Friday, November 30, 2012

Human Nature - Thought Processes

HAPPY FRIDAY! This week I'm going to be discussing a few different facets of human nature as they relate to characters and writing. See the quick schedule below:

  • The Love Affair 
  • Holding a Grudge
  • Seeking Revenge
  • Situation Reaction
  • Thought Processes
Today's the last day of my Human Nature series. I hope you've followed along with me and have gained a deeper understanding of your characters this week. Thank you all so much for being fans and followers of my blog!

As you can see, we delve into Thought Processes today. This will be a summation of the week because each of the topics discussed followed a Thought Process. Your character wavered, decided, and acted. So grab your pens and notebooks and let's get rolling!

If you didn't realize, there are a ton of thought processes. I'm only going into four types here today.
  1. Lateral - This thought process derives a solution from things that aren't immediately obvious. You aren't using the lateral thought process if you use a step-by-step approach. These people are generally creatives and find new ways to do things. A lateral thinker can be the most dangerous type of character. They're the ones that rig up a contraption to stab someone in the back rather than plunging the knife in with their own hand. However, they're also the most likely to make it out of a sticky or dangerous situation.
  2. Common Sense - It's exactly what it sounds like. Common sense is using facts concerning the situation to come to a sound conclusion. Kind of like: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. This doesn't apply to fantasy where characters can appear to be ducks. But your character either has common sense or doesn't. They may begin a love affair thinking it won't have an effect on them even though the same action destroyed their own family unit. If they use common sense, the love affair wouldn't take place. In a stressful situation, they may react in a positive way but they find it difficult to look outside the box.
  3. Parallel - Folks that can do this look at two sides of the situation at the same time. Once one is discarded, another comparison takes its place. This type of thinking continues until a decision is reached. When considering revenge, this type of person is the most dangerous because they've considered every possible angle before ever making the first move.
  4. Personal Experience - Obviously, this type of thought process allows the person to draw conclusions from life experiences. This type can take things to a light or dark place, depending on life events. If the person has only been deceived or betrayed by everyone they ever knew, they'll assume every person they meet is the same way. There is no lateral thinking by someone who only draws from personal experience.
As humans, we rarely use just one type of thought process. For example: Most authors are lateral thinkers who use common sense and help it along with personal experience. If we used just one thought process, we would be flat and dull.

Now, when your character decides to partake in a Love Affair, you need to ask yourself why. Revenge? Grudge they're holding? Or simply a reaction to a situation? In this case, we'll use an example with easy to follow bullet points. But first, let's set the scene.

A married man is out with his friends. He's just had an argument with his wife during which she called him a pig and told him to get out. A beautiful, smart, friendly woman approaches the man and engages with him before asking if he'd like to go back to her place. His friends urge him to take the plunge. What does he think and do? His options are:
  • Remove his wedding ring
  • Gain hero status with his idiot friends
  • Take the woman back to her place
  • Ruin his marriage or his sanity
  • Lie forever
  • Tell the truth after and deal with it
  • Politely tell the woman he's married
  • Deal with being called a chump
  • Go home
  • Tell the wife what happened
  • Be the good guy
  • Tell the woman he's married but arguing with his spouse
  • Take her number
  • Leave his wife
  • Get a divorce
  • Start seeing the new girl
If the man lets all of these scenarios pass through his head, he knows the likely outcome of his actions. From there, he'll make a decision. We know from human nature which one is most likely, but a character can surprise us now and again. He may never consider the real ramifications of his actions, sleep with the woman, and ruin his psyche and relationship without realizing what he's doing. It could all happen over a simple argument where he held on to the hurt and allowed it to destroy him. His thought process probably went something like this:
  • My wife was cruel and doesn't care for me
  • This woman is interested
  • No one will ever find out
  • What if they do?
  • Should I do this or not?

A young girl is just turning into a woman. She gets her first period at school and has no way to clean up because she doesn't understand what's happening to her. Add a group of girls who tease her every day for a month and you have a character with a grudge. What are her options?
  • Pretend it doesn't bother her
  • Silently plot revenge
  • Get dirt on the girls and spread rumors
  • Watch as their lives fall apart
  • Pretend it doesn't bother her
  • Cry every night because they were mean
  • Quit going to school
  • Allow it to ruin her life and make her a pariah
  • Tell the girls what she thinks
  • Let it go, understanding it's part of the cycle of life thing and the girls are just being cruel
  • Continue on and forget what happened
  • Learn from the experience
Does this sound familiar? Think of the book Carrie by Stephen King. That girl took it to a dark place and killed a bunch of people. Human nature shows us that we can only take so much. We would hope the girls would apologize later but it's not likely if they were cruel enough to do what they did in the first place. This girl's thought process probably went like this:
  • What's happening to me?
  • Should I say something to them?
  • I'm a freak
  • Maybe I'm not a freak
  • Should I get back at them?
Your characters are defined by their reaction to situations and thought processes that bring them to a conclusion. Decisions they make shape them into the characters they are. Remember to be true to life first. The very best fiction comes from truth.

Question of the day: Has this week helped you at all with character development or deeper understanding?

I hope you've all enjoyed this week's posts and took something away from them.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. Loved the series this week, Jo! These articles can help writers a lot with developing complex characters.

    1. Thanks, Heather! I hope these do help someone develop a great character and help them to be true to that character's nature :) Thanks for the blog luv!


Play nice and have fun. If you're a jerk, I won't publish your comment. My blog. My rules. Thanks for taking the time to chat at me!

Comments have been temporarily disabled due to the astronomical amount of spam I've been dealing with. Sorry!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.