I have been listening to the “Freud Knows Romance” Workshop given by Sandy James during RWA’s 2010 Conference. While it contains a lot of great information about psychology in writing, there were a few concepts I found especially interesting. These are basically nature vs. nurture concepts to examine when thinking up a character.
This is a study of temperament, an inborn way a person acts and reacts. There are four types of temperaments:
- Sanguine: Kind, fair, generous, adventurous, spontaneous. Comic sidekick. Think Iron Man.
- Phlegmatic: Patient, rational, innovative, unflappable. Think Obi-won Kenobi.
- Melancholic: Serious, pessimistic, idealist, moody. Brooding heroes and tortured heroines. Think Mr. Darcy. Could use a comic sidekick to offset moodiness.
- Choleric: Courageous, enthusiastic, bossy, stubborn. Alpha males and strong heroines. Think Hans Solo.
This concept relates to the types of parents a character has, and how this shapes their personality. There are three types of parent figures:
- Authoritarian Parents – very strict. The offspring of authoritarian parents either rebel or are too afraid to go out on their own. Psychopaths tend to have a strong authoritarian parent (think villains).
- Permissive Parents – give their children their way all the time. The offspring of permissive parents tend to lack focus and motivation. They can be your playboy-types.
- Authoritative Parents – work with their children. They tend to have well-balanced, independent offspring (which, let’s face it, can make for a boring character).
I have to admit, I don’t consciously examine psychology when thinking up my character, but the above concepts seem like useful tools for crafting 3-dimensional characters and rationalizing their motivations.
For you writers, do you examine psychology when creating your characters? If so, do you find it helps you to create a fully fleshed-out character?