I recently finished reading another psychology book I found relevant both to understanding myself better and to creating realistic story characters:
About the Book
The thesis of the book is that our earliest childhood memories reveal more about us than any other question we could ask. Why? The introduction states: “Because those answers provide a priceless glimpse past all the facades and defenses, straight into the core of who a person is.”
Dr. Leman posits that our childhood memories aren’t random, that we remember them for a reason. He says: “Tell me three of your early childhood memories and I’ll tell you what weighs you down and what motivates you forward, what causes you to lose sleep at night with worry and what keeps you up with excitement — in short, what makes you you.”
Out of all the possible memories we could have of growing up, the particular ones we remember, and the way we remember them, reveal who we really are. And by understanding this we can move forward from what is holding us back.
For some these memories may be very painful and difficult to bring back. He acknowledges this, then points out that we can’t change the past, but we can change how we understand it, and that new understanding can help us move forward.
But this isn’t about hypnosis or anything like that. He simply wants us to ask “Why do I remember those particular events? Why not others? Do those memories reveal anything about who I am?”
We may discover new things about ourselves — how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, our fears and aspirations, our strengths and weaknesses, how we relate to others, how we deal with emotions, and more.
The arguments and examples he presents are certainly convincing. I haven’t done any of the exercises yet, but I’m planning to. I may even go out on a very shaky limb and publish some of it here.
How it Relates to Our Characters
The term “private logic” is used throughout the book to refer to the way we view the world and our past experiences, and decide based on that how to react to the situations we face. But what really struck me was the title of Chapter 7: “The Truth about the Lies You Tell Yourself”.
This reminded me of a blog post I read about “The Lie” at the heart of every main character’s inner conflict. I can’t find the post I had in mind, but I found another good one: Creating The Lie. In that post, Sherrinda Ketchersid summed it up as “There needs to be some lie [the hero] believes that taints every part of his belief system, every action, and every thought process.”
The post Getting to the Core of Your Characters by C. S. Lakin has a similar thought. She lists as one of the three most important things to know about our main characters: “The incident(s) that wounded them early in life that got them believing a lie”.
Understanding the lies our characters believe and how their behavior is affected is essential to creating characters that resonate with our audience. No doubt this is because readers recognize these false beliefs in themselves and others, and like seeing the characters ultimately get past the lies and move forward.
Recognizing the lies we believe, and those of the people in our lives, should help us to write more realistic characters. I believe this book can help us to do so.
In fact, we may well want to express the development of our characters’ wrong beliefs in terms of the childhood memories that caused them. These memories could be part of the characters’ back stories.
What do you think?
- Childhood Memories Serve as a Moral Compass (scientificamerican.com)
- Gardenia – childhood memories (goldandfabulous.wordpress.com)
- Respond Instead of Reacting: Speak Your Truth, Not Your Fears (tinybuddha.com)
- Childhood memories part 4 (juvymacapagal.wordpress.com)
- The Mob Doctor: Grace Grows a Backbone (rr.com)
- 30 Day Photo Challenge – Day 10 : Childhood Memory (shantarella.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Challenge: Childhood Memorys (anexerciseindiscipline.com)