Getting Into Your Character's Mindset

One important factor for creating really good characterisation is for writers to try to get into their character’s mindset. Part of creating characters that the reader will connect with and feel emotional towards is to make them so believable that they seem entirely real. And to do that, writers must feel and think like their characters – figuratively speaking they have to climb into their character’s heads and become these people.
The more you truly understand your characters, the better your characterisation. It’s not just about knowing what their hair colour is or when and where they were born, but it’s how they are with other characters that the readers look for.
What would the protagonist say, or do in any given situation?  How would he or she act or react to people and the developing situations around them? What drives them? What do they want?
Getting into your character’s head isn’t as complicated as it sounds. On the whole, writing largely depends on what we know and what we’ve experienced and then translating these memories and experiences into the story and the characters. We’re able to layer and flesh out our main characters this way. For instance, if you had a character that loses a loved one, then this painful process is something we can draw on from our own experiences of loss, grief and bereavement. The pain of loss is universal – we all feel it and we know what it can do us and those affected by it. We can render our characters with these emotions, because we’ve felt it, and the readers will have felt it, too.
This works because the driving force behind what we know and experience tends to be emotion. Emotion plays a huge part in character dynamics – they can be sad, they can be depressed, grief stricken, love struck, angry, desperate...all emotions that make characters stand out.
It’s not just emotions that help writers get into their character’s heads. Another simple way is to spend a day as your character. It might sound strange, but it can be an effective way of getting to really know your main characters – their mannerisms, quirks, flaws and above all, their emotions.
How do they dress? What would they like to do?  Where do they like to go?  What do they enjoy most?  What do they least like? Go out and be your protagonist – how would you act and react to others or different situations? Think like they do. Act like they would. 
Some writers act out certain scenes from their stories because it helps them understand their character’s point of view. If you were your main character – how would you think and feel? How will the scene affect their behaviours and actions?
This kind of insight can be valuable – it helps writers understand what makes characters tick. For example, if one of your main characters is a sociopath, how would he or she view other people? You would have to think about the lack of emotion, empathy or moral compass to perceive how a sociopath work, and how cold they are to the people around them. 
Another way to get into your character’s mindset is to visualise. Most of us have a rough idea of our main characters when we create our stories. How they look may not seem important, but to make them as real as possible, you need to visualise what they look like. Some writers use faces they’ve seen in magazines or on TV as a basis, others use real people. The very creative like to draw their characters. But however you do it, physically picturing your characters – making them almost real – helps you to get in their heads. Physical attributes helps you to define your characters.
So, to get into your main character’s heads, try the following:
  • Visualise them.
  • Use emotions we all relate to and understand.
  • Use your own experiences to add reality.
  • Be your character for a day. Act out certain scenes.
Actors love being other people. There’s no reason why writers shouldn’t enjoy being other characters, too.



  1. I am *so* glad this was the subject of today's blog post. I am working on a difficult scene, and rather than telling me what not to do this points me in the right direction to get it done. Thank you!


  2. I’ve always tried to envision my characters as actual people I’ve encountered and who want me to tell their story. As with real people, it takes a while to get to know them; to understand who they really are and what they want out of life. Each is an individual with their own motives and aspirations. Their function or purpose within a given story eventually reveals itself as events play out. That’s what works best for me, instead of trying to force the tale out of my mind.


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