When Crazy Is Good - 9 Good Reasons For Your Character's Bad Behaviour

One of our favourite things as authors is to create antagonists and to explore the dark side of our protagonists. We encourage writers to understand plausible causes for extreme, irrational, and strange behaviours. This helps readers identify with characters. 

We like to read about the troubled, the deviants, the obsessed and the depraved. This is therapeutic. We deal with our dark side by learning about their lives – how they walk, talk, eat, play, manipulate, and work.

If we write about someone who has a psychological problem, we need to research the disorder. The DSM-IV is an excellent reference for psychological disorders. We can paint our characters in shades of grey using this book.

Often, abnormal behaviour is triggered by a life-changing crisis. This is an excellent way to start a book. If we put our characters in one of these situations, we have a story. It gives us something to build on. We understand motivations when we relate to this pain.

Stress Scale                                        Life Change Value

1.       Death of a spouse                           100%

2.       Divorce                                             73%

3.       Marital separation                         65%

4.       Jail term                                           63%

5.       Death of a family member           63%

6.       Illness                                               53%

7.       Marriage                                         50%

8.       Fired from job                                 47%

9.       Retirement                                     45%

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Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and  Twitter

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Psychopath or Sociopath - What's the difference?
  2. All About Writing Crime Fiction - Five Reasons to Write Crime
  3. Five Fabulous Tips for First Time Crime Writers

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

9 responses
This is so timely!
ta for the reference
#1 should be Death of a Child, not Death of a Spouse. Speaking from experience as someone who's lost both her children, the death of a spouse can't even come close to the devastation of seeing your children die before you do. Stress Scale 1, Life Change Value 200%. When your child dies, you become a totally different person.
I'm surprised 'having a child taken away from you' or 'surviving physical and psychological abuse' aren't featured here. But then not many writers could want to know how that changes people, let alone pretend.
I don't think the majority of writers could even pretend to understand those things, Dan, to write convincingly about them. And it's not something I'd wish on my worst enemy, so while "Loss of a Child" or "Surviving Physical and/or Psychological Abuse" could well be more stressful and life changing than "Death of a Spouse," I would sincerely pray that no one ever have enough experience with those subjects to be able to write about them convincingly.
Maybe it's just because a lot of characters don't have children, when you really look at it. Romantic interests, spouses, friends, family members, yeah, sure. But children? Maybe it's just the kind of books I read, but not that many. At least for main protagonists.
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