Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Writing 101: What Do You Know About Insanity?

At some point, you may want to write a murder mystery, or just insert a murder into your story. You may need to have a character behave in a way that’s inexplicable, or less than normal. You may need to write a character who’s crazy. But what do you know about insanity?



Crazy is as Crazy Does

To simply write a character who is “crazy” is going to feel unsatisfying. Being crazy is a motive for killing someone or running around the street naked and screaming, or doing other things that just plain don’t make sense. But it’s not an explanation, and your readers are going to crave an explanation. How is this character crazy? Why are they insane? Because what you have to remember is this: the character doesn’t know they are insane. To them, everything they are doing makes perfect sense. So before you write it, you have to get inside of their crazy.

Are you ready to make yourself insane? Because if you’re going to write crazy, you need to know it.

Please, don’t go commit a murder so you may more accurately write about it. No one’s suggesting that, and I don’t want to get involved in any investigations. But it’s fine for you to imagine a killing, and to think about the motivation that might put someone in a dark enough place to actually carry out these horrible actions. Because there really is no such thing as simply “crazy” or insane. No one is those things. But people do have illnesses and personality disorders that can make them behave in ways that other people don’t understand. As the author, it’s part of your job to make them understand just why those crazy characters of yours are crazy in the first place.

So do a little research into insanity, and I don’t mean to do it by driving yourself insane. Look up the characteristics of personality disorders and mental illnesses. What does it take to become a killer? What personality types commit murders that don’t seem to make much sense? Give yourself a very basic understanding of mood disorders, like schizophrenia and narcissism. Because even the smallest characters in your book have to feel like real people.

And here’s a secret about the characters in your book: the small characters don’t know they’re small. Every character thinks they are really the star of the story, and that’s how they’re going to behave because that’s how real people behave. Real people may have a little bit of insanity mixed into their brains, and that’s okay. Learn more about what makes real people tick, and you’ll learn how to write much more believable characters.

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