Character Psychology and Questions

     Characters are born, develop, and sometimes die in our minds. They live with us and are manipulated by us. We think about them, nurture them, and care what happens to them, even if they’re evil. While writing a novel or short story, I think more about my characters than my family. Our characters portray humanity and all its flaws; they could be our sisters, brothers, parents, and friends.

     With that in mind, we could all be personalities unfolding in a writer’s storyline about love and relationships, life and death.   

     But few of us are psychologists. As a result, we can misrepresent how the mind actually works. I’ve read books in which a psychopath develops a conscience. That never happens. Psychopaths have no conscience. Why would they care enough to develop one?              

     Do you know your character’s psychological make up? If not, how do you construct a character arc when some of the vital symptoms, traits, and behavioral manifestations are missing? Not only will the character and their back-story suffer from inaccurate information, but also the character will become less believable.

     Most writers have known people with psychological problems. As the author Rita Mae Brown once said, “The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they’re okay, then it’s you.”

      The madness of the protagonist or antagonist can be, and often is, the driving force of the story. (Think about Hannibal Lecter.) To understand and label that madness is to truly know your character-type creation.  

     Or does it really matter? After all, we as writers can make up our own diagnosis as long as that diagnosis doesn’t spill over the boundary of believability.

     Many times writers will decide when the character is born what the psychology of the character will be. Ms. A is depressed. The writer might run to the DSM V psychological diagnostic manual, and copy down the traits of depression, and then mold the character’s psychology by those traits. Ms A sleeps a lot and isn’t eating. However, in the middle of the book, she’s out of bed and feeling frisky, eating like a horse, and ready to take on the world, and exhibiting some kooky behavior, among other things.

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Characters have a mind of their own, and the author can be back reading the DSM V.

     The first thing I question my character about is Demographic, as I’m sure most writers do. Like my character Ariel James in my short story, “Case Study”: Ariel James, a sixteen-year-old Caucasian Jewish female, is model-tall and thin, attractive (long blond hair and hazel eyes), bright, verbal, and sexually active. She lives in an upper middle class neighborhood with her computer-programmer father (Mike), his fifth-grade-teacher girlfriend (Rho), and her eleven-year-old baseball-fanatic brother (Stu). Ariel referred herself for counseling May 7, 2012. She called and said: “I have big problems and I want to talk to someone.” I asked Ariel about her hobbies, what she likes to do on her free time, and what she does when she’s alone. From there: it’s the psycho-social: social (external), personal (internal), financial, career choices, educational, spiritual, family ties, and what is causing her stress. Then we’re on our way together toward an adventure and unique relationship. I revisit the personal feelings and social events often before I label my characters because, as you know, they can be so damn fickle.

 

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The Never-Ending Process of Purpose

 

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 Traveling cross country from San Francisco to our new New York City apartment with a caravan full of “stuff,” and the blaring sun reminding us how burning hot it can be, I thought about the word purpose, a purpose unto itself. Purpose was all around me. In fact, we were in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store, and I heard this song I don’t know, and the crooner is singing about finding something to believe in or not living. Those weren’t the exact words, but I was holding too much “stuff” to write it down.

But what I did get to do, and I thought it quite exciting—wish I had a video camera—was to interview people I had met about what they thought when I said the word purpose. What the heck, I thought. Michael Black hit the salient features of “purpose,” and I couldn’t agree more. Carole added some purposefulness to the word, and Rita gave us many writers’ and philosophers’ quotes on the subject. All great in their own way. Susan and Hannah had existential definitions for the words as their day and adventures took them into the here and now, the ever important daily purpose, or describing obstacles to achieving one’s purpose.  

A young bartender we met, Danielle, a wise 24 year old, answered that question. Here is a bit of the conversation. Larry, my husband, added a few things, also.

 P: What is purpose?

D: It is cause and effect, everything happens for a reason.

P: Is it transient?

D: Yes it is.

P: So it changes.

D: Of course.

P: Does it change as your life changes, or as the experience changes? Can one experience have several purposes, or is it that you have to go through an experience, and in that experience there is a purpose?

D: For me you have to go through an experience that has a purpose, then you have another experience and that has a purpose.

L: Pat, why the meeting with Danielle and Tierney (another interviewee—is that a word?), what was the purpose?

D: Hey, that’s what I said when I went home last night. I met those people for a reason, not just to serve them wine. If I meet this Joy (a person we recommended) and she helps me with something that is life changing, then that’s the purpose of our meeting. You become the purpose.

So what I have gleaned about “what is purpose” is this: There’s a silent movement to it. Its vicissitudes in life are individual, constantly changing, and very important. There may even be an ingredient of serendipity to the mix. My cousin, Wally Gold, a songwriter (who wrote “It’s my Party” and “It’s Now or Never” and others) said that  because of serendipity, he met Aaron Schroeder, the music king at that time, and that changed his life and his life’s purpose.  Maybe for me, the benefit of this trip, in a spiritual way, was to help people take a look at what is truly meaningful to them. 

 

Depth

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When thinking about the word “depth,” it is hard to imagine what it really means. I naturally think of water (the distance below the surface), a drawer (distance between front and back), maybe a jungle (distance to the most remote part), or maybe even art (depth of color or three dimensional forms). When it comes to the individual, depth become harder to envision. What is the quality of being deep? Is it experiences layered with experiences layered with even more experiences? Is it a profound or intense state of feeling, as in the depth of misery?

What life could be lived, or experiences gained, without self? It is another word that is hard to imagine. Self is the core of our being, the essence of what makes us home in our body. But when I imagine it, it’s seems as endless as an oil shaft, like our center core is unlimited. There is no single image that identifies it. One women I saw in therapy said that she had lost her self, and was grieving that loss. She no longer acted in a way that felt authentic to who she was. Whew! Right?

Psychology is the study of the Psyche. Modern Psychology can help us understand more about Jungthat “self”. With Depth Psychology, we learned that the psyche is more than a conscious mind, it had depth, illuminations which are not visible, the unconscious. Carl Jung (picture to left) believed that there were aspects of our psyche that were common to us all. These aspects include images, dreams, the spiritual (soul), art, philosophy, and the para-nornormal. Jung did his doctoral research on the Occult, and studied a fifteen-year-old medium.  I believe that these ingredients are also important to what make up the “depth” in all of us, the authentic self.

When exploring the characters in your life, as well as your books, or maybe even yourself, probe the most important facets of that character: spiritually, emotionally, their dreams, their fantasies (which few share), their real and imagined desires. That’s what I do to get that added dimension. That way I feel as though I’m not writing about their lives, but of their lives.

Boredom

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        This picture so reminds me of being forced to do homework I hated, and my mind flying away to storybook lands, or being in school and listening to the teacher drone on and on, and me daydreaming about what I really wanted to do at that hour, hang with friends, get the scoop on the latest guy I liked, or go out and play baseball, or touch football (with the latest guy I liked).

        I think boredom, for me, has a lot to do with how I pay attention, my high energy level, and what holds my Imageinterest; what excites me. I have a friend who is a low energy kinda gal, Ms. Relaxed. Ms Relaxed could find enjoyment in watching a butterfly land on a flower, like an afternoon of butterflies landing on flowers. Really. To Rita Lakin’s statement:”All the books and plays I want to write. I’d have to live three life time to do all the things I have to do,” Ms Relaxed would just shrug. One life is enough for her, and she can manage to fit everything into it with time to spare to watch the butterflies. Does she get bored? NO. Do I? YES. I have lots of energy and I devote it to my creative projects. When I have to write a bio, like Hannah Jayne, or listen to another lecture on character development, POV, and how to get an agent, I cringe. Out of politeness, I listen. But then I get bored and turn off. I can no longer concentrate on the words, which leads me to turn off to the subject. Back to the storyland I created in my youth, with adult sensibilities of course. (Not going to ponder whether or not my friends and I are going to stop at the local burger joint on the way home from school and chip in all our dimes for fries.) What happens to you when you get bored?

       The problem with boredom is that it can sometimes lead me to dislike what I became bored about. Like Susan Shae, lumbering plots and dead prose makes me close a book. Like Carole Price, old business meetings and having to write “what are my goals?” bore me to tears.

       I can now understand Carole’s boredom and restless thing going hand and hand. After all, Michael Black brought up how Elvis Presley shot a hole in his TV sets when he was bored, a psychological example of acting out over the loss of control of a situation– like waiting forever to get on stage, or waiting in long lines for army chow.

      Now that this boredom topic has enlivened me, you know what really bores me? Facebook, and when people write bullshit to get their names out there. Name recognition at its worst. Do you actually care that I had oatmeal for dinner (with two egg whites and maple syrup)? I hope not. But then again, do you know what does captivate me? Facebook, and when people share horrible experiences, and others are there to comfort them … like the posts about the tornado and flood that ravaged Oklahoma, near Oklahoma City. Then I’m touched, moved by how we help each other, and transfixed to each kind word of support.champagne lunch 011

       What do I do when I’m really bored? For me, it’s wandering off in my mind to a fun experience, like swimming with the dolphins in Hawaii, or listening to music, or writing. And you?

Moments in History:Always Present

Larry and I are vacationing in New York City. We’re visiting friends and family, and taking in the sights, sounds, and sensations of the local environment. While wandering around the “City” and our old hood in Rockland County, NY (about twenty miles north), I’ve been thinking about this post–writing it for the LadyKillers Blog. It wasn’t until today, when we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), and our drive back into our own past, that I realized history constantly surrounds us–no matter where we live. Our homelands are rich with historical facts. There are grave yards hidden in the bushes surrounding our towns.

Some ideas sprouted while we meandered around the Met:

 

 

 

Medieval

From the medieval era where religion permeated art and culture. To:

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the stark reality of the human condition (Thomas Waterman Wood: The Veteran) To:

PUNK: Chaos to Couture

Yep, Punk, a culture that involved music, dress, and odd forms of expression. 

Then we road through Nyack, NY and spotted the Edward Hopper House being renovated to keep its history and artwork alive.

http://mw2.google.com/mwpanoramio/photos/medium/24309283.jpg  (Edward Hopper’s House–where he was born.)

We continued down the road to Carson McCullers house (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), which is rented to only writers who ‘s works are acceptd by the trust-fund board so that they can have the opportunity to be among fellow writers in order to hone their skills.(http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1d/SouthNyackNY_CarsonMcCullersHouse.jpg) 

We finally reached our old Hudson River homestead next door to Nyack, a village named Grandview, its shoreline ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. Both Thomas Berger (Neighbors and LIttle Big Man) and Toni Morrison (Beloved) live in this small village–history makers in the literary world.

By the time we left the old hood and I contemplated this post, it had grown feet of its own. Walking down memory lane at the Met, then in my old neighborhood, I realized history will always be present. We just have to look for it. And if we’re lucky enough to care about it, we could share the find and continue its unique story.

The New Way to Create Your Story

 The Interactive Way to Write Your Next Book: Crowdsourcing!

ImageRecently, I was at a meeting with my new publisher and several of the authors from Harper Davis. We discussed “Branding,” and my need to redo the way I brand myself as well as my blog, website, and name. I tend to use Pat Morin, and not the Patricia L. Morin signed on my books and short stories. When discussing the use of name, one of the marketing people suggested I crowdsource an opinion of which of the names I should use. I had never heard of it. Several of the authors had explained that authors are now using crowdsourcing to write their novels. With the help of their fans, their new stories are being created.

Wow! First let me define crowdsourcing (and if some/all of you know, please forgive the repetition).

Crowdsourcing is, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. The general concept is to combine the efforts of crowds of volunteers where each one could contribute a small portion, which adds into a relatively large or significant result. Crowdsourcing is different from an ordinary outsourcing since it is a task or problem that is outsourced to an undefined public rather than to a specific, named group. Although the word “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006, it can apply to a wide range of activities.Crowdsourcing can apply to specific requests, such as crowdvotingcrowdfunding, a broad-based competition, and a general search for answers, solutions, or a missing person.

There is even a new platform for writers all over the world launched by CrowdSource, LLC. The new portal, called Write.com, aims to recruit new writers to enrich Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing marketplace.

Authors are able, through this new format, to change endings and rewrite books, as was discussed on LadyKillers Blog before. But now, we can include our fan base to help create the story from the start.

Out with the outline, out with the plotantsers, out with the 1,2,3. In with the new group interactive process: crowdsourcing!

What do you think about all this?

Rejection and Resilience

Rejection and Resilience

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What interested me the most about the rejections that authors received from publishers and agents, beside the types of letters, and diversity of the language in the negative responses (some very positive, also), was the reaction of the author. I know when my reject slips started flooding in, I felt angry, defensive, bewildered, and sometimes indignant (usually not all at the same time). I worked hard to keep my spirits up, and push through a bit of despair to send my stories to the next publisher, hopeful of an acceptance.

We’re resilient. We’ve bended, adapted, shifted, sometimes in ways we never thought we could. I most certainly did not handle all my rejections effectively. I cursed out several agents (the one who sent the fortune cookie size response). I even wrote to one agent and told her how rude she was in her rejection letter, and would suggest no one hire her—since we do have to pay them for services.

Anyway, the resilient person, moi, does not always, to this day, handle refusal of my work well. However, the strength, I believe, is in the ability to rebound. According to Robert Brooks, Ph.D, there are four concepts that help people when confronted with rejection. All four have been touched upon in The Ladykillers Blog this week at one point or other. I’m just putting them all together.

  1. Avoid self-defeating assumption. Rejections do not indicate a basic flaw in our personality.
  2. Don’t magnify the rejection in terms of the impact it has on your life. It is not a forecast of your future. After about 75 rejection slips, I sorta had a hard time believing this one.
  3. Don’t allow the rejection to derail your dreams. Persevere.
  4. Learn from the rejection, even if there is no suggestion for change. Seek helpful feedback from others.
  5. (Mine) reevaluate the agents and publishers, the people you are hoping to win over–they my not be right for you. I’ve had to change my list several times.
  6. STAY RESILIENT!

Can you add to this list? What has helped you stay resilient? Cat buddies that purr on your lap are acceptable.