Monday, February 17, 2014

Create Realistic Characters by Studying Human Behavior


Characters and their interactions are important in any book. In order to make them appear real to the reader, the actions and motives of the characters must be believable. This is why the most valuable research a writer can conduct is the study of human behavior.

The options available are almost as plentiful as humans themselves! Consider the following resources you’ll discover a whole world of opportunities.

Books on human behavior
·         Personality Plus by Florence Littauer – excellent guide to human behaviors based on personality types
·         The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
·         Bringing out the Best in People/The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis
·         Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus by John Gray
·         The Disconnected Generation by Josh McDowell – great for understanding teen behavior
·         And any other relationship, personality, or inspirational book that provides human behavior insights

Observation – how do real people react under similar circumstances?
·         Examine the past and present behavior of family and friends
·         Observe humanity through the news – this will provide a worldly view
·         Watch people in public places such as sporting events, restaurants, grocery stores, churches, etc.
·         Follow the actions of a person similar to your character – remember, no stalking
·         Wherever you find people, you’ll find opportunities to study human behavior if you just take the time

Research
·         Interview real people in positions or circumstances similar to your character’s situation
·         Search for events in your story on the Internet
·         Non-fiction books with accounts of people enduring the same challenges found in your story
·         Websites devoted to the discussion of human behavior or issues
·         Online forums and live discussions – find discussions on your story’s topics or post the questions yourself

Don’t forget that human behavior is best studied through live interaction. Not only will you develop believable characters – you’ll grow as a person, too. And you might just discover you enjoy the fascinating world of human behavior!

22 comments:

Pat Hatt said...

Live interaction can sure be fun, especially when you know you are pressing them and they have no idea why

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

People are often entertaining to watch! Especially at sporting events.

Julie Flanders said...

I love people watching, and agree with Alex about the sporting events.

This reminds me of the guest post Elizabeth Seckman wrote on my blog about how her social work training has helped her with writing. Great advice.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love people watching too! It's always interesting :)

Allison Bruning said...

What a great post. I think it's so important for any author to study anthropology and psychology to help fully develop their characters. The more realistic they are in our books the more our readers can relate to them.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

This is one of my favorite things to do out in public. :) I'd much rather watch people and note their mannerisms and dialogue than actually engage with them.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Pat - LOL!

Julie, anytime you deal with social work or psychology, it really helps you understand people.

Elizabeth, I confess when we go see the Mudcats play, I spend more time watching the people than the game.

Karen Lange said...

My parents were people watchers, so I guess I picked it up from them. It really is a great way to enhance our writing. Appreciate the tips and advice, Diane! :)

cleemckenzie said...

I've been known to eavesdrop and get caught at it. Very embarrassing, but very helpful when I'm looking for authentic human behavior! Loved the post.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

People watching can be so fun. There are so many strange things in news and in science that are great story ideas.

Haneen I. Adam said...

OMG! I love this post and I cannot agree more. I love reading about psychology , development and relationship books, not to forget documentaries, and one of the reasons I enjoy watching football games and sport events is because it shows so much of the human nature and acting under pressure. That is one great list of books you gave. By the way I get more ideas for my stories from these other resources and non-fiction books than from fiction, and bounce it makes me feel so sophisticated and encyclopedic haha I can talk in various topics like a pro, people are always surprised by that!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Haneen, I'm glad you like the book list. I have a huge library of relationship and people skill books. There are some great insights there.

G. B. Miller said...

Always been a firm believer in people watching and interacting with my friends.

Been choice cannon fodder for the stories that I write.

LuAnn Braley said...

That's it. I have to write a story about a man who doesn't even answer the phone during his team's college basketball games. And if you call him you better be family and on fire or something like that.

Elsie Amata said...

One of my favorite things to do while I'm out and about is people watch. I learn so much about people and their reactions to the simplest of things.

Elsie
AJ's wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

Southpaw said...

remember, no stalking...

no gaping or staring either! :)

Thanks for the pointers.

Southpaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Wallace said...

People watching is wonderful... entertaining AND educational... what more could you ask for...
Those human behavior books sound like a plan...

L. Diane Wolfe said...

LuAnn, I live with someone like that.

Susan Roebuck said...

Thanks for the list of books - I've read Women are from Venus etc., and it is just so right! I adore people watching too, but I tend to get absorbed. I remember my brother telling me to stop staring when we were on a train once :-( and I wasn't even aware of it. Great post.

Toinette Thomas said...

This is some really good advice and the books are grear suggestion. Even outside of writing, some of this can to used to improve intereaction and other areas of creativity.

Julie Musil said...

I've never heard of The Disconnected Generation. I'll have to check that out. Thanks for these great tips!