For any of you who bothered to read my About Page, you’d see that I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from SUNY Buffalo. Throughout my college years I got on very annoying joke/snide remark rather often:
So you majored in basket weaving?
I’ll be honest this used to annoy me to no end for various reasons. Why?
Because it’s damned useful!
Especially as the time I initially signed up for the major I had loose plans to follow it through to a Ph.D. and becoming a therapist of some kind. Granted, that idea went down the tubes only because I realized how frustrating it is dealing with insurance companies, but I digress.
As I spent all those years learning about clinical disorders, and how people interact socially and why, I didn’t realize how much this helped my writing which I was only doing as a hobby at the time.
I’m telling you, it sounds ridiculous that the degree helped my writing in spades, but if you think about it the right way it makes perfect sense.
Between my natural aptitude for reading people, and all that knowledge about how the human mind ticks, it gave me the skills to craft excellent characters.
It gave me an insight into people, where I could tell if I was breaking the rules of someone’s personality. Or if this person would do this, instead of that. I can tell the difference between a totally horrible idea, or a good idea that’s been executed badly.
People have always told me that I over think everything when I write, but that’s only because I want to make sure all of these things are perfect. I wanted to make sure that I was doing right by my characters.
Now, I’m not writing this post to brag, or to endorse a psychology degree by any means. What I am writing this post for is to give you the clue that maybe you know more about a lot of things than you think. And on top of that, never shy away from learning something new, no matter how random and unrelated it may be.
If you’re an aspiring author the biggest thing you need in your life is experience. What’s the cheesy line we’re all told?
Write what you know, right?
Well, as aggravating as that is to hear, it’s true. How else could you work in the nuance of a story without actually having had an experienced similar to what’s going on?
Aside from that, I do advise learning about human psychology because if what you know is people, then your characters are guaranteed to shine like a star in your story. Add that in with whatever unique life experience/other skills you have and you’ve got yourself an excellent story on your hands.
Never run from knowledge of any kind, hear me?
Don’t let people tell you you’re wasting your time.
As an author I started to consider my day to day life as research into people and situations. I look around, see something I like whether it’s a person’s look or their attitude and I think, “How could I use that in a story?”
Stephen King openly admits he based the character of Carrie on a girl in one of the English classes he taught when he was still a teacher.
King was also inspired by the various stories he heard throughout his life. He found a little nugget in each, he took what he liked and he ran with it.
Ernest Hemingway went to Spain and fought the Communists. He also drove an Italian ambulance during World War I when America didn’t want any part of it.
What kind of stories did Hem write? Stories about strength and fortitude. Stories about one man over coming crazy odds.
The man wrote what he knew, and so should you. So go learn Basket Weaving (ahem, psychology) or anything else that strikes your fancy despite not making ,”sense”, to the people around you.
What the hell do they know anyways?
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think I’m nuts? Whatever you do think, leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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