I keep an eye on current creative writing practices, even though I think that it’s shallow and inane. Yeah, I know, I’m a total snob about this. Egotistical. Et cetera.
When the masses are saying, “Make sure that your characters act like real people,” I can’t help but scratch my cheek with a sense of bafflement. Okay. Yeah. Sure. Sounds solid.
BUT HOW DO REAL PEOPLE ACT?
I know it sounds silly on the surface, but it’s a legitimate question. When was the last time you went out of your way to watch real people, see what they do, and wonder why? (probably not since March 2020, snerk)
Which is why I say, “Study psychology.”
Personally, I like self help books, since they’re easier for individual study and are written with “real world application” in mind. I have a huge number of books on marriage and relationships, and also topics like manipulation, business, “how to be happy”, spirituality, etc (I’m a knowledge junkie, so I’ve never been all that picky). Heck, even developing an understanding of astrology will give you a good base for creating characters, not to mention the Myers-briggs personality types.
No, it doesn’t wrap up neatly for a bullet point in an article. You can’t churn out a story, look at it and say, “Yeah, that’s totally how real people act,” then give yourself a pat on the back. When it comes to truly understanding people, you never cross the finish line. People are beautifully complex and unique like that.
And ultimately, fictional characters are supposed to be larger than life anyway.