When Crazy Is Good – 9 Good Reasons For Your Character’s Bad Behaviour


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%

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

by Amanda Patterson

© 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

This article has 6 comments

  1. Brooke

    This is so timely!

  2. frank

    ta for the reference

  3. Kelly

    #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.

  4. Dan Ashley

    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.

  5. Kelly

    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.

  6. Edith

    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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