Psychology and characters

It’s a fact of life that if you marry a therapist, you get to hear about all sorts of psychological issues, theories and concepts. That’s how I heard about the Karpman Triangle.

Basically, Stephen Karpman (creator of the Karpman Triangle) explained that human beings go into one of the three unhealthy positions of the Triangle when conflict occurs. You either rescue, perpetrate or become the victim. He argued that none of them are healthy, rather they are all co-dependent…but, the point to us writers (yeah, sorry, I took a while to get to it), is that our characters should also go into these positions–at least, if they’re realistic.

Now, the neat thing is this post by Shawn Coyne on just this issue. He’s come up with this great exercise on how to use the Karpman Triangle to develop great characters.

“…focus on the imaginary people you’ve invented. Think about how each one of them would play one of these three roles when faced with a direct conflict.

How would he play the victim of someone else or a power out of his personal control?

How would he become the perpetrator, the character that loses his composure and unloads a bucket of bile on another character?

How would he play the rescuer, the character that steps in between these two combative forces and sides with the victim?”

Then he follows with an excellent example of just how to do that. Love it. What a fantastic idea, using psychology to get to know our characters better.

Thanks for the awesome post, Shawn!

 

5 thoughts on “Psychology and characters

  1. I think a lot of people become the silent observer. Even if it directly involves them they try to disassociate themselves and not get involved. Conflict avoidance. That being said, I understand what you are saying.

    • I hear what you’re saying. I think writers are particularly adept at being observers and quietly watch–sometimes taking mental notes. Thanks for the comment, Trent! I found the article fascinating!

  2. Pingback: Readers’ Choice | Taylor Grace

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