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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!


Lydia Sharp said...

Excellent points. I have something similar going on with one of my characters. Thanks so much for this!

MJKane said...

Thanks so much for the couch time! I'm feeling good about where my character is at and think I will be able to present a realistic story.

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