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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Psychologist Lurks Within the Writer's Mind

A degree in psychology usually takes three years; however, I believe that the committed writer quickly gets the basics.

Fiction writers, especially, are inveterate people watchers. What's she thinking? Why's he doing that? Those lads think they look hard. I bet those two have had a row. They're both besotted with the baby. He favours the older child over the younger. And so on. This sort of 'imaginative inquisitiveness' must be important to those who construct novels or stories. On the surface it seems just plain nosy, but we extrapolate to the why, how, who, what happened, what's next set of questions. This allows the reader to see into the minds of the characters, and edges them into making predictions for the rest of the writing. My guess is that this is especially important to crime writers, but it's somewhere in every writer's mind.

Non-fiction writers perhaps use a different set of psychology strands. Taking magazine articles, the writer works out what kind of people read a particular mag, what their interests are, what they are likely to enjoy reading about, and how to reflect their characteristics back at them to engage and keep their attention.

I've been thinking about this partly as a (former) psychologist and (current sometime) writer, and also having returned from a week at a Croatian hotel where nearly one third of guests were British, and almost all the rest were Japanese. People's approach to buffet meals seemed to be closely related to ethnicity - what time they turned up, how they approached the laid out food, what they chose, how quickly they ate, whether they chatted between mouthfuls. Then there was 'the man who studied everyone' (yes, yes, I know), the self-consciously glamorous girls, the couple who never spoke, the wife who did all the choosing, fetching and carrying for her man, the older blokes who chatted up the waitresses, those who always sat as close to the buffet as possible. The waitress probably thought of me as 'the woman who thinks she can speak a bit of Croatian'. All grist to the writer's mill, and endlessly fascinating.

So greeting to all writers/psychologists! For anyone not Greek-alphabet-minded, the sign at the top is meant to be the Greek letter psi, the logo used for psychology. And mine is Pi.

1 comment:

  1. So agree that an understanding of human behaviour is invaluable when it comes to writing (I have a background in social work and child therapies). It helps us dig to that layer beneath the obvious, to unpick behaviours, and understand the glorious complexities of our characters.