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Monday, April 29, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Caregiver

This week, The Caregiver took some time off from lending a hand to everyone to vacuum the crevices of my couch before lying down. The Caregiver is also known as the saint, altruist, parent, helper, supporter, and nurturer in archetypes circles.

The "Good"

The Caregiver does just care, unselfishly, compassionately, and generously. They are supportive, understanding, empathetic, encouraging, and optimistic. They draw people to them by their innate altruistic personalities, dedication, and patience.

Caregivers are most fulfilled when they are making a difference in the life of someone else. They actually expect very little in return. They are dedicated to demonstrating their support to others, which can found in their ability to listen, stay positive, advocate for others, and provide counsel.

Others always come first, self second. Responding to needs is exciting and challenging to them. They always see the silver lining in people and situations, responding with reassurance and empathy.

The "Bad"

The Caregiver has a tendency to be unable to say no to others. Resentment can set in when too many demands are made of an overly compromising Caregiver, and eventually, this can lead to self-martyrdom. They take a risk in their pursuit to help others, and can end up getting harmed themselves, whether this comes in the form of burnout, being too much of a doormat, or being exploited.

Some Caregivers have a hard time with balancing self-care with care for others, and can work themselves and others until they drop. They might engage in guilt-tripping others or pushing a personal agenda on others. Some Caregivers might only help others for personal gain or fame, or even infer that they are the only means of helping others achieve health, almost like a savior complex.

The insatiable needs to "fix" everyone and make everyone happy are impossibly tasks. This means the Caregiver is often trying to please everyone and being everything to each person, which is exhausting. This can also make the Caregiver seem wishy-washy, like s/he has no ideals for which to stand. 

Likely Goals

To protect others
To care for and help others
To make a difference

Likely Fears

To be selfish
To be ungracious
To burn out

Examples in the Media

 -->Julie Andrews as Maria in The Sound of Music
Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side
Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird
Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List
Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey  
Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility
Renee Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd in Jerry Maguire   

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent
The Orphan
The Hero 

Let's Analyze

Since archetypes carry with them a stereotypical connotation, it's not unlikely that people would think only of women for this archetype. I had a hard time myself thinking of males who fit this bill. Can you help me think of any more?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


There is still time to comment on my newest How Does That Make You Feel? post for a chance to win a mini-assessment!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Psychopaths in Fiction

Once again, I'm guest posting in a mini-series on the ACFW Blog. Yesterday was about therapists in fiction, and today is about psychopaths in fiction.

Colloquially, people use the term psychopath (pronounced sigh-COP-ah-thee) to indicate that someone is “crazy,” but this would be a gross overstatement. I’ve got family members who are crazy, but are not remotely psychopaths. In the psychological field, the term is mainly used in conjunction with or as the equivalent to Antisocial Personality Disorder, but this is shortsighted and incorrect.

The term psychopath isn’t located in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is the canon of therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Psychopathy is more like a combination of characteristics from several disorders, not just one.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Therapists in Fiction: No One-Shrink-Fits-All

Due to my extended weekend where I went off-grid, I'm taking a hiatus from the Character Archetype series this week....but I'm not going to leave you empty-handed! I'm guest blogging today and tomorrow at the ACFW blog.
I like to think that any professional, not just therapists, would laugh at their fictional counterparts. I assure you that Drs. Frasier Crane and Hannibal Lecter are hardly representative of the majority of us.

No, authors most likely convey therapists as empathetic, conservatively dressed, with degrees artfully hung on the wall in a tasteful but somewhat intimidating manner.  They come across the page as a wise sage archetype, doling out nuggets that change or alter the hero’s life or perspective.

And yes, I do laugh at this depiction, because therapists don’t come in a one-shrink-fits-all size.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How Does That Make You Feel?
Question and Character Assessment Giveaway!

My husband and I are going away. Four days. Totally u n p l u g g e d from everything. Not even taking watches to this retreat. (Aren't you jealous?)

So, I thought a How Does That Make You Feel post was in order, which you can all answer and simultaneously be entered into a mini character assessment giveaway!

Without further ado:

Your boss put you in charge while he's away tending to personal business. His week of personal time extends into a month...then on into another month and another. After three months or so, he's scheduled to return. He requests an emailed "report" of everything that has happened in his absence. In so doing, your report includes the following:

-- Four employees quit and/or were terminated.
-- You will need to meet four new employees in four different departments.
-- Half of the funding for a major program is being cut, effective immediately.
-- Your #2 wrote himself out of a job to balance the budget, effective May 1st.
-- The $10,000 camera system installed two years ago is now defunct. No hope of repair.
-- You're #3 will be going on maternity leave in less than 2 weeks.

You hit SEND.

Leave a comment and I'll enter you to win one of my character assessment minis.

Wish me luck on this retreat! We've never unplugged totally, and with a 5-year-old, it's not without its anxiety production for me. But I'm really looking forward to it. See you back Monday!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Hero

This week, we are analyzing The Hero, who had taken some time off from swashbuckling acts of courage and valor to somewhat cautiously perch on the edge of my couch.  The Hero is also known as the warrior, crusader, superhero, soldier, the winner, the rescuer, and the dragon slayer.

The "Good"

The Hero is goal-oriented, focused, and determined. He (or she!) fights to overcome adversities, to rise to the occasion, beat the odds, and take others with them as they do so. They have stamina, confidence, and courage in abundance, and all of this points to their ability to and likelihood of making a difference.

Typically, this archetype is strong, both physically and mentally. They are disciplined, driven, and competitive while at the same time being protective, helpful, and a team-player. They usually excel at sports or being athletic, and have loads of energy, skill and general toughness to achieve greatness in various arenas.

As noted above, a female can be The Hero archetype, because archetypes aren't stereotypes, but frameworks for characters. The female Hero often has the same qualities of the male counterpart, such as being independent, individualistic, assertive, and proactive. They often reject the "suitor" and the status quo in the story, such as in Mulan.

Both male and female Heroes are noble, tenacious, and relentless. They act with honor, stick up for the underdog, and usually view "rules" more like guidelines or suggestions, never something to buckle under.

The "Bad"

Heroes, as the ones creating most of the story or action on the page, might struggle with hubris. They accomplish a great deal under duress, and should be proud of this...but it can easily slip into
arrogance or trying to prove a point to others. 

They might pick battles unwisely or compulsively, even, with an obsessive need to win. The Hero might rush to action with adrenaline, rather than using their brain to think things through. They might even turn to the dark side (humming Darth Vader's theme here) and evil black magic to prove their strength and ability to overcome all obstacles in their way.

The shadow side of the Hero can veer toward manipulation and ruthlessness. Others might become enemies when they aren't. A Hero might also respond to stress by becoming a workaholic, and this unbalanced life wreaks havoc both internally and externally.

Above all, Heroes have mental dragons that need slaying, just as much as the story "dragons" do. They have to overcome their fears, and choosing a story plot that highlights their internal knot (to borrow author/editor Jeff Gerke's phrase) is the best way to showcase this battle.

Likely Goals

To prove worth through courage
To be strong and competent
To achieve mastery in order to improve the world
To succeed despite the odds
To infuse meaning in what they do

Likely Fears

To be weak
To be vulnerable
To be incompetent
To be seen as a "chicken"

Examples in the Media

I want to underscore the idea that Heroes are not necessarily men, so I'll break examples down by gender first, and then somewhat by genre.
Sylvester Stalone as Rocky
Anthony Edwards as Dr. Mark Greene in ER
Despereaux Tilling in The Tale of Despereaux (mouse)
Simba in The Lion King
Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix
James Bond movies
Clint Eastwood/John Wayne movies

Lucy Lawless as Xena
Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Jody Foster as Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent
The Orphan

Let's Analyze

Traditional names of archetypes carry with them stereotypical connotations, which also include gender. I ran across Ariel's name (from The Little Mermaid) in several research pages...what do you think about her fitting the bill?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


And there is STILL time to enter to win Katie Ganshert's novel Wishing on Willows! I've extended the giveaway until tonight at 12 a.m.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wanna Talk About Good Girls and Bad Boys?

Then join me as I guest post on the ACFW blog!

This post coincides with my first column for the ACFW Journal on the same topic (which is a fully interactive digital ezine and print magazine for ACFW members only).

But unlike a magazine, the purpose is to generate a discussion amongst authors and readers about the trend in fiction of good girls "saving" bad boys.

So come show me some comment love! I'll be ever-so-grateful. :)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Don't Forget! Giveaway of Wishing on Willows!

Just a quick reminder on a rare Tuesday post that the giveaway for Katie Ganshert's novel, Wishing on Willows, is still going on until tomorrow!

Just click here to access my review of the book and enter a comment to win one of the two books I'm giving away.

And join in my "class" on character archetypes...just scroll below for The Orphan analysis.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Orphan

Have a seat, class. We've got The Orphan on the couch today, who is also known as The Good Old Boy, Everyman, The Realist, The Working Stiff, The Solid Citizen, The Good Neighbor, and The Silent Majority.

We all have a little bit of the Orphan in us. We might have felt disillusioned by our parents lying to us about Santa, or maybe we've come to the conclusion once we became adults that our parents are fallible, and indeed make poor choices and *gasp!* mistakes.

The "Good"

Orphan archetypes are down-to-earth realists, with solid virtues and a lack of pretense. They are empathetic egalitarians who believe in the inherent worth of all and highly value dignity of others, as well. Acceptance comes easily to them, as they are fair, friendly, understanding, and inviting. They are democratic, and not in the political sense, because they believe in the Three Musketeers concept of "one for all and all for one." 

They learned independence and interdependence at a young age, and they pragmatically and perceptively face facts as they are, not as they wish they are. They can really rally after a set-back and have a natural resilience. They are most fulfilled when they are within a group and feel like they are "one of the gang." As a result, they relate and connect well with others, enjoying networking and camaraderie, which suits their warm, kind, outgoing and sociable personality. They have what is a called a "common touch" to motivate others to pitch in, solve problems, and just generally do and be their best.

The "Bad"

Orphans have a tendency to play the victim, and use prior misfortunes as an excuse for present circumstances. They become negative and cynical, and blame others for their problems or see the world as "against" them. You can see how this would be difficult to overcome in fiction, because if playing the victim, one can never achieve heroism. Drug addicts and alcoholics are common shadow traits of an Orphan. They can develop an "us versus them" mentality, and be very protective of their own turf, to the exclusion of seeing people or situations clearly.

Since they want to fit in so badly, and belong to a group, family, or tribe of some sort, they might begin to lose themselves in their effort to blend in. An example might be an Orphan's willingness to accept abuse in a gang or within a mob rather than be alone. Of course, these relationships they settle for are superficial, and establishing mature relationships is difficult for some Orphans. They might appear needy and clingy in their desperation to make sure other people won't leave them.

Orphans don't trust authority, and this can lead to looking to peers, not parents, for answers. Their idealism can also be a shadow trait, because when the world doesn't measure up to their ideals, this leads to negativism.

Likely Goals

To belong
To restore a feeling of safety
To connect with others

Likely Fears

To be alone
To be alienated
To stand out from a crowd
To be abandoned
To be exploited

Examples in the Media

  • James Stewart as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life 
  • Drew Barrymore as Beverly Donofrio in Riding in Cars with Boys 
  • Spiderman, Batman, Superman (and other superheroes)
  • Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings 
  • And there are abounding examples of orphans, in the proper sense of the term:
    • Pinocchio 
    • Little Orphan Annie
    • Luke Skywalker
    • Rapunzel (and many other you can see some connection with The Innocent)
    • Huckleberry Fin/Tom Sawyer
    • Jane Eyre
    • Harry Potter
    • Tarzan

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent

Let's Analyze

Did I make it clear that a person does not have to be an actual orphan to fit this archetype? I hope so. Sometimes names can be so misleading, as we'll see in future classes on archetypes. :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is....


RULES: First commenter free associates (writes the first word that comes to mind) with the above word. Second commenter free associates to the first commenter's word, and so on. Remember - the FIRST thing that comes to mind.


And don't forget to enter to win Katie Ganshert's novel Wishing on Willows!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Katie Ganshert's Wishing on Willows: Therapeutic Review and Double Giveaway!

Blog's a pleasure to introduce you to the sophomore novel of an author you need to have on your radar (if you don't already). Katie Ganshert is a great friend of mine, and we have traversed this publishing road together as critique partners. But regardless of my connection with her, what I'm about to say is unbiased. She's an amazing writer, with a gift for grabbing readers by their heartstrings.

Wishing on Willows is a stand-alone novel that follows the life of Robin Price, who played a secondary role in Katie's debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter. Here's a blurb from Katie's website:

Does a second chance at life and love always involve surrender?

A three-year old son, a struggling café, and fading memories are all Robin Price has left of her late husband. As the proud owner of Willow Tree Café in small town Peaks, Iowa,  she pours her heart into every muffin she bakes and espresso she pulls, thankful for the sense of purpose and community the work provides.

So when developer Ian McKay shows up in Peaks with plans to build condos where her café and a vital town ministry are located, she isn’t about to let go without a fight.

As stubborn as he is handsome, Ian won’t give up easily. His family’s business depends on his success in Peaks. But as Ian pushes to seal the deal, he wonders if he has met his match. Robin’s gracious spirit threatens to undo his resolve, especially when he discovers the beautiful widow harbors a grief that resonates with his own.

With polarized opinions forming all over town, business becomes unavoidably personal and Robin and Ian must decide whether to cling to the familiar or surrender their plans to the God of Second Chances.

Katie's book is unique in that it fits in a fairly undefined genre that she is blazing her own trail with...and that's a very definite cross between contemporary romance and women's fiction. The reader gets a lot of the heroine's journey, but the romance is unmistakably present.

One way Katie accomplishes this is through first-person chapters interspersed in the overall third-person point of view of the novel. We get glimpses into Robin's heart, her background, just like we get in women's fiction. Then we get the benefit of viewing Robin through the hero's eyes....which, let's face why we love contemporary romance. 

I was eager to see Robin's story play out in this book, because the crushing blow she was dealt of losing a husband while pregnant with a long-awaited child was so sad. (You can read my review of Wildflowers from Winter here...seriously, I cried reading those scenes.) She's living out their dream of owning a cafe, and she clings to it violently, as almost a tribute to the love she felt for her husband. Her wedding ring is a talisman she wears with her to the grief support group she runs out of her cafe. Oh, the irony of flawed, fleshed-out characters!

Ian is no stranger to loss and being in need of a second chance. You never once look at him as the "bad" guy trying to take Robin's cafe...because you understand his desire to make his father proud, and keep the jobs of the people in their company. Who wouldn't want to do that? The indecision he feels, once he understands Robin's grief, endears him even more to the reader.

Even little Caleb, the three-year-old who pops right off the page and into your living room, needs a second chance to get over his fear of being hurt on a tractor...a vehicle he associates with his father. The healing scene for Caleb toward the end will rock you. I think I put the book down and said, "Yaaaay!" to my husband, who just shook his head at me.

I want to leave you with one paragraph that just spoke to me, and I know it'll speak to you (and not give anything away!). It's in Robin's point of view...and she's at the juncture of uncertainty about whether a second chance in is her future or not:

Sadness and joy. Longing and fear. Desire and loyalty. All of it coalesced into a terrifying hope wrapped within a thousand what-ifs. All this time she'd been living as if the days between Micah's death and her own were nothing but a drawn out interlude. But what if they weren't? What if God wanted more for her life than filler music?

God never wants us to settle for filler music, folks...and that's what this book is ultimately about.

Let's Analyze

I have TWO copies of this book to give away! As always, I like these giveaways to be perks for my readership, so if you aren't following my blog through Google Friend Connect or RSS feed or via email, please do so! Leave a comment below detailing a second-chance story of your own, along with your email, to be entered to win. Giveaway will run through next Wednesday. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Innocent

The Innocent is the first archetype on the couch in my new series. (If you missed the series introduction, click here.) The Innocent is also known in archetype circles as the child, Utopian, traditionalist, saint, romantic, and the dreamer.

The "Good"

The Innocent's greatest strength comes in their trust and eternal optimism. They are pure, wholesome, full of virtue. They are endearing to others with their enthusiastic sense of wonder and positive energy. They encourage others with simple solutions and inner calm. They are open and honest in all relationships.

They are genuinely concerned with others' well-being, and this translates into helping profession careers like therapists, coaches, guides, and social workers. Their ability to be accepting, gentle, and idealistic lends them to compassionate hobbies, as well. They are excited when able to put feet to their personal values and beliefs, which include love, hope, and perseverance in the face of obstacles. Innocents inspire people around them, keep the faith and loyally stay the course.

Jung first gave name to the Child archetype, and later, Caroline Myss said that everyone has part of the Child/Innocent in them, as part of the four "survival archetypes." I agree with this assessment, because people all have times when they want to be light-hearted and playful. We can still maintain the priorities of adult life while tapping into our inner youthfulness.

The "Bad"

Known as the "Shadow" in archetype-land, there are less than savory aspects to all archetypes. The Innocent is no exception, despite the warm and fuzzy name. Innocents risk being too dependent on others. They may deny their own weaknesses or simply be blind to them, as well as deny real problems that might not be solved by their simplistic outlook on life.

In their youthful exuberance, they may be too spontaneous or fanciful, and expose themselves to the harsh realities of the world. They are incredibly naive, willing to believe the best about others. They may cling to remaining loyal when loyalty is not deserved. They may also be obedient to the point of conformity.

And let's face it...Innocents can just be childish. They might blame others, take risks, become addicted to wanting more (a syndrome with which parents the world over are familiar). They might not deal well with transitions or change. Their optimism might sometimes border along the lines of irrationality.

Likely Goals

To be happy
To be free
To be unconditionally loved and accepted
To be protected and safe

Likely Fears

To be captive (physically, emotionally, etc.)
To be punished for doing something wrong
To be rejected or abandoned
To be in danger

Examples in the Media

  • Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz is perhaps a prime example of an Innocent. Her song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" could be the theme song for Innocents everywhere. 
  • Cinderella, always keeping the faith and remaining pure and sweet. Many Disney princesses fit this archetype.
  • Forrest in Forrest Gump.
  • Mary Poppins.
  • Maria in The Sound of Music.

Let's Analyze

What other sorts of things would you want me to expound on in these posts? I'm open to suggestions...and as I'm just starting out with the series, it's not trouble at all to change directions.