Creating interesting characters requires writers to have a solid understanding of psychology.
Many areas come to mind: childhood hurts, trauma, being the underdog, neglect, and more. But one stands out as critical to digging deep into a character, and that is a character’s relationship to his or her parents.
Some questions you might consider as you evaluate your character’s relationship with his/ her parents:
- What are his/ her earliest memories with their parents?
- What feelings does thinking of his/ her parents generate?
- Was his father/ mother aggressive in punishment or passive?
- How did the relationship between parent/ child change over the years?
- Was the parent jealous of others getting close to his/ her child?
- Could the child do no wrong? No right?
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but a starting point in working through a character’s backstory to establish future obstacles, motivations, and struggles. Often the relationship with a parent is key to a character’s understanding of and engagement with authority figures.
See this example from White Heat as evidence:
Now, write a scene based on how your character might react to finding out his/her mother (or father) died. Or, try a scene where the parent and child reunite after years of being separated.
What thoughts or challenges do you have when it comes to using the parent/ child relationship as a springboard to deeper understanding of character psychology? Share in the comments.