Mental Health Monday–Conscious vs Unconscious

Character development requires a lot of thought and attention to detail. We writers must be aware of our characters’ motivations, dreams, and desires. This intimate knowledge allows us to determine how they respond to certain situations and how they go about solving problems.

Just like us, our characters have conscious and unconscious thoughts.

Conscious thoughts are the ones they are aware of. For instance, a character can think: Geez, I knew taffeta was a tough fabric to wear, but I didn’t think it would make me look *this* fat.

Unconscious thoughts are the ones they are NOT aware of. For instance, why does this character think she’s fat? What experiences helped shape this self-perception? What emotions are evoked when she confronts something that reminds her of this?

Unconscious thoughts often act as invisible puppet masters, driving our (and our characters’) behaviors and actions. Maybe this character only wears black because she thinks it’s slimming. Maybe she shies away from asking a cute guy out on a date because she assumes he wouldn’t like her. Maybe she “distracts” people from looking at her mid-section by wearing revealing, low-cut tops or super-short skirts. Maybe she acts overly demure or overly provocative in order to hide her insecurities.

So, the next time you’re tapping into your characters’ inner dialogue, consider the unconscious thoughts underlying them and see how that affects their actions.

Remember, these posts are for writing purposes ONLY and are NOT meant to be medical treatment or advice.

If you have any questions you’d like me to address, please comment below, Tweet me, or Facebook me and I’d be happy to feature your question on a Mental Health Monday! 😉

Be sure to check out Lydia’s post on Medical Monday.

12 comments on “Mental Health Monday–Conscious vs Unconscious

  1. Sarah says:

    Great post! This kind of deep characterization is necessary to create 3-D characters!

  2. Lynn Rush says:

    Love this. It can really deepen a character to keep this all in mind! Happy Monday!!

  3. Ciara Knight says:

    Great post! I’m working on characterization today, so this is great! Happy Monday!!

  4. Great post! And I love that dress, even if it’s not slimming. 😉

  5. Charli Mac says:

    In 2006 my BFF had us wear taffeta in her wedding. 2006. The dresses were chic and and the design very flattering, but taffeta is taffeta. Doesn’t wear well, stretches out and wrinkles. Gross and it did make me look chunkier.

    Love the definitions and it serves as a reminder for us to make sure our characters do both.

  6. I wonder, if I spent enough time analyzing each of my characters, would I end up writing an entirely different story? Thank you for your challenging questions about unconscious vs. conscious thought. I find myself picking my own brain for those unconscious thoughts. Aha! I know what I’m thinking, but why? Blessings to you, Laura…

  7. Lydia K says:

    I love the fabric. I have an unconscious and conscious thing about green things.
    Great post, Laura!

  8. Doris says:

    I have always been fascinated by the “unconscious.”

    Great post.

    And wishing you a very Happy New Year!


  9. These are things I need to think more about when creating characters. And I plan to on my next manuscript. I’m already making notes. Thanks.

  10. Marieke says:

    Loved this! Thanks so much 😀

  11. lbdiamond says:

    Sarah–you really gotta know your characters to make ’em pop off the page–great point!

    Lynn–I agree!

    Ciara–glad this was useful!

    Deb–the dress is a great color, isn’t it?

    Charli Mac–LOL!

    Carol Ann–GREAT point. I would say, yes, you’d have a different story…at least, I did when I rewrote mine. 😉

    Lydia–I love the shade of this green, too!

    Doris–the unconscious is a mystery. Happy New Year to you too!

    Carol–thanks for stopping by!

    Marieke–glad to be of help!

  12. Natasha Hanova says:

    Great topic! Thanks for the tips on getting inside a character’s mind.

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