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Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


(Again, rather expected.)

First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Happy New Year's to everyone!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - On Vacation Till Friday

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


(You knew that was coming.)

First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

See you back here next Friday. I'm taking a much-needed break to be with family.

Merry Christmas to everyone!!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

T3 - Ammo for Family Gatherings: Detecting False Memories

It seems that when we get together with family at the holidays, old memories resurface about times gone by. Funny thing is, a lot of these "memories" really bare little resemblance to what actually happened.

So now, armed with the below, you can nip those embarrassing confabulations in the bud! (I use the term confabulation, which some of you might not know, because I'm at a loss for a better lay term. A confabulation is a fabricated imaginary experience used to compensate for memory loss. It's not necessarily intentional or's the "I walked 13 miles up hill, in the snow, barefoot" syndrome--stretching the tale a bit as time passes.)

When Grandpa starts in about how you did such-and-such, with the intent to embarrass you a bit in front of your significant other, ask him to relay some of the following:

1) Sensory data. What color shirt did I have on when that happened, Gramps? What did that smell like again?

2) Detail. Can you remember where Butch kept the lighter fluid back in those days? Which book did you always keep on the nightstand? Irrelevant stuff, but it can sometimes be the difference between a real memory and a false one.

3) Association. See if you can get Gramps to recall another memory that might be logically connected to the one he's confabulating. Maybe something directly preceding or following the event he's going on about. If he can't, that would be a point in your corner.

Head to those family gatherings without fear. You always know when someone is giving a false memory or confabulation about you, but now you can call them out. Good luck!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Inspiration Behind Christmas Songs

For those of you who haven't already taken advantage of this, Amazon currently is offering two books by Ace Collins that explain the stories behind the beloved Christmas songs we sing. I've really enjoyed reading some of these, so I imagine you will too.

Merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Two for One

This week's assessment is for Annika. In the spirit of Christmas, this will be a two-for-one special. :)

She's writing a fantasy romance about Anna* and Reed*. Anna has issues with men because she was raised in a place where women were inferior and cowed. She has a gift for healing, but due to her status, can only find work as a midwife. Reed grows up in a land where men are inferior, play toys, pretty boys, and breeders only. He has gift of being a Shaman, even though this is traditionally a position held by a woman. Both resent the fact that in each of their societies, one gender is given preference and dominance over another. Both of them have gotten into repeated trouble for their views, because neither of them is very quiet about those views when pushed. Anna is the more vocal of the two, simply because she's managed to escape the kinds of torture and emotional trauma that Reed faced.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional.

Annika wants to know: What would draw these two together? The story hinges on them learning to trust each other, work together, and ultimately fall in love. What would make them take notice of each other? Anna barely realizes Reed is in the house with her because of the way Reed was brought up to fade into the background and never draw attention to himself. How do I turn around the kind of physical and emotional abuse that these two went through, that completely twisted their personalities, and get them together as a couple?

I think the answer to your question is in your premise. You've got two people who are alike in their differences. Both shunned, both tired of it. Birds of a feather, flock together. Misery loves company. The bad clichés can keep coming, but the idea is the same.

Anna and Reed are likely to find some commonality in their plights. The beginning evidence might be slight, but eventually, especially if living together, they will see each other's frustration with the society they live through small nuances. Why not have them commiserate with one another?

I think the dynamic is interesting, because it's not like Reed is going to live in a home with a woman who knows to lord her power over him. Anna will be the opposite. She will expect Reed almost to lord over her, right? So the fact will be that they will steer clear of each other initially, or at least I'd expect them to.

In order for them to connect with one another on a different plane, I think it will be important for both Anna and Reed to witness each other behaving in totally non-stereotypical ways, doing something that gives them that initial JAR and makes them look closer at their "roommate" to see that there is something more there than the average expectation. Since you know your story world better than I, you probably already have some idea of how Anna can just really take Reed aback with some action, some kindness he didn't expect. Vice versa for Reed, some courtesy he extends Anna that she never saw coming.

People take note when someone doesn't conform to societal expectations, and you need them to take note in order to develop a romantic attachment. In all honesty, you've got a formula that I think many romance readers enjoy. You've forced the hero and heroine together (as roommates) and the reader will expect their love to grow slowly. Drawing out that tension is what'll get your readers turning the pages. (I'm reminded of many romances where the hero and heroine couldn't be more different, yet find their common ground eventually. Lori Wick's Sophie's Heart comes to mind, with a heroine of a different nationality and socioeconomic background from the hero.)

You know, it might be fascinating to give Reed some affinity for shorter people, maybe because his Shaman qualities make him lean toward protecting who in his mind he perceives as weaker? It might give you some interesting tension to deal with, because Anna would be very uncomfortable with a man who erred on the side of looking out for her. She's never had that before, wouldn't know what to make of it, and wouldn't trust it at first.

But how beautiful it could be, as well as metaphorical, for Reed--a giver, not a taker--to symbolize the male connection she has been missing all her life! Not to say that a woman has to have a man to look out for her, but that true love overlooks gender roles and stereotypes to meet needs.

I think this can work. In my practice, I would never say this aloud (because it could have dire consequences), but I think people want to believe that two damaged halves can make a complete whole. In my faith, though, and in my romantic nature, I believe this wholeheartedly, and I believe a lot of other people do too.

Good luck with this story! As always, any additional questions/comments are welcome below.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Buyer's Writer's Remorse

Here during the Christmas season retailers everywhere are shouting for joy as eager buyers crawl through their stores shopping for bargain presents. It's also a time for impulsive buys, maybe more so than average, as things go on and off sale, and you always want to think you're getting the best deal possible.

Impulsive buys (and non-impulsive ones) can lead to buyer's remorse. This phenomenon refers to that feeling of regret one has after buying something....and the larger the price tag, the greater the regret.

I thought it might be appropriate to consider writer's remorse at this time, since it correlates so well with the above.

Writer's remorse is the sensation of being less-than-pleased with the results of a new story idea you just started. This might happen in many ways. You finally start the killer story idea rattling around your brain for months on the back burner while you were editing another story. Once you do, you might wonder if this story isn't so killer after all. The characters seem flat. The plot lifeless. Your motivation null.

Did you wait too long to start it from the time you conceived the idea to actually beginning to type? Perhaps another idea takes root almost as soon as you've started your Chapter One, and now it's competing for your attention. Either way, you're just not pleased with what you're working on and wonder if it's too late to jump ship (or return your purchase).

Any of you have any experience with this?

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

T3 - Sunk-Cost Effect

I'm about to tell you why it can be so hard to let go and move on from your unpublished manuscripts that didn't garner an agent or editor's attention. The Sunk-Cost Effect can actually be applied to a variety of areas in a person's life, from financial investments (which many authors would agree their writing is) to emotional/relational ones.

The idea behind this psychological theory is that when a person has "sunk" a lot of effort, time, and money into something, they are reluctant to cut their losses, even if cutting their losses will lead to less loss in the long run. No one wants to admit that they made a mistake, as this brings cognitive dissonance, so they would rather hang on to the blind hope that things will get better.

Research has shown that investors will hang on to their shares in a company even when the market tanks because they desperately hope the shares will rise again in price. Same goes with intimate relationships. People aren't clicking emotionally anymore, but they stay together because they have invested so much time in them or have children together.

Cults operate on this system, as well. Cults often have inner elite circles that can only be accessed if considerable money, time, and effort are given by the congregational member. Some elite cult members have learned lengthy texts by heart, have gone through bizarre rituals, or have given heavily of their funds, all of which serve to ingratiate the cult to the person, drawing them in deeper. In other words, the cult sinks their teeth in further the more they can get the person to invest.

This theory is also helpful in looking at relationships from all angles. Most people look at their satisfaction in a relationship as a result of 3 things:
  • Rewards and costs and what they see as a fair balance.
  • A comparison with potential alternative relationships
  • How much they have already invested in the relationship (the Sunk-Cost Effect).
Abusive characters intrinsically know this. The more invested the woman is in the relationship (the more children, the more the abuser makes the woman feel he can't live without her), the more likely she is to stay and keep on getting abused. They will continually remind the woman what all she has invested, to make sure that cost is uppermost in her mind so that leaving is put on the back burner.

Can you see how this might apply to your manuscripts? You go through critiques, conferences, and contests, all of which you paid for. You labor hours after your day job to get scenes just right. You diligently prepare a synopsis and proposal and revise and edit. All of this represents your time, love, energy, dedication. When that's not received glowingly by an agent or editor, it can be hard to accept...and thus writers can spend an inordinate amount of time trying to market a finished book rather than starting on a new one.

How To Move On

In the abusive relationship example above, there must come a time in the victim's life when she will stop thinking of everything she has already invested and will look to the future, and what all she might be able to save if she jumps ship. The past is the past, and rather than dwell on what you can't get back, it's better to look ahead to what you might potentially get.

See how this can apply to moving on past your finished manuscript? Looking ahead to the next big story you roll out is far better than ruminating on the perceived "wasted time." No time writing is wasted. It's all going to aid in making you a better writer. Book Two (or Twenty) will be even better because you will have learned how to keep additional "costs" at a minimum from Book One.

So go ahead and file that manuscript away in a drawer. It's served it's purpose.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Change Is In The Air?

Since I am still without internet service for my laptop, I have hung my "Closed" sign out for today's Treatment Tuesday.

So to do a quick poll (very quick, seeing as how I am actually typing this on a Kindle--torturous):

What do you guys think about changing Treatment Tuesday to Character Clinic ? I figure I could do two assessments a week sometimes instead of being slave to Tuesdays only. Of course this assumes people keep writing in!

I am working on your assessment for next week Alison. Promise. Yours is the only one in my queue!

To quote Frasier, I'm listening. Well...reading, anyway. Do you approve of the proposed change?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Writer's Quiz: Which Lane Do You Write In?

Writers usually fall into two common categories: pantsters (who write by the seat of their pants) and outliners. I'd like to propose here that these two designations might correlate with the writer's driving style. What I propose (and you'll have to help me prove or disprove by leaving a comment) is that a seat of the pants writer is a bit more of a cavalier driver than an outliner just by nature.

Take myself. I'm a seat of the pants writer (who desperately wishes to be an outliner). I am a Left Lane driver. I drive fast, dart around other cars, and hate to follow others. It drives me crazy to sit behind someone's tail lights for too long. I'll pass them, even if they are going a decent speed, just for good measure. I arrive anywhere out of breath and charged up from singing loudly with my iPod.

My theory is that outliners, who by nature are more structured and follow rules, are more likely to be Right Lane drivers. Cruising at the set speed limit, possibly nudging your cruise control a few miles over for kicks and giggles, and arriving at your destination (deadline) on time and completely not winded.

I'm not trying to stereotype anyone, this is just for fun. I posted this over a year ago on my defunct blog and got a good conversation going, which I hope to get going here. All for fun!

So leave a comment and tell me two things:

1. What kind of writer you are and
2. Whether you are a Left Lane or Right Lane driver

(And please forgive any typos or formatting errors, I did this on my iPhone b/c we have no Internet at my new home! Just moved in Friday for an in-town move! Finished decoratng the tree today! Whew!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

T3 - Group Polarization Phenomenon

This week's theory is useful when considering how often our characters wind up in some sort of group situation in which they are advocating for one position over another. In romance, the hero and heroine will usually be on opposite sides of the fence, and this theory will help you be bold and confident in developing your plots and upping the ante.

In essence, the theory states that in groups, people tend to be more extreme when making decisions. Research has shown that people in groups will exaggerate their position in an attempt to make a point (or counterpoint) and to separate their statements and ideas from others that have been offered.

So imagine it. Your heroine goes toe-to-toe with the hero in a conference room about an issue and hears herself saying something she never intended to say that's above and beyond what she had intended. Now she's obliged to stick by her position, even if she think it's a bit over the top.

For those who write YA, groups of young people perhaps make some of the stupidest decisions ever. Often, they'll regret these decisions later, but because of the group polarization that this happens (and even the immature idea that one side has to one-up the other or risk not being cool). 

And another interesting fact is that people who tend to grab life by the horns and thrive on risk will make even riskier decisions in a group because some of the responsibility of the risk is shared. Vice versa for people who are conservative. In a group, they will make ultraconservative decisions that even they think are extreme. Just FYI.

You might want to consider having a voice of reason for the character if they do get too risky or too extreme. A nice elderly neighbor or post office worker or barber will do just fine. Someone who will speak the truth to them through unbiased eyes will turn the plot around toward the end to bring about resolution.

Happy writing!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Technique Toolbox - Inside/Outside Bag

 Inside/Outside Bag Technique

Credited to:  I have no idea.

For use with: Children or Adults, Groups/Individuals

What you will need:

school lunch sized paper bags, enough for all clients and therapist
old magazines, a variety is best
glue/rubber cement/tape

What you do:

Instruct the client(s) to cut out 8-10 things (or more, if time allows) to go on the outside of the bag that represent something about themselves people could see or know just by hanging out with them. This would include descriptions, things the person likes or enjoys, like favorite foods, clothes, electronics, and movies.

At the same time while the client is flipping through magazines, tell them that they need 8-10 cutouts for the inside of the bag, and these cutouts will represent things about themselves that people wouldn't necessarily know just by looking at them or hanging out with them. These items might include the make/model of their first car, a crown to symbolize a pageant they wont as a child, a dislike of a government figure--but usually something meaningful.

After everyone has assembled their collage on the outside and put the inside cutouts loose inside, then you have the client(s) explain his/her bag, going through each cutout and saying a bit about it, unless it's pretty self-explanatory (i.e., a client put a Coke bottle on the outside of their bag because they like Coke).


This intervention is a great ice breaker for groups or individual therapy sessions. I typically will do this exercise once with almost every age-appropriate client I have, because it serves to let me know something about them and them to know something about me.

(Caveat: I'm careful what I put on the inside of my bag, so as not to be too polarizing. For example, in a recent bag I did, I cut out a picture of a diamond ring to put inside my bag and when explaining it, I said that I had designed my own diamond wedding ring. True, but not something that will turn a client against me.)

This kind of intervention is also relaxing, and group process can be strengthened easily by encouraging the participants in the group to engage others while flipping through magazines, calling out various things they see that others might want to claim. Talk around the table can easily turn to serious things while people are cutting and pasting away, which gives opportunity to process.

Fun technique, people, and it can be vastly entertaining and revealing about people.

If you missed it, you can click here to see my devotional post on Jennifer Slattery's Live Out Loud blog.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Comicbook Queen Esther

This week's assessment is from Clarissa. She's doing a comic book in the style of manga that is loosely based on the book of Esther. It takes place in a mythical Eastern Europe country called Karj.

Kilgore* is the son of the prince of Karj and a woman from new-money nobility, a relationship which was not well received by the prince's family. To save Kilgore's live from a "hit" ordered by the king, the king's closest servant switches his stillborn with Kilgore and raises him as his own. When Kilgore meets his biological father, who is now the king of Karj, his father dotes on him, seeing glimpses of the noble woman he had loved and lost to death. However, Kilgore's stepbrother Borimir* is insanely jealous and later tortures Kilgore with cuts to his face and makes him listen as his wife Nadine* is beaten to death. Instead of being psychologically broken, Kilgore fights back, leading a revolution to overthrow Borimir. Dani*, the heroine travels from America back to Karj (where she was adopted from) to do a two-year medical internship, much to her parent's dismay. She saves Kilgore when war breaks out, but his eyes are hurt and he never sees her before his friends spirit him away. Borimir kidnaps Dani and grooms her to become one of his many mistresses, but Kilgore storms the capital and Borimer leaves, leaving Dani as well, and Kilgore forms an instant attachment to her.

* Names have been changed to protect the fictional.

Clarissa wants to know: What would make Kilgore form an instant bond with Dani? Would it be the fact she was almost abused by Borimir? Would the death of Kilian's wife make him protective/possessive over Dani? Are the fears valid that Dani's family have, specifically her mother's fear that she is rejecting her adopted family in some way?
I'd say the best thing you have working for an instant attachment is that time period Dani has with Kilgore when she rescues him from the battle. I'd play that portion of the novel up, because that'll give the reader romantic undertones you'll need later.

If Kilgore's eyes are hurt and he can't see her, his other senses will be heightened. He'll tune in to his rescuer's scent, lilt of her voice (which will sound more Americanized in Eastern Europe, right?), the feel of her clothing brushing against him as she tends to his wounds.

What might make it an even more psychologically powerful scene (or two or four) with him would be to give him the background of his eyes being somehow partially damaged during his earlier torture with Borimir. (Whether for that time period, or a more permanent eye injury to contend with on a daily basis.) Maybe that experience prompted him to hone his other senses more so than average, so that's he's really tuned into the nuances of his experience with Dani a.k.a. Florence Nightengale.

If his eyes were hurt during the time when he had to listen to Borimir kill Nadine, then he wouldn't have had his eyes to rely on to say his final goodbye to Nadine when they brought her corpse in to him. This would connect his past vulnerable state to how he feels when he's in Dani's care, possibly connecting the two women on a high, psychological plane. The fact she was almost abused by Borimir would certainly work in the same vein to connect him to her. Dani was someone he could save, and that might heal a part of him that still grieves over Nadine. Something to play with, at any rate.

You mentioned Kilgore's love language being touch and that if he trusts someone, he will touch them. This will be interesting for his brief recovery time with Dani because if he can't see, there will be much more touching than usual between strangers. Brilliant, if you ask me, as it really puts him out there in unknown or uncomfortable territory, exposing him for this one woman. This is a lot of inner tension for someone like him, which I would think would translate just as well to comics as the page. Plus, it's bound to affect him, because people who speak one love language generally prefer to have that same love language spoken to him....and that will be an instant connection to his rescuer.

Now you just have to figure out a few things to connect the rescuer to Dani in Kilgore's mind. (Presumably Dani will know who she had saved because she will be able to see Kilgore when she's rescued?) So you'll draw back on those things his other ability to evoke powerful memories. I'd use that one along with his love language of make him aware of something he touched of his rescuer's that Dani has. Maybe it'll be something on her (like a scar on her hand) or an article of clothing, etc.

As far as the possessive/protective question, you have to figure that Kilgore doesn't know who Dani is right away. She's been almost abused in the worst way by Kilgore's archenemy, and I think this will make him very protective of her. I mean, Kilgore's a good guy, right? An average guy would want to keep her out of harm's way, and if you add in Kilgore's history, he'd have even more reason/drive to do so. But possessive? Not initially, but perhaps more and more as he connects his rescuer with her (assume Dani doesn't just come right out and tell him).

You're other question about Dani's foster parents, especially her mother, feeling like Dani is rejecting them when she wants to go back to her homeland....I'd say this could be spot on. Realistic, feasible, you name it. Adoption can be TOUGH. For people who never see things behind the scenes, it's hard to understand. But a parent who finally gets a child, connects/bonds with that child, the greatest fear is always that something or someone--whether a little known legal loophole for bio parents to swoop in and take the child back or a medical internship back to where the child was adopted from--will take them away. Dani's mother's fears are very rationally based, although she acts irrationally, which is her chosen way to deal with the perceived threat.

Hope this has been helpful. As always, I'm happy to field questions in the comments section!

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Character Stereotypes: The Workaholic

Main Entry: work•a•hol•ic
Pronunciation: \wurk-uh-ˈhaw-lik, -hol-ik\
Function: noun
1 : a person who works compulsively at the expense of other pursuits

You won’t find workaholism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But according to research, Americans work an average of 200 hours more a year than they did in 1970. That’s almost an extra month.

Of course, with those longer hours come fatter paychecks and bigger accolades, both of which society and culture esteem. But what happens when work supersedes other areas of life?

Dr. Bryan Robinson wrote Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, a manual of sorts for partners, children, and clinicians working with these people. Robinson has a quick quiz you can take for your characters (or yourself!) to determine if they are workaholics.

On a scale from one to five, with five being the most satisfied and one being the least, have your character rate his satisfaction with his family life, friendships, health and hobbies. If his total is fewer than ten points, read on

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

T3 - The Drama Triangle

The psychological theory of the Drama Triangle was developed by Dr. Stephen Karpman, a Transactional Analysis psychotherapist. Get this: he developed this theory by studying fairy tales! And what are fairy tales if not fictional stories? Writers, read on.

He proposed that there are three sides to every character, the Persecutor, the Rescuer, and the Victim. Various stressors in life can ping us back and forth between the different roles. The more pinging going on, the more drama. (read: tension)

Let's look at the Pied Piper. (I know, not the happiest of tales, but you'll get the drift quicker.)

In the Pied Piper, the hero begins as both Rescuer of the city and Persecutor of the rats. He then becomes Victim to the mayor’s double-cross, because the mayor withheld the Piper's fee (which makes the Mayor the Persecutor). In revenge, the Piper switches to Persecutor of the city’s children. 

The mayor switches back and forth from Victim (of rats), to Rescuer (hiring the Pied Piper), to Persecutor (double-cross), to Victim (his children dead).  The children switch from Persecuted Victims (rats) to Rescued Victims, to Victims Persecuted by their Rescuer (The Piper). (This later bit increases the drama because of the great contrast...makes it more unforgettable.)

Now let's look at Cinderella. (I hear the collective sigh after bringing up the Piper. Take it up with Karpman.)

In Cinderella, the heroine switches from Victim double Persecuted (mother then stepsisters), to Victim triple Rescued (fairy godmother then mice then prince), to Victim Persecuted again (losing it all after midnight; not being thought worthy to try on the slipper) then Victim Rescued again (the glass slipper fit). 

Karpman proposed that the intensity of the drama for Cinderella was the sum total of adding up every time she switched roles and the magnitude of the switch (her being rescued by the fairy godmother, mice, and the prince would be a magnitude of 3). He came up with this little formula:

Vpp --> Vrrr --> Vpp --> Vr = 8 switches.

In the Cinderella example, she never switches to a persecutor. It was more about life enacting upon her. The Pied Piper is a better example at how all the characters in the tale switch back and forth.

So the more your characters can switch between the roles, and the greater the magnitude of the switch, the greater the tension and drama in your book. Novel idea, don't you think?

If you want to download and read Karpman's original paper on the Drama Triangle, click here. Be forewarned: it's only 5 pages, but there is a lot of vocabulary non-psychology aficionados won't understand. However, the general concept can be gleaned.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Delia Latham's Destiny's Dream Review/Contest/Giveaway

I asked to review Delia Latham's book, Destiny's Dream--Book One in her Solomon's Gate series--because I loved the premise.

Here's a blurb: 

Is a little respect too much to ask at a parent’s funeral?

Apparently it is for Destiny May. Clay Gallagher is built like a small mountain and far more vocal than is fitting when he shows up late to her mother’s “going away party.” When it turns out he’s not even at the right funeral, Destiny demands retribution in the form of an escape from the day’s dreary proceedings. Spending time with a handsome stranger who makes her laugh is more therapeutic than fighting with her overbearing family.

Clay finds Destiny beautiful, charming...and intelligent. So why is she stubbornly determined to open a Christian dating service? Clay has little respect for such a frivolous profession, and doesn’t think the small, conservative town of Castle Creek will welcome such a progressive business. But when Destiny is threatened by an anonymous caller who deeply resents her and what she does for a living, Clay makes it his business to keep the saucy redhead out of harm’s way.

Trouble is, spending time in her company weakens his defenses, and Destiny may be the one thing Clay can’t escape...if he even wants to.
The funeral scene had me laughing out loud at the ludicrousness of it. What a fantastic and fresh way for the hero and heroine to meet! Well done, Delia! :)

My main reason for wanting to review this book was because of the Christian dating service Destiny founds, called Solomon's Gate. I've got an interest in the mechanics of these types of businesses, and I loved how Delia portrayed such a new version. It's different from eHarmony or Destiny's is more personal, and she spends a lot of time in prayer of her applicants, anointing the applications with oil as she does so.

I appreciated how she felt it was her calling from God to open this business. Even in the face of adversity, Destiny comes across as rock solid in her faith and this calling. It's a great reminder of how strong the Lord's work in our lives can be when we're working together with him instead of against him. Even the prejudice the hero has against the business is dealt with credibly. There are many people out there who are extremely uncomfortable with this type of business, and I thought it great tension-building fodder for the hero to have an issue with it.

For those romantics out there, you won't be disappointed, although Delia doesn't wait until the very end for you to know who's ending up with who. She throws in some delicious curve balls, though, which I enjoyed. (Hello, CJ!) I also appreciated the suspenseful aspect of the threatening caller. It was realistically done because Delia didn't paint a pretty picture of this side of humanity. Sadly, I know people in my practice who would do the same thing.

Delia is running a contest on her website for those interested in winning a beautiful decorative bottle and anointing oil to fill it. Check it out here! The more entries you leave at various stops on her blog tour, the greater your chances of winning.

Also, she's agreed to give away one .pdf copy of her book to one lucky commenter today! You have to be a follower to be eligible. Leave a comment and tell me if you've had any experiences with dating services, Christian or not. Include your email in a non-spam format (yourname at hotmail dot com) to enter. That's it!

To connect with Delia, you can find her at her website, blog, Facebook Reader Page, or newsletter.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Widower Getting Back in the Game

This week's assessment comes from Alice. She's writing a romance and wants some psychological insight into her backstories for her hero and heroine. Hero married young, then lost his wife and baby daughter. He's determined to never love again because he doesn't want to risk the pain. So he shuns emotional attachment.

But a year or so later, he meets Heroine and is drawn to her because he mistakenly assumes she's like him, happy to enjoy an emotionally detached relationship for as long as it lasts. She's a lively, fun-loving 19 or 20-year-old who's in media, traveling all over the world, single, and appearing to be loving it, but in her heart of hearts, she longs for love, marriage, children--long-term commitment.

Alice wants to know: Is it credible that a man who has lost his family would really date someone very young and fun to distract himself from his grief?  Is it likely that a young woman who longed for a traditional home and family would choose a fast-paced adventurous lifestyle instead of a more conventional one that would give her a better chance of finding a man who was ready to settle down and have a family?

Alice, both your characters are experiencing reaction formation (which should sound familiar to you). I did a post here on this defense mechanism. Your heroine is displaying a very classic sense of this, while the hero's might be a bit harder to nail down, but I have a feeling his scenario will fit as well.

For those who don't want to read my other post, here's reaction formation in a nutshell:

Reaction Formation is when a person converts unconscious wishes or impulses that are perceived to be dangerous or anxiety-producing into their opposites. A person could behave in a completely opposite way of how they really want or feel (i.e. a woman fakes indifference to men and gives off an independent vibe when all she really wants is to be loved and cherished). A person could also believe the opposite of something simply because the true belief causes anxiety (i.e. a man believes that all women are gold diggers because to believe only his ex-fiance was is too painful).

Let's take your heroine, because her situation fits so well. She's like Rizzo from Grease. Rizzo was tough on the outside, acted like she didn't care what people thought of her. She played loose and easy because it was better than admitting she really just wanted love like anybody else. Your gal is not wanting to admit that her deepest desire is to have a husband and the requisite 2.5 children. For some reason (which is what you have to figure out), to do this would bring her tremendous anxiety.

So she goes into this adventuresome career and on the outside, ostensibly loves it, thrives on it. But she's empty on the inside, because she does want love so badly, and traveling the world over is hardly conducive to this. Getting a nice, steady job as a librarian or journalism teacher at the high school would be better suited, but that would come at a price to her.

So why wouldn't your heroine want people to know her deepest desire? You mentioned that maybe she was living someone else's dream in order to go into that field. That might answer why she chose that particular field, but it doesn't answer why she doesn't want her inner motivation known. It probably has something to do with fear. Fear of looking weak, fear of not measuring up, fear of making the same mistakes her mother did. I'm afraid I can't help anymore with this, as it's your story, but hopefully that'll get you on the right road with her.

On to Hero. I had to laugh a bit at your question, but I meant you no disrespect. Almost every divorced guy I know has always moved on with someone younger, whether that was the reason for the divorce or if it happened later. Your guy isn't divorced, but widowed, which makes a difference, sure. However, you asked if it was credible for a man to date someone young to distract him from his grief. And I answer that with a RESOUNDING YES.

Why? Because it's credible that a person would do almost anything to distract themselves from grief. I did a ton of posts on grieving and the types of grief here. I'd read through them and figure out which kind he has.

The reason I think he might also be experiencing reaction formation is that he obviously loved deeply and was very happy with his wife, who died. This happiness was at one time so important to him that he doesn't think he can possibly recreate it...even though it might be his deepest desire to have that one again. So he acts in the opposite of what he truly wants, because it gives him anxiety to think he'll never attain happiness again. He goes for no emotional attachment at all, and makes do with a shell of his former life in the form of dates and maybe kisses, but nothing lasting--no connection.

I wouldn't worry about establishing a pattern of this type of behavior for him. She could be his first or his fifth. The first does bring with it some additional maybe make her number 2. I don't think a reader would want him to appear like a womanizer or opportunist, so I'd be careful how you introduce this particular backstory. How old is the guy? It might be that he just connected with the Heroine somehow (through your external story skeleton), and since she was quite a bit younger than him, he didn't think his heart was in danger of any attachment. I'd be curious about this tidbit.

You did ask what would be a credible time to reintroduce him to the dating game. I wrote a post here on my general rule of thumb about waiting to move on: two years. I think anything less than that could come across as tacky to your readers, and you wouldn't want to ostracize anyone. I've also read in research that 2 years for the death of a spouse is about the average time it takes for the survivor to feel normal and ready to move on.

There you go, Alice. Hope this assessment has been as helpful as the last one I did for you! Thanks for writing in again!

And to you other writers out there...the queue is LOW, so now's a good time to write in!

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Technique Toolbox - You Are Special by Max Lucado

You Are Special Technique

Credited toMalinda Fasol, PhD, LPC

For use with: Children or Adults

What you will need:

A copy of Max Lucado's You Are Special

What you do:

I usually will read this book aloud to both children and adults. I like to sit at an angle where the client can see the pictures as I read to them.

The book is about the Wemmicks (wooden people created by Eli, the "carpenter on the hill"). They go about all day long, every day, giving each other stars and dot stickers. Stars for being talented or pretty and dots for being clumsy or having chipped paint. Punchinello, the main character, only gets dots. He meets Lucia (who looks much like an angel, all dressed in white) who has no stars or dots. Lucia says that she visits Eli at the top of the hill often, and the stickers don't stick to her no matter what, because Eli's opinion of her is all that matters.

Punchinello takes Lucia up on her suggestion and begins to visit Eli. Eli tells him how important and unique he is, created just by Eli to be that way. On Punchinello's way out of the workshop, one of his dot stickers fall off as he begins to believe that Eli really means what he says.

After the book, I typically ask at least these 3 questions (sometimes a few more, based on their answers):

1) If you were a Wimmick, would you get more stars or dots?
2) Can you tell me what 5 of the stars/dots would be for?
3) Do you have a Lucia or Eli in your life?

Question 1 gives me an understanding of how the child or adult sees him or herself. I can assess their self-esteem based upon the answer to that question.  Question 2 is a cognitive exercise that has the client labeling what's good (or negative) about themselves. This can prove helpful in determine goals for therapy with adults (ostensibly to improve self-esteem or overcome a fear). Children will often parrot back what they have been told from friends or family members. Question 3 tells me what kind of support network the client has.

This book is not overtly Christian. Lucado wrote it from a Christian perspective, though, and I find it's a great way to introduce Christian principles into session without ever saying the words "Jesus" or "God."

From Max Lucado's website: The world tells kids, "You're special if... if you have the brains, the looks, the talent." God tells them, "You're special just because. No qualifications necessary." Only one of those messages will find its place in their hearts. That's why every child you know needs to hear this one, reassuring truth: "You are precious in His sight."

This is a great little technique to make its way into one of your novels. And if you haven't read You Are Special, give it to a child for Christmas this year. Wonderful, heartwarming story. There are several books by Lucado about the Wimmicks you might also want to consider.

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