P is for Psychology

Cracking open the head of a character is one of the most rewarding parts of the writing experience. I grew up in a house full of psychiatrists and metaphysical discussions, so for me, analyzing a character’s agency, thought processes, and darker tendencies is cathartic and helps me push my worlds into more believable territory. If you’ve read my bio, you’ll know that I profess to write “primarily character-driven fantasy”, which is to say, the plots of a lot of my stories are fairly linear, until I throw the mish-mash of personalities in there to jumble everything up.

One of my favorite finds of last year, to help me think beyond the limitations of my own mind (that is, I think that most writers are limited to building the types of personalities that have been exposed to, either in real-life, or some sort of fictional medium), is the Periodic Table of Storytelling (now interactive!) If you haven’t been exposed to this wonderful infographic before, prepare yourself!


Do you have a tendency to use a handful of personalities in each of your projects, with the only major difference between them being artificial (age, appearance, region)? If so, what do you think draws you to those character types?

Tomorrow: Q is for Quidnunc!

9 thoughts on “P is for Psychology

  1. This chart is great, Alex. Thank you. 🙂

    I rarely plot a story first – rather I take the idea of a character and stick him/her into a scenario. Psychology writes the rest. It’s a fascinating science, isn’t it? 🙂


  2. What a great tool for writers! Thanks for sharing it here. I consider my writing primarily character-driven as well. You make a great point about writers often being limited to the personality types they’ve been exposed to. Tools like this are fantastic for helping us look at our characters in new ways.


  3. It wasn’t until the “p” that I finally got a good read and located the Periodic Table on their website. I actually bookmarked it. The rest of their website is loaded with story-telling tools for a variety of genres and media.
    Of course, I am afraid to use commas or apostrophes now…but it too shall pass.
    Thank you and the one who goes by just “nm” for all your mutual work. Will you ever put out a document with all a-z in one place? You probably answered that, but like I said, I am afraid.


  4. I’m a panster and haven’t written that many books, but so far, all my characters are wildly different. I build the world concept first, then grab a person and see who they become as I write. I love getting to know them and getting surprised by their choices.
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding


  5. I tend to put my characters through my internal enneagram filter. You should take a look at the Enneagram if you haven’t heard of it before.


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