Friday, June 18, 2010

Transformation, Psychology, and Getting Ideas

I've always been fascinated by transformation—the standard fare of vampires, shapeshifters, illusions, superheroes, and mutants, but also personal journeys, backstories, and multiple identities. It's partly due to the biology of it all—how does the Hulk add body mass and change color because of a hormone imbalance?—but a lot of my interest is in the psychology:

  • How does it feel to be a werewolf? How does it feel to transform? To live with the monster within while human? To be a human in the mind of a wolf?
  • How would someone cope with getting superpowers? What would cause someone to choose the heroic route, another person to choose the villainous, and a third to go to ground, as it were, and not mention their new abilities at all? How would it change them?
  • How does acting as multiple people change a person? How would one keep them separate? How long could you keep them separate? What happens when they start blending together, or if trauma forces an actual split?
  • How would someone truly react when they discover that Person A and Person B are really Person AB? How would that reaction change depending on relationships and preconceptions? 
And so on, and so forth. I could probably keep the questions coming for hours. (I'm really big on the psychology.) 

Reading that list, though, you probably got a bit of a sense of my taste in books. I like stories that poke and prod and get to the meat of the characters. I like stories that allow me to experience someone else's mind. I like stories that force characters (and me) to change their thinking, to grow, to find out more about themselves.

I'm not entirely certain how circular that argument really is. Do I like speculative fiction because of my interest in psychology, or am I interested in psychology because I grew up on speculative fiction? I'm inclined to think it doesn't matter in the long run. I like what I like. I am what I am. 

One thing I do know, however, is that the kinds of questions I ask and the kinds of stories I like definitely inform what I write about.* For instance, my musings about multiple identities spin off ideas about dissociative and multiple personality disorders, neurosis, and snowballing lies. The next step in story creation for me would be asking either, "Okay, who would really, really not deal with the lie situation very well, and can I make them neurotic too?" or "Can I write a coherent story with multiple narrators who are really the same person?" After that would come plot, setting, and all that. Usually.**

What attracts you to the kinds of books you read? How much does that influence what you write about? 

How many of you get ideas from asking questions the way I do? What other ways do you get inspired?

* Whether or not I write about them well is another matter entirely, and will probably be discussed at length by any fandom I manage to acquire in the future.
** This isn't the only way I come by my stories, but trying to pick apart the psychology of fictional characters has spurred quite a lot of mine.


Amanda J. said...

This is a very intriguing post. I like to think about psychology too, and get into the 'why' of characters, and it's brought about some ideas for me. I think most of the time though I analyze things as I go: Why is my villain doing this? Does he think he has a choice?

Thanks for tying all of your interests together in this post, for me it's a little easier to relate to than all of them separately. :)

Anassa said...

Oh, I do the character motivation thing as well. No question there. But I also get a lot of ideas from picking at reality and picking at the books I read. There's no way, I think, to write decent characters (and therefore decent story) without having a grasp on what makes the people tick.