How to Use Psychology to Write Amazing Stories







Illustration © Charles Schultz

Remember the Charlie Brown comic strip? The enterprising Lucy one-upped the lemonade stand business model and parked herself at a booth offering “Psychiatric Help” for five cents.

I feel a little like that sometimes when I write this blog.

Believe it or not, psychology and writing fiction go hand-in-hand. Psychology revolves around understanding why humans think, feel, and behave as they do. Writers … the good ones anyway … are keen observers of human nature and capture it in their storytelling.

Writing is Psychology
Well-written characters will have history and family dynamics, with definable strengths, weaknesses, and personality problems. They engage in internal monologues about themselves, their relationships, and the world around them.

Such realistic characters make thought-provoking entertainment.

But you don’t need a psychology degree to craft a good story, just curiosity about the people around you. Practicing certain techniques will make it more available in your writer’s toolbox.

Here are three areas of focus:

1. Observation
Most writers are people-watchers. I know I am. I’m fascinated by the things people do, what they say, and any discrepancies between the two. The fictional characters most of us create may be “larger than life” in many ways but, to be good, they must also be someone the reader can relate to.

To that end, would-be writers need to make a habit of observing those around them and noting their behavior. What kinds of things do they say? How do they relate to each other? How do they solve the problems life throws their way?

People-watching is the writer’s research.

2. Body Language
Non-verbal communication speaks volumes. Hone this skill, and learn how to use it effectively in your writing. Non-verbal communication can reveal a person’s true thoughts, feelings, and intentions.

You can use non-verbal signals to reinforce your character’s words, but you can apply it to even greater advantage by using it to belie what the character says, tipping the reader that all is not as it seems.

The most common mistake writers make is using body language to tell us something we already know. Rather, body language should tell us something we don’t know. Body language works best when it’s at odds with what’s happening.

3. Visit Your Bookshelf
This may seem a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s fabulous advice. Every great writer will tell you so. You can’t write well if you don’t read.

Think about it. Even when you think you’re reading just for the sheer fun of it, you’re actually learning how to relate to the world, and to each other. If the characters in the stories we read are believable, we attach to them on a variety of levels.

So, explore your bookcase for favorite volumes from yesteryear. Blow the dust off one and open it up. You don’t have to get very far into it to see the concepts good writers used to create fictional characters that feel real.

No Degree Necessary
We are all individuals, distinct from one another, but we all share similar emotional inventories. Each of us has experienced (to some degree) fear, anger, humor, guilt, love, lust, hate, disgust, longing, and a myriad of other emotions.

The characters we create will be based on what we know (which includes what we have read), and will be processed by readers according to their similar experiences.

When you write something that makes a connection like that with your reader, the effect can linger long after the book is closed.

* * * * *

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;


You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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