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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Character Clinic: Tamara Maeko

Today's clinic features Tamara (aka Tammy), an 18-year-old in Emma's quasi-historical fantasy soap opera. Tammy just found out a month ago that Alexander the Great is her father. Her mother Mae never showed her love and never gave her her last name. Tammy is a certified (but modest) genius who believes that she must be strong, independent, and forever seeking the truth and perfection. Her father encourages the artistic expression and emotional side of Tammy, but her mother has dispelled it from her in favor of logic and reason. Her goal is to purge herself of personal feelings and emotions that block her from the truth and can cloud her judgement (if not viewed objectively).

Emma wants to know: What would this type of thinking be caused by, aside from the obvious influence of Tamara's mother? Has anyone else recorded ever been through Tamara's type of thought process? How do I resolve it in the story?

Tammy -

As hard as opening up was to me, I think that it's important to note that you did. Deep down, you crave connection (as most people do). Your mother's ability to sever that human need for connection is an indicator that things aren't okay with her. But she's not on my are.

Since you admit to enjoying art and expressing yourself, there is more internal compunction to emote than you're comfortable with letting out...and that's the crux of the matter. For whatever reason, children do idolize parents, even when those parents treat them abominably. (My work with foster children proved this to me. They would gladly return to grossly negligent and abusive parents in a heartbeat if given the chance.) Your idolization of her success made you feel that you needed to emulate all of her...even her damaged emotional barometer that doesn't read anymore.

Quite honestly, this is a mask you are wearing. It looks somewhat like Schizoid Personality Disorder:

(1) neither desires nor enjoys close relationships, including being part of a family (but this isn't true of you)
(2) almost always chooses solitary activities (not sure what you do for a living or for fun)
(3) has little, if any, interest in having sexual experiences with another person (probably doesn't fit since you indicated you wanted a lover)
(4) takes pleasure in few, if any, activities (you only indicated drawing)
(5) lacks close friends or confidants other than first-degree relatives (definitely fits)
(6) appears indifferent to the praise or criticism of others (you tell me)
(7) shows emotional coldness, detachment, or flattened affectivity (you do this...I just don't think it's really you)

I'm not saying you have this...but it only takes 4 of the criteria above to be diagnosed with it. It's worth Googling to find out a bit more.

So, on to your author's question as to what can happen to make you feel this way...extreme hurt, multiple times over. Shutting off that emotional valve can be done with practice. But I love the tension Emma created with your dad championing your artistic expression. And he was likely a passionate man, too...and he's showing you love you never got from your mom. Perhaps you'll come to an understanding that your mom is the one with issues...and be able to accept that with your dad's help and example.

You wrote:

A sense of self is wrong because it separates me from what exists beyond my own
delusional beliefs about how I experience reality.

This sentence hurt my head to think about, Tammy. Very few readers...except those heavily into dystopian philosophy...are going to stick with you through this thought process. So while you may be putting on the mask, internally, I think you're very normal. Readers are going to want to see that exhibited through the artistic expression....even if it's doodling while at work or making designs on the condensation of your glass...something that shows the creativity trying to bubble up. Then the heart of your story isn't about what you think you are or how you think you need to be, but matching what you are inside with what you allow yourself to be on the outside.

Hope this has been helpful. You know where to find me (and pay me) if you want to go deeper. :)