Want to Create Believable Fictional Characters? Start with a Psychological Profile

A sure way to help your readers either to love or hate them.

Kerry McAvoy, PhD
4 min readFeb 23, 2021

Each Friday, my family has a tradition. Two of my adult sons visit for what I call our weekly dinner and a movie. Choosing what we will watch next has become quite the process. My youngest is a cinephile; the show must be well made. We will watch a whole gamut — from older TV series, current streaming options, and full-length cinematic choices — as long as it has excellent reviews.

One Way to Lose Our Audience’s Interest

A few weeks ago, we decided to watch a popular Netflix series, Altered Carbon. I remembered seeing a few episodes right after it was released a couple of years earlier, but lost interest fast.

My youngest son suggested it as an option, and I thought, Sure, why not? Sometimes I don’t like something because of personal reasons. I hoped time would have improved my opinion.

It didn’t.

After watching six episodes, we’ve decided to abandon the series. This decision led to an interesting conversation about the show’s flaws. The problem wasn’t with the plot; its premise is quite intriguing. And each episode moves at a fast pace and is well-shot. The world-building is intricate and well-thought-out.

Importance of Character Development

Our issue with this series is character development. I honestly don’t like the cast and couldn’t care less if they lived or died.

There are many critical elements to telling an entertaining story. As writers, our tale needs a well-constructed, plausible plot with a gripping conflict in a compelling setting. But no one will read an action-pack story in an fantastical world if it doesn’t include believable characters. We will not keep our audience’s attention if we cannot flesh out our heroes and villains.

So, how can we create believable characters that evoke powerful emotions in our readers?

Construct a Psychological Profile

Kerry McAvoy, PhD

Psychologist & Author of LOVE YOU MORE. Follow on Tiktok/IG for narcissistic abuse tips & advice. Email: hello@kerrymcavoyphd.com