By: Becca Puglisi
As writers, we struggle to get our characters right. We examine personality types and create dossiers trying to figure out what makes them tick, but there’s another factor we need to consider: the impact of psychological development.
Why Worry About Development?
Development explains how people who are similar can respond very differently to the same experience. Writers Helping Writers features a phenomenal Character Wound Thesaurus exploring various painful experiences that might affect a character. Developmental differences can help explain how two characters who experience the same wound might have totally different responses.
Let’s imagine three co-workers in a bar after a rough day at work. They’re the same gender and are close in age, education, personal history, and personality type.
“What a jerk!” Alpha slumped against the bar. “I’m there for eight freaking hours, and all the boss
does is complain!
Nothing I do is good enough for him!”
Bravo leaned forward. “He’s under pressure to meet his own goals. He does a better job than you give him credit for.”
“That’s easy for you to say. He likes you. That’s why he gives you comp time when you need it and blows me off when I ask for the same thing.”
“Maybe that’s because I meet all my quotas.” Bravo glanced at Charlie.
“You’d think he’d be willing to cut the little guy a break once in a while.” Alpha shoved an empty glass aside. “Must be nice to sit back and let us do all the work while he rakes in the money.”
“Help me out here, Charlie,” said Bravo. “Maybe you can explain it better than I can.”
“My opinion will probably just complicate things,” Charlie said. “But since you asked
…I think boss-man is fair about the
whole time off thing. He tries pretty hard to work with everyone; I’ve noticed
that at his mentoring sessions. If you want to get to know him better,
attending one of those sessions might help. And sure, he can get pretty touchy
at times, but he’s going through a lot with his kid. Everybody needs to be ‘cut
a little break once in awhile’—even the boss.”
Alpha shook her head. “You always have an excuse for him. Why don’t you take my side for once?”
“And this is why I keep my opinions to myself,” Charlie said with a shrug. “On that note, I’m calling it a night.”
Once the door closed behind Charlie, Alpha reached for a second beer. “I just don’t get Charlie. It doesn’t seem like we’re even looking at the same situation,
Even though these characters are the same age, it’s pretty easy to picture Alpha as the youngest in the group and Charlie as the oldest. Why? Because developmentally, Alpha is at the earliest stage in the group and Charlie is at the most advanced.
So Which One is My Character?
. . .
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