with him.
Also, the passive’s ability to hide the doer, though abused by mistake-makers, is handy when the doer’s identity is irrelevant. In the news item The suspect was arrested in connection with the killing of three Israelis, we don’t need to know that a guy named Shlomo made the arrest.