The proper study of mankind is books. ~A. Huxley
Books are my thing. I know they are the thing for a lot of people and it isn’t to take away from the relationship others have with books. For me it is the ability to know the characters.
I like to seek answers. Why does that person do that? What is the reason they give and what is the real reason – because there are often at least two reasons for every action. The public reason and the private reason. The public reason is to help preserve social relationships, to save face, to alleviate responsibility, or basically anything to do with others. The private reason is more mysterious. It is the internal motivator. It is the reason that we can identify and even like the antagonist to some degree. It is the psychology of the character.
I study books because I am fascinated by what drives people. I analyze the behavior of characters. My favorite moment of a book is when a character does something unexpected. But it only works if the author is crafty enough to put the action on the edge of believable.
A devout man breaks the tenets of his faith and murders someone. The killing of another person is counter the the make up of the man. It isn’t believable unless there is some internal force that dissipates the dissonance. It is believable if he thinks the person is not really a person but a demon.
For me the illusion of the story is broken if the character acts out of character. If there has been no build up, no clue, then it doesn’t work. I want to have the satisfaction of being surprised but not scammed.
So how do you create out of character characters? Make them do things that they wouldn’t do even if they had a gun pointed at their head.