Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 23 June 2012

Personality versus Behaviour

I’ve just been having a fascinating conversation about the differences between personality and behaviour; loosely speaking, the differences between the things we can change about ourselves: our behaviour, and the things we can’t: our personalities.

Hopefully, as we get older, the two things come closer together, our behaviour mirrors more closely our personalities and we are able to be truer to ourselves and more transparent to others.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
I am given to wonder, though, whether this is true for the characters that we invent.
Do they have internal lives? are they complex? Is it truly possible, as a writer, to be sane and yet to keep a number of very real people in my mind all at the same time?
Honestly, I do not know the answer to this question. I do not know whether I know my characters entirely. I do not know whether there is more to learn about them that I will never know unless I need to know those things. If the book I am writing doesn’t take those characters into certain situations will some questions about their personalities ever be answered? Is their a difference between a character’s personality and his behaviour? I suppose if the piece is written in the omniscient third person there is room for that, but what of other structures?
The hero of “Naming Names” spoke to me. I always felt that she had a life of her own and a voice of her own. I always felt that there were things about her that she did not choose to tell me. I always felt that she had a life outside of the novel, and that she would continue to have a life out in the World when she had finished with me.
Perhaps that says more about my personality than it does about hers. That I write about it speaks volumes.


  1. I think there are people who behave in a way more true to their personality, and there are those who hide their personalities behind social behaviours and politenesses (I never quite mastered this very well!). I think it's fascinating reading a close 3rd person account of either (or first person), seeing what people reveal to the world, and to which other person. Got me thinking!

  2. got me thinking too. I can say that I definitely approach characters as real people as much as possible in nearly all writing contexts, whether prose or RPG.

    which brings up all sorts of interesting questions regarding Memory: Autobiographical Memory for people that don't exist per se, Source Monitoring & Retrospective Memory for who did/said what and when (and if they are real), Prospective Memory (who has to say/do what and when), even how post-event information can affect the memory of an event, issues of retroactive interference (can you still picture a character the way you had them in your mind before you came across a picture of the character?); not to mention theories regarding Social Psychology, in particular Normative and Informational Conformity, Attribution and Biases; plus questions of origins of Behaviour and what's involved in changing them (or the tools with which to make it happen, whether Classical or Operant conditioning).

    however, I'm in the midst of a psychology degree, and given my usual propensity towards verbosity, let us just say I had much, much more to say on/than this! ;)

    but feel free to wiki any terms if you're interested!