Monday, August 10, 2020

Against All Odds Blog Tour: 7 Books to Understand Your Character’s Psychology

7 Books to Understand Your Character’s Psychology
By Jacqui Murray

An efriend writer originally published this as a guest post on their blog to help me launch Against All Odds August 2020. In case you missed it there, here are my anecdotal thoughts on how to add drama to your story:
Characters have to be believable. If not, readers put your book down. If your character is a mathematician, he has to think like one, act like one, dress like one. It's not enough to tell us he works for the NSA analyzing data. You have to give him the quirks that make us believe this guy could save the world with his cerebellum.
If you're not that guy, how do you convince readers? Traditional wisdom says two things:
  • interview people
  • watch people
Those are good--especially for your main characters. In fact, you probably can't create a protagonist and antagonist without interviewing those who have walked in their footsteps. But what about the dozens of other characters who wander through a scene, playing bit but important parts in your plot? Here are some great books that will allow you to color them with a consistent brush:
  • Anatomy of Motive: The FBI's Legendary Mindhunter Explores the Key to Understanding and Catching Violent Criminals by John Douglas. If you write mysteries or thrillers, this book will help you explore what makes criminals who they are.
  • Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood. She explains how to write compelling fresh emotions for your characters. Much of this lies in the showing-not-telling truism; she explains how to show hostility, hate, etc., rather than saying the words. Similar to this one is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman
  • How Mathematicians Think by William Byers. Hint: They don't think like us. I have a brilliant friend who--I kid you not--hates graphs because they distill the information for him. He'd prefer the raw data so he can see the connections. If you're including someone like that in your plot, this book will make sure you include ambiguity, paradox and their other brilliance in your character's thoughts and actions. Me, I used this book (and my brilliant friend) as a template for the character Eitan in my Rowe-Delamagente series.
  • The Man Who Thought His Wife Was a Hat by Oliver Sachs. Any of his books will give you insight into creative, fascinating psychoses that people live with. In this particular book, a man can't look at a person as a cohesive picture. All he sees are bits of red and pieces of animals--and in the case of his wife, a hat. She does always wears one so that he'll recognize her. A character in the early stages of that psychoses might be a fascinating addition to your story
  • Please Understand Me I and II by David Keirsey. This is a personality style determinant. Very detailed, but highly relevant for analyzing your main characters' temperament, character and intelligence.
  • The Writer's Body Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann. If you want characters' bodies to go beyond appearance to help you build tension, intrigue, and humor, this book tells you how with word choices and phrases for body parts organized under clear categories.
  • Writers Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein. This includes profiles of human behaviors and personality types. That way, you can keep your character within the required parameters.
  • Body language. There are so many great books and websites on this. I have many posts on descriptors and character traits that will get you started (see the right side of this blog). Don't miss this detail. If your character doesn't show those tells that every human on the planet does, s/he won't be believable. No one speaks only with their mouth.
If you have favorite books on this subject, share with us. I'd love to hear about them!
#amwriting #IndieAuthor

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning 

Other sites for Jacqui Murray:
Amazon Author Page:


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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a great list of books to help with characters. Thought his wife was a hat? That I would need help understanding!

Jacqui Murray said...

Thank you so much for featuring me, Tyrean. It'll be fun to chat with your community about these books.

Jacqui Murray said...

@Alex--He could see bits and details but couldn't pull them together into what they were. So his wife began wearing a red hat so he could identify her. One of those brain problems that you never hear about and you would hate to have but it is fodder for interesting fiction.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the links. They sound awesome! I have bookmarked this post so I remember to check them out later. Thanks!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I didn't realize mathematicians thought so differently. It must all be in the process of information.

Jacqui Murray said...

@Natalie These are great books that help me devise unique characters. We are an amazing species!
@Diane--they do! In a good way, of course. I'm so glad we have people who think like that.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tyrean and Jacqui - what an interesting post ... not one I was expecting to read about ... fascinating - I'll have to read up on some of these books - the library is now open - so I'll be able to order sometime.

I've seen/read about various brain differences ... and certainly noticed it when my mother had her major strokes - very interesting (eg left-sided neglect). Jill Bolte Taylor - who was a brain scientist - had a stroke at 37 that she was able to follow - extraordinary though that may seem ... she couldn't move but knew what was happening and wrote about it. My post has some interesting other aspects - 'Ideas Worth Spreading ... Dreaming Spires' of 24 July 2009. Also see her Wiki page, and TED talks. Thanks for taking me over to my post - some interesting books there - that I should read!

Take care both of you ... and Jacqui - such a great book ... an email is on its way - and I have it here to read. Tyrean - great to see the mathematician teacher ... stay safe - Hilary

Jacqui Murray said...

The human brain is amazing. Oliver Sachs is the master of discussing those in his books (like The Man Who Thought His Wife Was a Hat--what a fascinating book). I found the one on your blog you referenced (here's the link for other interested readers! I think I must read Jill's book. It sounds wonderful.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Thanks for this interesting and informative post, Jacqui!

Jacqui Murray said...

@Tyrean My pleasure!