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Friday, May 31, 2013

Help Me Replace Free Association and Win a Writer's Guide of Your Choice!

I've been doing the free association chain for about 2 years. (Well, I didn't do the exact math, but 161 posts, only on might even be longer.)

The intention behind the free association chain was to have blog readers feel free to comment on something fairly non-intimidating. I realize a lot of my posts don't lend themselves to reader interaction, and this was my attempt to change that.

But now I need your help.

I'm committed to posting Mondays and Wednesdays, but would really love to have an interactive Friday post. I'm hoping that my readership has some great ideas!

Leave your idea in the comment section below, and regardless of whether I pick yours or not, you'll still be entered to win any one of my Writer's Guides, covering subjects like Personality Disorders, Personality Types, Grief, Creating Rich Backstory, and my newest Guide to Breaking Character Stereotypes.

So get creative, think about what you'd personally be interested in commenting on, and remember, the sky's the limit. I'm looking forward to your suggestions.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chicago Fire Heats Up Prime Time

I've recently been turned on to Chicago Fire. I'm in total awe of this show, even though I'm only on episode 11 of the first season. Each episode pushes the envelop just a little bit further, and one moment I'm literally biting my nails (ask my husband!) and then the next I've got tears in my eyes at some poignant moment.

The writers are genius. Every character plays an integral part of the show, and we get glimpses into their lives as the layers are peeled back. (BEWARE: spoilers below!)

We see the stark reality of prescription narcotic addiction with Lt. Severide. Lt. Casey and his fiancĂ© are on again off again because they aren't in agreement about when (or even if) to have kids. And Casey and his sister don't talk much because he believes his mother should be on parole after killing their father and serving 15 years while his sister believes she needs to stay in jail. (Whoa! Major drama!)  Cruz is faced with the repercussion of letting the gang member die who held 10k over his head to "pay out" having Cruz's brother in the gang. Dawson fights with unrequited love. Mills desperately wants to follow in his deceased firefighter father's footsteps, but its causing relationship difficulty between him and his mother, who wants him safe and working at their family diner.

And then there's the chief. Seriously....this man is amazing in his role. He watches his men with this
stealth, misses-nothing eye. He's fair, honest, full of integrity and expects the same out of his men. He's got trouble at home though, emotional scars to go with his battle worn physical scars. He commands respect, in a quiet way until rubbed the wrong way and then it's no joke.

Each character is achingly real, dealing with messy life stuff. They have yin and yang. It's a show similar to ER, in that its an ensemble cast, in a high-stress job with fast paced action and drama. If it hasn't already, it is sure to win awards.


Becaus I understand why Severide would take the pills! In his situation, facing permanent disability, I might do the same. I understand wanting to have my mother out of jail, even though she did something terrible like kill my father. I think we all relate to wanting someone we can't have romantically, or disappointing someone we love with our live choices. I just finished watching the episode where Cruz les that gang leader die, deliberately. Wow. What a terrible thing....but dang if I didn't almost applaud his actions, as he only did it to save his brother, who would eventually end up on a cold slab.

My article next month for Christian Fiction Online deals with this issue. Don't put your characters on a pedestal...because then you don't get to write the incredible scenes where they fall off. (Click to tweet!)

Let's Analyze

Have you seen Chicago Fire? Which is your favorite story line? I'm a huge Casey/ Dawson/Mills love triangle fan....

Monday, May 27, 2013

Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming...

Over 2 years ago, I wrote a post about Finding Nemo and all the mental illness implications within the movie.

Courtesy of Pixar
Little did I know that this post would become the runner up to the most popular post on my blog. Since 2/23/11, the post has received over 11,200 hits.

That's a lot of people checking out Finding Nemo.

So perhaps folks might be interested in knowing that Pixar is coming out with a sequel called...yep. You guessed it: Finding Dory.

There is a lot of speculation about how Pixar will handle having a main character who suffers from significant mental and cognitive disabilities. One can only assume that she gets lost somehow, courtesy of her disorder, and Marlin and Nemo will likely be looking for her. While she was a only a supporting character fish in Finding Nemo, she will take center stage. 

Dory isn't just quirky. That's important to put on the table. She not only suffers from short-term memory loss, she also has a lot of anxiety, confusion, and disorientation when she's left on her own. There is arguably some dependent personality disorder traits exhibited as well, but this is muddied by her mental handicap which prevents her from living independently. 

Michael Arbeiter of likened Dory and Marlin's relationship to that of the relationships between Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. This got me thinking of all the similarities. Tom Cruise utilized his mentally compromised brother to forward his goal of getting their father's inheritance. He took advantage of him, and Marlin does the same with Dory's ability to read English and talk whale. Tom Cruise was frustrated by his brother's handicaps (such as not being touched, not being able to fly, having to watch certain shows at certain times, wear certain types of underwear, etc). Marlin wants to pull his hair scales out with Dory's mental handicap, and eventually leaves her alone toward the end of the movie, which really does a number on Dory.

I just want to see Pixar show a heroine challenged by mental illness but not beat down by it. People (and fish) can rise above their limitations. Pixar has shown that they can go deep with certain movies, such as Toy Story 3 and Wall-E. I sincerely hope that they go there with Finding Dory.

Let's Analyze

Have you heard that Pixar will be releaseing Finding Dory in 2015? What do you hope they do with the film?

And I'm still offering a giveaway of Julie Lessman's newest, Love at Any Cost! Just click here to enter the giveaway!

And HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! I'm so proud so many of my family members have served or are currently serving. Thank you to Allan, Marion, Dave, Cheryl, Jason, Gene, Mark, Wes, and George. Your service is and always will be greatly appreciated.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Free Association Chain

In honor of my daughter, 
the words are....


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 that I'm running a giveaway through next Wednesday of Julie Lessman's newest book, Love at Any Cost! Click here to read my character assessment of her hero, Jamie MacKenna!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Review and Giveaway of Julie Lessman's Highly Anticipated
Love at Any Cost!

Julie Lessman has begun a new series, The Heart of San Francisco. Book One, Love at Any Cost, released in April, and it's my pleasure to have the hunky hero, Jamie MacKenna, on my couch at last.

But first, a bit about the book from Julie's website:

Fooled by a pretty boy once, shame on him.

Fooled by a pretty boy twice, shame on me.

Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassady McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who just as soon hogtie a man as look at him … until Jamie MacKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well lassoes her heart. But when Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than him, Cassie finds herself bucked by love a second time, sending her back to Texas to lick her wounds and heal her heart. In her absence, Jamie discovers money can’t buy love, but love built on faith can set a heart free, a truth he discovers a little too late … or is it?

Jamie, Jamie, Jamie.

Hard-headed. Haunted. Hottie.

Wait...therapists aren't supposed to pant over clients. *cough* My apologies, Jamie.

Jamie is from the wrong side of the streets. Kinda got a chip on his shoulder as a result, but it's actually well-deserved, given the hard life he's known. How it must dent his pride, having to wear hand-me-downs from his wealthy best friend. But circulating with the elite crowd on Nob Hill is his ticket--not just to his own way out of poverty, but his mother's and sister's as well.

He suffers from a roving eye, of that only roves amongst women of circumstance. And crashing into spunky Cassady McClare was definitely the fates looking on him with favor. He's basically in like Flynn with the San Fransisco McClares, after having gone to school (on scholarship, of way he could afford it otherwise) with them, becoming friends, and later, coworkers.

Getting Cassady should be a piece of cake, given his track record.

But this delightfully good "bad boy" had another think coming. Not one to put much stock in religion of a God who orchestrates lives from heaven, and always believing that he had more to do with his success to date than anything or anyone else...he didn't expect Cassady's ultimatum: Bible study and church kissing! Say what?

And all that before he realizes Cassady's daddy isn't as rich as Jamie thought he was. That's a tough nut to swallow, especially for a guy who desperately needs money to assuage the guilt he feels over his sister and mother still living too close to the seedier part of the city.

Betrayal. Devastation. Sacrifice. He's felt it all, and it threatens to overwhelm him. Dare he believe that his life isn't up to fate? That there is One who cares for him, and provides for him, even when Jamie didn't realize the provision was there?

You'll have to read it to find out.....[evil therapist laugh inserted here].

Julie writes with her trademark passion with purpose, and Jamie's character arc is one you don't want to miss...especially since today's books are saturated with very unrealistic portrayals of playboys. Jamie is one playboy who breaks the mold, and it was refreshing to read, quite honestly. Don't be put off by the blurb. I wondered how I would ever like a guy who was such a money-hungry piranha (sorry, Jamie), but Julie does such a great job with his motivation that I never once questioned fact, I championed him. That's good storytelling, folk.

While I am giving away my review copy from Revell of this book, for those who can't stand waiting to see if you won, here are the links where you can buy it right now:

AmazonBarnes & Noble, Berean Book Stores, Books A Million, Christian Book DistributorsIndiebound, Lifeway

UPDATE 5/30/13: Giveaway is now over. Thanks for participating!

Let's Analyze

To be honest, I wasn't completely sold on falling in love with the new McClare clan. I mean, I invested years into the O'Connors. Sigh. But I'm totally invested in them after reading this book! I can't wait to see where book 2 in this series goes.

Have you read a Lessman book? Which was your favorite? (And of course, by that question, I mean...which hero was your favorite?)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Lover

I'm happy to have The Lover with me today, who took time off from passionately seeking personal fulfillment in order for me to analyze (and only analyze) him while he's on my couch. The Lover is also known as The Partner, Sensualist, Intimate, Friend, Enthusiast, Spouse, and Team-Builder.

The "Good"

When you think of the word "lover," the mind goes to sex, but the Love is far more than the physical act. Think broader in terms of sensuality--using all one's senses in all the areas of one's life--to passionately open up the realm of his experience and be moved on a deeper level. The Lover appreciates beauty and relationships of all types, and enjoys connecting with and committing to others through shared interests, social pursuits, and emotional intelligence.

Lovers are charming and charismatic, friendly and fun. They have an enthusiastic appetite for life (bon vivante), and greatly appreciate emotions, intense feelings, idealism, optimism, and harmony. They are most fulfilled by building relationships, whether romantic or platonic. However, infatuation, seduction, falling in love...these are states of being with which the Lover is most familiar.

They put a lot of energy toward gaining the reciprocal love of another and achieving intimacy. Romantic forms of expression are fulfilling, a way of being whole. A Lover may want to engage in multiple sexual encounters or simply have sex for the sake of the act, but they may also be celibate Lovers who prefer to fantasize about being in love instead.

The "Bad"

As you might expect, there is no small amount of drama with Lovers. From teen heartache to tawdry affairs to broken homes and marriages, the impulsive search for intimacy and fulfillment can lead to jealousy, envy, fixation and obsession. (Glenn Close, anyone?) Maliciousness and vindictiveness can take root, and Lovers can use their skills to lure others away from their quests (like a siren) or seduce for sake of conquest.

Lovers can objectify others and even develop addictions to romance and/or sex, which leads to out-of-control behavior and sexuality. Promiscuity is one thing, but taken to an extreme shadow side, the Lover can experience a need to greedily devour the object of their love.

Lovers are known aesthetics who appreciate physical beauty. They work hard to make good impressions, and their self-esteem can be tied to their perception of how others interact with them. They might have such an outward-directed desire to please others that they risk losing their own identity. They may avoid conflict to be part of the clique, resulting in them being untrue to themselves.

Likely Goals

To be intimate
To be in a relationship
To sustain a relationship
To experience life to the fullest
To create harmony amongst others

Likely Fears

To be alone
To be rejected/unwanted/unloved
To lose the love they already have
To instigate disharmony 

Examples in the Media

Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic
Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca 
Glenn Close as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction
Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility
Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet
Delilah in the BibleAnthony Quinn as Alexis Zorba in Zorba the Greek
Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
Nicholas Cage as Ronny Cammareri in Moonstruck
Don Juan

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent
The Orphan
The Hero  
The Caregiver
The Explorer  
The Rebel

Let's Analyze

After reading about The Lover, are you surprised that s/he also has the moniker "The Friend?" It seemed a bit out of place to me at first, but upon reflection, I can see many ties. What about you?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Free Association Chain

In honor of my daughter, 
the words are....

My Little Pony.

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.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

National Film Registry: Who Knew?

If you had to pick the top 5 movies that really impacted your life, be it because of the plot, characters, scenery, visual effects, or whatever it is that spoke to you...what would they be? 

I just found out about the National Film Registry and National Film Preservation Board, a part of the Library of Congress. Every year, up to 25 films are nominated because they are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Anyone can nominate any film, it just has to be at least 10 years old. You can email with up to 50 nominations/year. I perused the films that have been nominated since 1989, the year the registry started. I was curious about which ones were so impacting as to be nominated at the 10- or 11-year mark, and below is a list:

Do the Right Thing           1989     1999
Goodfellas                       1989     1999
Beauty and the Beast       1991     2002
Boyz in the Hood             1991     2002
Schindler's List                1993     2004
Hoop Dreams                  1994     2005
Toy Story                        1995     2005
Fargo                              1996     2006

I'd never heard of the first one, but the rest I could easily guess why they were nominated and selected within such a short time frame. 

Tons of other films were nominated that I thought were well-deserving. Here's a sampling of fifty films (that I liked in particular!) in order of release date:

Gone with the Wind
Citizen Kane
Meet Me in St. Louis
National Velvet
It's a Wonderful Life
Miracle on 34th Street
The African Queen
A Streetcar Named Desire
Singing in the Rain
Roman Holiday
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Rebel Without a Cause
Jailhouse Rock
Porgy and Bess
West Side Story
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Lawrence of Arabia
The Music Man
To Kill a Mockingbird
Dr. Strangelove
The Sound of Music
Bonnie and Clyde
Cool Hand Luke
2001: A Space Odyssey
Planet of the Apes
Dirty Harry
The Godfather
The Exorcist
Blazing Saddles
Taxi Drive
Saturday Night Fever
Star Wars
Raiders of the Lost Ark
A Christmas Story
The Terminator
Back to the Future
Dances with Wolves

For a complete list, click here

Let's Analyze

It's late as I'm typing this up, and I'm curious if there is such an equivalent for books? Anyone? Anyone?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Rebel

Today I've got the Rebel on the couch. It was hard for him to get some time off from liberating and revolutionizing, but he managed. The Rebel is also known as the Outlaw, Revolutionary, Maverick, Destroyer, Wild Man, and Misfit.

The "Good"

An argument can be made that things might never change, status quos might never be questioned, and rules might never be broken without the Rebel. They are outrageous, outspoken and radical in a cutting-edge way many of wish we were. They are counter-cultural and innovative, and are most fulfilled when they change something they feel needs to be changed to better the world. 

To say they are unconventional thinkers would be an understatement. They confidently motivate others to confront societal negativity and think differently, and not just conform and accept the most tried-and-true methods and predominant thoughts of the day. This revolutionary radicalism screams for freedom and a sense of social consciousness, away from materialistic designs.

When the developed side of The Rebel is sitting at the helm, as opposed to the "shadow," people will read about a surprisingly humble and honest individual, given that they often live on the cusp of life and death. They can find a balance between exercising a responsibility to their ideals when confronting someone or something contrary to those ideals. 

The "Bad"

It's easy to see how The Rebel can give in to the dark side and cross over into criminal and violent acts. Their anger and feelings of powerlessness and mistreatment can make them shun conventional methods to effect change. Peace officers and other civil service members can be seen as the "bad guys" instead of appropriate avenues to take.

They can often come across as reckless individuals...even unstable. They might be careless of their own safety and even the safety of others, putting even loved ones in danger. The ideals and philosophies they are fighting for can become all consuming and they can lose sight of their other priorities. Addictions and compulsions of self and emotional/physical abuse, murder, and rape of others are all possibilities when the shadow takes over.

Stubborn opposition and shaking things up just to shake things up (because they get a kick out of it) are also shadow traits of The Rebel. Quite often, personal anger is also a huge obstacle for The Rebel to overcome.

Likely Goals

To shock
To disrupt/destroy
To change/overthrow what isn't working
To let go of their anger/driving force and return to balance 

Likely Fears

To be powerless 
To be ineffectual
To be annihilated
To be left empty

Examples in the Media

Russell Crowe as Robin Hood
Antonio Banderas/Anthony Hopkins as Zorro
James Dean as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause
Sterling Hayden as General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove
Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in The Fifth Element
The Big Bad Wolf
Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator
Jason Gedrick as Doug Masters in Iron Eagle
Tom Cruise as Maverick in Top Gun 
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter   

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent
The Orphan
The Hero  
The Caregiver
The Explorer 

Let's Analyze

One resource I came across was intriguing in that it mentioned Sauron from The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a Rebel/Destroyer. Here's what Keaton S. Ziem, the post's author, had to say:
Destroyers in film are absolute; they are powerful and inconsolable. They are the unstoppable force; and when they’re faced up with an immovable object, sparks fly. However, since Destroyers are so absolute, there’s no reasoning with them or convincing them to stop. This makes Destroyers difficult for most characters and audiences to understand, even if their villainy is compelling. It’s the mystery of what makes The Destroyer so hell-bent on obliteration that interests audiences; not relatability. This is how a major antagonist like Sauron can still work in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, even without dialog or a physical presence anywhere in the film (aside from the few minutes in the first film’s prologue).
What do you have to say about his thoughts?

Friday, May 10, 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.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Character Clinic: PTSD in Action

I've got Nathan, Earl of Tavishton, on my couch today. He's had quite the upbringing, with an inconstant tart for a mother and a father perhaps with more foolishness than sense, who gave up his life in a duel for her dubious honor. Nathan witnessed his father's gun backfire, which severed the elder Earl's hand, and watched from the top of a carriage as his father's opponent murdered him. Nathan is no rake internally, though he tries hard not to look like he's not trying to hard. (You Regency folk will get that, I'm sure.) He tries to look like a wastrel to punish his mother for his father's death.

Nathan's author, Robin, wants to know: Is having a fear or guns so bad that it makes Nathan freeze normal? How difficult should he find forgiving his mother? Is there something that must occur for that forgiveness? Would the guilt of not stopping his father be strong enough motivation to make Nathan go to such an extreme length as to steal from his best friend to keep what little connection with his father he has?

This is a perfect example of a character who has a ton going on and would really benefit from a full analysis. However, I'll do my best with this mini-assessment to make it worthwhile, I hope.

First and foremost, a reaction of freezing in place when faced with a gun or "flintlocks" as they were is totally reasonable. That would be a trauma reaction to an inanimate object he had previously witnesses carnage as a result of its use. In particular, watching his father's hand explode would be highly traumatizing, and no doubt would result in a complete revulsion of a gun.

What would this look like? Not wanting to touch one, carry one, be around them, have them in his house. He would likely show hypervigilance and paranoia when other people carry them or shoot them in close proximity to him. He might have nightmares of the event, or even reenactments of the trauma during the day (i.e., visualizing it happen when around open fields with carriages). You can safely say he'd never set foot in a duel field ever again. Very realistic...and likely not something he would get over for a long time, if ever.

As for forgiving his would be tricky, but if you could write it well, I saw a great character arc for him to not only forgive his mother, but also his father for his "stupidity" for putting his life on the line. What if Nathan had someone for whom he would protect her matter what? If Nathan could somehow be put in the shoes of his father...who clearly loved his flawed mother, and was willing to die for her. Having him learn the lesson that no one is perfect, and that yet people are still worthy of sacrifice. I think he could do it.

It was rather unclear from the intake form that Nathan really suffers from guilt of not stopping his father (from the duel, I presume). However, if he does indeed feel guilt at sitting atop the carriage and not stopping the duel, I would think it would have the opposite effect on him wanting to act like a wastrel. Punishing his mother by acting like a dandy would hardly honor his father's name. Don't have time to go deeper here, but I hope you get what I mean.

Thanks for writing in...I realize you wrote in many, many months ago when I was slammed with mini-assessments. Thanks for your patience, Robin!

Let's Analyze

If you felt guilty for the death of someone, how would you try to honor their memory? By being the best person you could be and assuming their "title" (i.e., mantle, position, etc), or by punishing the person you truly felt responsible for the death?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Character Archetypes 101: The Explorer

Today, The Explorer took some time off from, well, exploring, to lie down on my couch to analysis. He's looking at me with a skeptical look, but seems game to check out what this character therapy stuff is all about. The Explorer is also known as the seeker, wanderer, pioneer, adventurist, individualist, iconoclast, and pilgrim.

The "Good"

The Explorer, at the very core, is on a journey. They crave experiencing new things, and generally like to do this off-grid (whether literally or figuratively), repelling boundaries, restrictions, and conventions. Adventure is the order of the day, and Explorers seldom rely on others in their quest for self-awareness and knowledge. 

They are independent, ambitious, daring, curious, and above all, free. Free to explore the world, blaze trails, and travel. This drive excites and challenges them. They like to experiment in their quest to be true to their soul, often searching for meaning while seeking greener pastures.

They have a deep desire for wholeness which is most fulfilled my seeking new approaches and perspectives. You might say that they are trying to fill a void by conquering their restlessness and inherent dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The "Bad"

The Explorer is sometimes so self-sufficient that they avoid support from others, which they might see as an encumbrance to achieving their goals. They have an insatiable need to do things themselves, and might withdraw from friends and family while on their quests. 

At a more functional autonomous level, Explorers can simply forget to coordinate with others while seeking. In extreme cases, the Explorer is so self-involved that he or she creates an alienation by building walls too high for others to scale. In so doing, they become misfits. They definitely can hurt others and themselves in the course of their seeking.

Sometimes Explorers are so indulgently busy looking for the next big thing that will improve their life that they miss what they already can offer just by being themselves. By not committing to a course of action or settling down, this can lead to anything from aimless wandering to thrill seeking. 

Likely Goals

To experience a more authentic/fulfilling life
To search for meaning
To seek peace/fill an inner void
To discover uniqueness of self 

Likely Fears

To be trapped
To be subject to conformity
To be bored
To feel inner emptiness

Examples in the Media

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn
Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Alien
Antonia Banderas as Zorro  
Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich
William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek (come on, you saw this one coming..."boldly going where no man has gone before?")
Lucy Lawless as Xena
Michael Douglas as Jack T. Colton in Romancing the Stone

Archetypes Who've Completed Therapy

The Innocent
The Orphan
The Hero  
The Caregiver

Let's Analyze

Much of my research indicated that Explorers are seeking to fill an inner void by all their outward explorations and adventure. I'm reminded of John Eldredge's very successful book, Wild at Heart, that has resonated with men everywhere.  Do you think that there are Explorers out there who simply love to explore?

Friday, May 3, 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!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Character Clinic: Lila Oleander

Happy May Day, everyone! I've got the wonderful Jessica R. Patch's contemporary romance character, Lila, on the couch today, courtesy of her having won my last How Does That Make You Feel? giveaway. (There is still time to get a comment in my latest HDTMYF post and win a mini-assessment for one of your character' here!)

Here's a bit about Lila: After her mother passed away when Lila was 12, she grew up trying to garner the attention and approval of her Fortune 500 company CEO dad. She took an interest in the company, and was good at it, earning her position. She's a New York city gal, so her dad's request to move to his former hometown of Glory, MS---to "discover the meaning of life" and better understand the values he built his company on---doesn't sit well. Lila is a private 28-year-old, almost aloof, who doesn't like to admit failures or weaknesses to anyone.

Jessica wants to know: How can Lila be likable to readers and gain sympathy while being true to her guarded nature and impersonal behavior?

Gaining reader sympathy isn't the objective so much as making readers relate to your character. (click to tweet!). Characters in books and film have personalities we might not like, or would never associate with in real life, but enjoy reading about and watching on TV.

There will be scores of women who will relate to Lila's drive to succeed, or perhaps to her desperate need for her father's approval. These traits are likely to be apparent from scene 1. But you can also capitalize on the things mentioned in her intake form that give readers a reason to look up to her, such as her love of helping underprivileged women.

To further this point, I still stand by an earlier blog post that touts Steven James as one of the most masterful storytellers in that he gives his evil, serial-killing bad guys this soft that makes readers totally relate to a PSYCHO. It's actually a bit disturbing, when you're kinda sorta hoping said psycho won't get his comeuppance in the end. Of course we don't like like the guy. He's a murderer. But we do like his love of dogs, or respect of women.

It's no different for your character, at least at the start of the novel when she's in her precontemplative stage. She's guarded, but based on her intake form, it's not real clear why. It's motivation, not execution of action, that make or break a reader's ability to relate to a character (click to tweet!).

For example, if she's reserved because at one point in her history, she stuck her neck out and it got chopped off (to use a cliché b/c it's late and I'm tired), then I believe readers will totally buy in to her reservations...even better, applaud her for them. But you've got to hint at this motivation very early on, so they can suspend disbelief long enough for you to unravel her backstory as necessary.

Hope that Lila has enjoyed her time on the couch was a short session, but fun!

Let's Analyze

How do you make your own character's flaws very apparent at the beginning of the book, yet not so much so that they turn off readers or make your characters hard to relate to?