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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekend Funnies

Copyright Wiley Miller 11-19-10

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vacation Time Still!

Here's proof:

(the black and white speck next to the right side of Delicate Arch is ME!)

See you on Friday for Free Association Chain and Saturday for Weekend Funnies!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend Funnies

Copyright Bill Whitehead 12-12-09

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Oh, and join me today with the ladies of Seekerville as I discuss how to deal with resistant characters!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Vacation!

I'll be on vacation the rest of this week and next (the first with our entire family--including barely potty-trained daughter....should be fun!), but join me on Fridays for Free Association Chain!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Character Clinic: Kurt Lancer and the Difference between Guys and Girls

On the couch today I've got J.C. Martin's character from her crime novel. Kurt is 32 and a homicide detective with Metropolitan Police. He's got an 8-year old daughter Meghan who suffers from a disorder that will eventually effect her ability to see. His wife Angie died a year ago and now someone is threatening his daughter's life. He's working to solve a string of crimes seemingly leading up to a coup d'etat at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.

JC wants to know: If Kurt is a man who keeps things to himself (the strong and silent type), how to I make him compelling without going too much into emotions, which is a rather female reaction? Are their psychological distinctions between how a man or a woman would react to the same situation?

While I usually write my mini-assessments out to the character, I think this one is for all you authors out there. So here we go, JC!

You're right, of course, about the female reaction being much more emotional. If I had to pinpoint a word that describes the majority of male reactions it would be rational (basically to offset the female). This is in generalities, not facts.

Men are fixers. They see a problem and can seemingly more easily look at a situation, break it down into manageable steps, and go to work. Women tend to gloss over those steps and cry and breakdown with how overwhelmed they are. From what I've noticed in my career, men seem to go into action mode when reacting while women go into almost an inaction mode (at least at first) because they are taking it all in, processing it differently. Women tend to overanalyze, playing out various scenarios. Men are action-oriented (read Wild at Heart  by John Eldridge for more on this)--not to say that they don't think, but act while they think.

Hopefully that made sense!

Randy Ingermanson has a popular workshop that he does on writing from the male point of view. He talks about the three main differences between men and women. Here it is, in Randy's own words from his blog:

  • Ego. The male ego is on average different from the female ego. The male ego can drive a guy to do things that are slightly crazy or a lot crazy. There is no simple explanation for this, and asking for one is never going to get an honest answer. The male ego can get a bridge built but it can also result in a torn ACL. Go figure.
  • Lust. Guys are visual. The way women dress creates visual images in a guy’s brain that can linger for days, months, or even decades. I hope I don’t have to draw a picture here, but honestly, women seem to be completely unaware that guys don’t think their dress is “cute.” Guys aren’t looking at your dress at all, ladies, they’re looking at what’s under the dress or what’s not even covered by the dress. If they like what they see, it’ll stick in their brains for a long time. You can decide for yourself whether or not you want those images in a guy’s brain.
  • Feelings. Guys are a lot less likely to share their feelings than women are. For most guys, feelings are private things which are none of your business. If you ask and he won’t tell, then asking again is not going to get you anywhere you want to go, but it could get you blacklisted for any future conversations. Be warned.

You can make Kurt compelling, operating within these three avenues as guidelines. Nothing's set in stone, and you have lots of freedom where needed. I don't think Randy's saying that men never talk about their feelings. Too many women have forced men to have the DTR (defining the relationship) talk, and I guarantee you that most of those men were extremely uncomfortable--even when they liked the girl! So if things swing into the emotional realm, I'd show his discomfort, perhaps in a physical way.

He's going to visually notice his neighbor, and those images that are burned into his retinas will remain there for a while, so I'd have him revisit them, perhaps during a harrowing crime scene. Like an off-the-wall memory. Depending on what type of novel you're writing, you could go into really crude internal thoughts or keep them vague--but even Christian men notice these things (they just channel those thoughts away, ideally).

I hope this helps out some. I found Randy's stuff useful. I also really like the following books for describing the differences between men and women:

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray
Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel
For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn

Thanks for writing in!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Character Clinic: Frankie Gilchrist

Today's assessment is for Josie. She's writing a modern thriller-type book featuring 26-year-old Frankie, a telepath who keeps to herself as much as possible. Her father was violent with mob connections. He murdered her mother when Frankie was 9 and locked Frankie in the hotel room with her mother's dead body for 3 days before Frankie managed to escape. She can erase people's memory with a touch of her hand, but she isn't often with other people to even worry about it.

Josie wants to know: How can Frankie get a life? A real one that involves other people? How can she overcome her fear and her past and just be happy?

Frankie -

The kind of trauma that you suffered at the tender age of 9 isn't the kind one is likely to get over soon, if ever. (Not to be fatalist here, but realistic.) You'll carry it with you, but that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Since you're sorta searching for a goal, I've got one to throw out. Just a thought, but there are so many wounded healers out there, people who go into career fields simply because of their own pain. You could be a social worker, determined to help orphaned children who remind you so much of yourself. Children who've come from homes of violence or neglect.

It's be interesting to see your struggle in this type work because you'd have to weight the benefit of your talent of erasing memories (which might be seen as a courtesy to extend these traumatized souls) against the moral implications.  In fact, I could see this as a huge decision for you to make later in the book...and coming to grips with your own past and the fact no one was around to erase it for you and that what you went through made you into the person you are today might help you make the right decision.

I also think that this type goal would give you lots of internal angst, because social workers are by their very nature social. They have to be around people to help them. But perhaps since you'd work mainly with kids, you wouldn't feel as much anxiety with them. But dealing with other professionals might be challenging. But what if one of them were a super cute lawyer or police officer? That might make it a bit more palatable to face your fear...

Speaking of, I want to ask you why you're so scared of other people. Your father, I understand. He's out there somewhere, and the more you show your face or are noticed, the more likely he might be to make a reappearance. But what has another soul done to you that has made you scared of them? If you live off your fear that they will find out about your telepathy and use you in experimentation, that would only apply to a very few select individuals, perhaps in a science field. See where I'm going? I'd need more info as a reader for this to really ring true.

I hope that you've enjoyed your time on the couch today. If you want to go deeper, flesh out your fear of others and find healing from your trauma, purchase a full assessment from me and get another spin on the couch!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weekend Funnies

Copyright Kieran Meehan 3-20-11

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Character Clinic: Keisha Campbell

M.J. Kane is writing a multicultural chick-lit-style romance about 26-year-old Keisha Campbell, a driven black woman whose dreams of being a D.V.M. and moves 3000 miles cross-country to attend UCLA to follow that dream. She decides to enter a relationship with Brian, a white guy. Brian's roommate (who is also the boyfriend of Keisha's best friend and roommate) rapes Keisha and then uses her fear of rejection from her family/peers to force her to keep the rape a secret. 

M.J. wants to know: Since the key theme to this story is dealing with the effects of rape, I wanted my character to do the opposite of what most rape victims do. She continues to have a sexual relationship, go to school, and work. She's more afraid of what will happen to those around her who she loves than seeing her abuser brought to justice. How can my portrayal be as realistic as possible so that readers--who may or may not be dealing with the same thing--can honestly relate to her trying to deal with the biggest secret she's ever had alone?

Keisha -

I can't imagine the kind of hurt, anger, and frustration you must have boiling just underneath the surface. To be betrayed by your boyfriend's roommate in such an intimate way and to feel powerless to do anything about it--this must be torture.

Yet, if you're more afraid of how the people around you will receive the news of your rape, perhaps the anger remains latent, only bubbling to the surface at erratic times, throwing people off when they see an unusual reaction from you that's out of character.

Because that hurt, that anger, has to come out at some time. You won't be able to bottle up this secret forever. Not without doing physical damage to your body, that it. So you might have some signs of sickness show up--unaccountable by anything other than stress. Like I mentioned, you might be experiencing some temper problems you didn't have before, lashing out at others and constantly having to say you're sorry later.

This fear of rejection is what I'd want to work with you on. What caused that to be? Did you suffer a significant rejection in early childhood from either family or friend? If you focus on simply how the news will affect other people, you're allowing your rapist to victimize you all over again almost every time you see him. You know that he knows, and he'll hang over your head one wrong look or word that he misinterprets.

It's not unfeasible for you to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," so to speak, and really strive to forget about the rape, focusing on your goals. The reason why it's not unfeasible is that our mind does this funny little defense mechanism called denial.  You're living in it, so I'm sure you're familiar. Denying something works for a while (or we wouldn't do it), but it's a band-aid.

I hope you've enjoyed your time on the couch today. If you want to go deeper, flesh out that fear of rejection and steps to finding healing from your trauma, purchase a full assessment from me and get another spin on the couch!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writer's Digest 101 Best Website Nominations

Have you found my site useful? 

If so, consider taking the time to nominate me for the 2012 Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites! All it takes it an email nomination of The Character Therapist with "101 Websites" in the subject line.

I'm relatively new in the blogging world, but I gather this is a high honor indeed, and would love to be included! So please consider helping me out!

Please take a second and email writersdigest @ fwmedia . com.

Thanks so much!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Character Clinic: Cecilia Phelps

Today's Character Clinic is for Cynthia. She's writing a paranormal romantic comedy featuring Cecilia Phelps, a 27-year-old who is scared to venture outside her house. Her mother died of a bee sting allergy while working in her garden. Cecilia found her when she was 9 years old. As an adult, Cecilia has an online job and all her friends are online.

Cynthia wants to know: Can a person be afraid to go outside and still want to go outside? What kinds of feelings/physical reactions might she experience? Is this believable?

Cecilia - 

Your author asks some great questions that I think many readers will benefit from. After reading your intake form, it's clear that you are potentially suffering from one of several things:

1) Agoraphobia w/o History of Panic Disorder 
2) Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia 

I link the first two together for a reason. Since you didn't mention what happens when you are faced with the outside, your diagnosis would depend on whether you has panic attacks (diagnosis #2) or not (diagnosis #1). 

Agoraphobia is anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult/embarrassing or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situational predisposed Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms. In your case, if your scared that you'll die outside and no one will find you (as in the case of you mother), then agoraphobia would fit in that you would never know if someone would come around and find you lying on the ground, passed out from anaphylactic shock.

3) Specific Phobia 

This option to me is the most intriguing one to play around with character-development wise. If you basically can boil your fear of death down even further to perhaps a fear of death by bee sting, then you would have a specific phobia of bees--Apiphobia.  

Specific Phobia is limited to a single situation--like heights or confined spaces or water. But bees would count. You'd only have this is you avoided the outside in order to avoid bees. This makes the most sense, given that you say you want to go outside, but you can't because you're afraid. 

Are you really afraid of outside or are you afraid of what you'll encounter outside (bees)

As to your backstory about why you might be afraid of bees, your author already did an excellent job setting that up. For a young girl of 9 to find your mother like that, her face blackened, lying in her garden, that would be very traumatic. It is beyond feasible that you'd develop a specific phobia of the exact insect that killed her.

I hope you've enjoyed your time on the couch today, Cecilia. If you want to delve a little deeper, like how the symptoms might have arrived or to discuss how the panic attacks might look for you, buy a detailed assessment and take another spin on the couch.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hierarchy of Needs, Part One

After recently brushing up on human motivation theory (no need to bore you with details, but you can do a Google search to learn more), I realized that a simple little pyramid developed by psychologist Abraham Maslow might help us figure out what our characters want.

In essence, Maslow’s theory is that there is a hierarchy, or pecking order, of human needs. This theory can be applied to your character’s lives, but misapplication might fail to suspend a reader’s disbelief.

Click here to read the rest of my article at Christian Fiction Online Magazine.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Weekend Funnies

FREE RANGE by Bill Whitehead (1-29-09)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rethinking Black Moments

Two sources I've run across recently have talked about the book The Dark Night of the Soul by psychologist Gerald May. Dr. May expounded on the thoughts and works of St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross, both of whom talk about the "dark night of the soul."

The concept of the "dark night" in John's original writing wasn't something evil, sinister, or bad. The Spanish word he used was oscura: obscure. According to May, it's the same way things are difficult to see at night. It's mysterious, unknown.
In speaking of la nocha oscura, the dark night of the soul, John is addressing something mysterious and unknown, but by no means sinister or evil…. John says it is one thing to be in oscuras and quite another to be in tinieblas (the sinister kind of darkness). In oscuras things are hidden; in tinieblas one is blind. In fact, it is the very blindness of tinieblas, our slavery to attachment and delusion, that the dark night of the soul is working to heal.
This is a profound theory, and much debate could come from trying to make sense of all of it. As an author I’ve always thought I had to bring my characters to the brink of some sort of death—emotional, physical, psychological—in order for them to have their "black moment." Tinieblas all the way.

But that's just not the case. 

I'm not advocating for writers of thrillers to suddenly throw their character into a field of poppies instead of put them at the end of gunpoint. But the dark moment for our characters doesn't have to be so extreme. This liberated me a bit in how I've thought about dark moments.

As a cognitive therapy practitioner, I appreciated the following quote from May, as it intellectually reframes the very idea of a dark night (read: black moment). He wrote:
The dark night is a profoundly good thing. It is an ongoing spiritual process in which we are liberated from attachments and compulsions and empowered to live and love more freely. Sometimes this letting go of old ways is painful, occasionally even devastating. But this is not why the night is called 'dark.' The darkness of the night implies nothing sinister, only that the liberation takes place in hidden ways, beneath our knowledge and understanding. It happens mysteriously, in secret, and beyond our conscious control. For that reason it can be disturbing or even scary, but in the end it always works to our benefit.
One internet reviewer said that the dark night isn’t a one-time event. It’s also not just for spiritual people. When we write a book, the dark moment is the dark moment for that book, not for the character as a whole. And when we think of how bad things happen to everyone, we can remember that this is a universal experience, infinitely relatable to all readers.

While we might throw all manner of evils our characters’ ways, their perseverance through them will ultimately be for their good. Because of this, we have to reframe the negativity associated with the black moment. I like how Martha Alderson, the Plot Whisperer, described it on Twitter: “a breakdown for an ultimate breakthrough."

This is our opportunity to take them to a healthier place, to detach them from preconceived notions of how the world must work in order for them to be happy. To call into question things that have never been called into question before, to break a sickly dependence on dreams, expectations, objects, or people who have brought the character comfort but also have held them back from knowing true freedom. 

Q4U: What are your thoughts on black moments?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Web Designer Info

Many have personally asked me who did the awesome redesign of my blog and design of my new I want to really give Jason Walker of Website Ministries a shout out in this post.

The work he did was truly quality--and a lot of that was electronically holding my hand as I asked dozens of questions and forced him to search for hours on hours to get just the right couch for my header. (Sorry, Jason! But the end result is fantastic!)

Jason took the time to make these great screen cast tutorials so that I'll know how to update various portions of my own website, such as my Therapy Store shopping cart as I add new Writer's Guides or to change text on my home page or forms. It's fool-proof even for tech-challenged folk. He helped integrate my newsletter and a third party shopping cart with Paypal (he knows his stuff) and did custom code to change my blog layout to match everything.

I'm sure you're interested in price, so I'm copying the info below directly from his site. As you can see, his prices are beyond reasonable (nothing in the $1ks like so many other design companies because he truly sees his business as a ministry) and you really do get such a personal experience with him. I'm beyond pleased at the end result, and Jason worked doubly hard to make sure that I would be. 

From Jason's website:

Each website is designed specifically for your ministry needs, therefore, it is not possible to give you an accurate estimate without knowing what features and services you are going to require in your website project.
The basic expenses of a website are as follows:
  Domain Name
. . .
$14* (per year).
  Hosting Services
. . .
$100 - $180 (per year).
  Initial Design
. . .
$125 - $395 (one time fee).
  Site Maintenance
. . .
$25 (per hour).

I had already bought my domain name and hosting from HostGator, but Jason did everything else. He was available for any troubleshooting free for a full 30 days after my launch to answer any questions (of which I had tons...again...sorry, Jason) and his fee following the 30 days is so reasonable. This is a Bentley website on a Pinto joke.

So I hope you'll check him out. You can get a free quote or email him at info (at) websiteministries (dot) com for more specific details about your project needs.

Now's the time to get that personal domain name off the ground. Shoot him an email...and tell him I sent you! I told him I was posting this after my blog show him some love!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Character Clinic: Claudia

Today's character on the couch is Claudia, a character in Jaime's historical romance. She's a 20-year-old woman who craves love and family, but is taking care of her ailing father, whom she loves very much, instead. Claudia's mother died when she was 17, and her new step-mother is selfish and spends more time in society than at home. She suspects foul play with her father's illness,but the young doctor treating him thinks she's too strong-willed and disillusioned.

Jaime wants to know: Why, if Claudia comes from a solid family structure, wouldn't she fight just as hard to save her family and achieve her own family at the same time? Why is she not willing to fight for the right to fall in love? What characteristics in a hero would directly conflict (thereby causing great tension) with Claudia's personality?

Claudia -

Sounds like you've got your hands full, almost like Cinderella (sorry, just watched that with my kiddo today...). But seriously--evil step-mother who prances about in society while you're left cooking and cleaning and caring for your sick father. There are similarities, so I'm not that far off. :)

You'd have a very normal bitterness reaction--and then likely feel guilt about it. At 20, in your time period, that's getting on up there on the shelf, right? So the biological clock is ticking away, and you crave love and romance like any normal young girl. It would seem unreachable, as you're having to take care of your father--with very little help from your new step-mother or younger sister (much).

So on your young shoulders falls all the weight of managing a household, essentially. And to heap insult to injury, the household you're managing isn't even your own. It's your step-mother's. (I'm going to take a stab and point out the obvious that you're probably not very tight with this woman.) Double yuck, although super perk in that the young M.D. is probably stopping in for regular visits....

Still, there's got to be some driving motivation for you not to just chuck it all and seek your love and family. My best guess would be to go back to your mother's passing and probe around there during her final moments. Did she say or imply anything to you about taking the mantle of household management and caretaking from her? Something about seeing to your father and sister, protecting them somehow?

For a young child, a death-bed directive like that is almost like the writing on the wall--you just follow it or else. They ingest it and it takes on a mantra-like quality. It would be very feasible for you to completely drop your own quest/desire to find love on the heels of some gentle plea from a dying mother you loved very much. It would be a way to carry out her wishes--and in a way, keep her alive in your heart, as you seek to please her.

(That adds in another element there---what if you give her a severe need for approval? Approval from her deceased mother, approval from the townspeople to take care of them--almost martyr-like? it would be something if it came from the doctor that she was hiding behind that need for approval. Just food for thought.)

As for the hero, he's got to be strong-willed himself, since Claudia seems to be a mix of a Golden Retriever (loyalty) and a Lion (leader). I'd have him be pretty straight-laced, with definite opinions on what constitutes appropriate behavior from a lady. And since Claudia's profession isn't ladylike (whatever it was you mentioned but didn't specify)--that would be great tension. Or perhaps he's more of a playful Otter, and she's so serious about her tasks that it irritates her to be asked to do something frivolous like go for a carriage ride.

Hope this brief session has been helpful, Claudia. Come back to the couch anytime if you want to go deeper.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men 
are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator 
with certain inalienable rights, that among these 
are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
~ Preamble, Declaration of Independence

God bless America!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekend Funnies

Only those with a dry sense of humor need read further. 
Click to enlarge.
Copyright Darrin Bell 9-7-09

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

Since I'm still celebrating my new website, the word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!