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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Character Clinic: Salvador Geel and Demon "Possession"

I've got Zoe's character on the couch today. Salvador resides in a horror/family drama, and currently is the antagonist. He claims that a demon ate him alive and took over his body right after his dad tried killing him with a glass bottle thrown at his head. He's more than a tad narcissist, his eyesight is progressively getting worse, and he's got fangs. He ends up taking care of his nephew, whom he dresses like a girl and puts in pageants as a way to live. But his nephew refuses a sex change operation and leaves him, and the landlord puts him out on the street.

Zoe wants to know: Is there any chance for him to be redeemed? Or is it better for him to just be unsaveable? Also, I'd like to know if there could be a non-supernatural explanation of what he calls a possession. 

Zoe -

I like to think about my own reaction to clients when they come in and sit on my couch. Sometimes I'm drawn to certain clients and sometimes I'm repulsed. This is the way it is. I found myself wrinkling my nose up as I read through your character's intake form, and that's a reaction I want to delve a bit deeper into why happened.

It wasn't the act of putting a young boy in beauty pageants and then getting upset because the little ingrate didn't want a sex change operation. It wasn't the fangs, demon possession, or progressive blindness. It was his attitude, his demeanor that came through while talking. His narcissism is rampant, of course, and veiled threats are never indicative of good mental health.

This is important information for you as the author because readers will likely have the same, distasteful reaction to him, which is what I think you were trying to achieve with him being the antagonist. Some readers like being surprised when a bad guy-turned-good guy scenario, but from what I read, there wasn't a lot in his background to redeem him. Yes, he had a rough childhood, wasn't loved or treated well. But that's not enough to counter all his sins leading up to the present day, in my opinion, at least.

As to a non-supernatural explanation of his possession, I can think of one. If Salvador ever felt that he was also residing in his body along with the demon, then theoretically, his mind could have split during that traumatic event with the glass bottle and he became both Salvador and the "demon." You didn't mention whether he felt he was "sharing his mind space" with someone else, but that's typical of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

There is this caveat in the Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified section:

Dissociative trance disorder: single or episodic disturbance in the state of consciousness, identity, or memory that are indigenous to particular location and cultures. Dissociative trance involves narrowing of awareness of immediate surroundings or stereotyped behaviors or movements that are experienced as being beyond one’s control. Possession trance involves replacement of the customary sense of personal identity by a new identity, attributed to the influence of a spirit, power, deity, or another person, and associated with stereotyped “involuntary” movements or amnesia and is perhaps the most common Dissociative Disorder in Asia. Examples include amok (Indonesia), bebainan (Indonesia), latah (Malaysia), pibloktoq (Arctic), ataque de nervos (Latin America), and possession (India). The dissociative or trance disorder is not a normal part of a broadly accepted collective cultural or religious practice.”

So if he were in my office, I wouldn't diagnose him with possession, but DID, Not Otherwise Specified. Basically, yes, there could be a mental reason why he believes he's possessed by a demon. You can email me and we can do a full assessment if you want more info. Best of luck with this fascinating antagonist!

Let's analyze: What do you think? Is demon possession is a symptom of mental illness, a symptom of spiritual warfare, both, either, something else?

Don't forget! The latest Jenny B Jones book, There You'll Find Me, is up for grabs on my blog! Giveaway ends Sunday, so click here!