Have you ever said or heard the phrase, “He (or she) is playing games with you.” Game playing is more prevalent than you think, and not always obvious. And the person making that statement is probably playing a game themselves.
I submit as a tool for character fine tuning the book “Games People Play,” published by Eric Berne in 1964. The book can be used to insure your characters are believable and that readers can relate to their actions.
Berne was a psychiatrist whose best selling book delved into social interactions, and the games we play, and why they are important. The book is about transactional analysis, meaning everyday encounters. To simplify I quote from the book, “If two or more people encounter each other. . . sooner or later one of them will speak, or give some other indication of acknowledging the presence of the other.” This is transactional stimulus and when the other person responds we have transactional response. A game would be, if a child knows his mother is nurturing, and plays on that nurturing by saying he is sick and the mother lets him stay home from school. I am ashamed to say I played this game. Sorry mom. It was a good way to receive nurturing cookies.
We play games everyday, in all conversations, whether you think so or not. I do not mean to imply all the games are bad, or that everyone is trying to get an edge on somebody; it is an analysis of human behavior. Berne categorizes transactions into life games, marital games, party games, sex games, underworld games, consulting room games, and good games.
Why this book will work is that it gives examples about behavior, about simple manipulation, about human interactions. You can create character traits by how the character interacts with people, even strangers. How does the boy cited above use his ability to manipulate nurturing women to his advantage when he is an adult? Does he, as a serial killer, manipulate nurturing, trusting women, to feel safe, then kill them? For the record, I have not done this. But I try to manipulate women into baking cookies for me and I offer no apologies for my cookie game playing.
I hope you understand what the book can do for you and your writing. It will give your characters psychological reality and identification. A writer often uses a characters body language to give the impression of a character, so why not delve into mind games. After forty years the book is still available, so the book as stood the test of time.