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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.


McKenzie McCann said...

I laughed when you made the Cinderella comment; I'd been thinking the very same thing.

You always bring up some really thought-provoking questions.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thanks mckenzie! :)

Kristen said...

This is very interesting, especially about the mother's death-bed pleas. That is really good to know, as it would probably bring immediate tension and conflict to any story.
Thanks, Jeannie

Joy said...

The deathbed directive is so reminiscent of our old films (I speak of my country) where someone would even go to the extent of asking a young man to promise to marry his young daughter ! You guessed it...this would set the stage for a tear jerker, because the young man would be in love with someone else.....:)Thank God we've moved away from such themes!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

khushi - thanks for visiting my blog! it seems that even if we've moved away from deathbed still looks at notes from the grave as a way to do the same thing. i just finished a book today, actually, that included a long-lost (or hidden) note from a deceased grandmother that *gasp* sheds light on something the heroine is going through currently....*sigh* i'm afraid it'll be around to stay.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.