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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Treatment Tuesday - Fan Fiction Forever

This week's assessment is for Nancy. She's writing about a 53-year-old secondary character who essentially has lived in her mind since she was 12. She obsesses about and writes fan fiction for her long-defunct favorite TV show. She identified strongly with a male character on the show who got made fun of and bullied a lot. Every thought seems to about about the show itself or her writings for the show. She knows this is idolatry, and she learns several memory verses to use against this, but always comes right back to it. The protagonist is the best friend who wants to help her before Satan wins another soul.

Nancy wants to know: Is there a name for this type of condition? Is there any hope for the character except to lock her away? What do you suggest or recommend?

Nancy, your character has JPN Disorder, also known as Just Plain Nuts Disorder. No, just kidding! This one stumped me for a while, because there were a few different directions to go. For now, I'm going with the working diagnosis of Schizoid Personality Disorder. It makes the most sense given the information. With that in mind, I have a few suggestions for you to make this character realistic.

Since she's 53 and obsessed with writing for a discontinued TV series, I would assume that her social life has really suffered. Most Schizoids have difficulty with interpersonal relationships, and this begins in their early teens and follows them through adulthood. There discomfort is apparent in multiple arenas, such as work or church. They usually have restricted emotional expression, as well.

Perhaps your character finds her expression--her release--in the writing of her fan fiction. The strong connection she felt with the male lead of the show is a bit odd, since young children seldom cross the gender barrier to find such a strong connection. (Meaning, it might be more powerful to have the lead be a female to which your secondary character gravitated toward.)

A person with Schizoid PD would have to have four of seven traits, which you can read more about in my post here.

You mentioned that she identified with the TV character so strongly because he was teased and bullied, which is very much in line with the type of childhood someone with this disorder would have. You'd want her to be unmarried, perhaps her obsession with the fan fiction writing being a social barrier she never could overcome in order to lead a "normal" life. Schizoids aren't known for close relationships, even their own family, and they always choose solitary activities. What could be more solitary than writing fan fiction all the time? It's likely the only thing she derives pleasure from.

Take the emotional flattening seriously. This will be a woman who doesn't care what others think of her, even your female protagonist who is her friend. Schizoids can have best friends, but I doubt that friendship would look much like the one between you and your best friend. They are a bit "off," and it's noticeable when others encounter her.

She wouldn't need to be locked up. These are loners, but can do well in jobs where they are socially isolated. They can be productive members of society, as long as that society fits into their concept of what society should be. So to answer your question of what hope there is for such a character, that depends largely on where you want her to end up? Happily married? Never writing fan fiction? Neither of those will happen easily for a Schizoid.

I'd want to ask her what started the writing in the first place. What was going on in her life when the show was cut off? I toyed with some sort of post-trauma reaction to her show being discontinued, but that would only make sense if you revealed some huge personal need to watch the show, like it being an escape from some sort of terrible life situation, etc.

I'd also want to ask you as her writer where you're going with the obsession being idolatry. That can be a fine line to walk/write, depending on how it's done. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder don't make the choice to do what they do. They can't stop it no more than they could cut off their own arm. Is Satan "winning" while this lady writes fan fiction, or could Christ possibly be glorified through the writing in some way? Was she a Christian to begin with, because if she's memorizing scripture, it sounds like she might be. I caution you to proceed delicately with how you characterize her mental disability as idolatry, because there are plenty of Christians with mental disorders who might take offense.

Anyway, fascinating character. I really thought about this for some time. Good luck with the writing....any additional questions, feel free to drop me a comment below.

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Miss Sharp said...

Ooh, this was a good one! I clicked over to your previous post and at the end found this comment from one of your readers:

"Schizoids DO long for connection and love, they just hide it."

Jeannie, do you agree with this? It seems that a schizoid personality wouldn't know what to do with a love connection and might end up hurting the other person or persons. After this happens time after time, I'm guessing that's the last thing the schizoid would long for?

And thanks (as always) for the time and energy you put into these posts!

Debbie Burns said...

I appreciate your warning given at the end. Especially, "I caution you to proceed delicately with how you characterize her mental disability as idolatry." I'm a Christian with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. I've dealt with the judgements of others concerning my disorder and how it's effected my life. Mental disorders ARE NOT an indication that Satan is winning or that those with said issues are lost from Christ.

Just a thought (and the writer can take it worth a grain of salt), but maybe the best friend is the one who can have the change of heart, learning to accept her friend "as-is," SPD and all. Maybe the MC can also learn to accept herself, finally believing that God loves her and understands her condition.

Jeannie, I appreciate the delicacy in which you handle your posts. Many us want to write using mental disorders as some piece of a very intricate character (which is great), but I also think it's a good thing to keep the REAL PEOPLE suffering from these disorders in mind. For example, I've had the oppotunity to talk with women who have DID. They are tired of writers making DID characters who serial killers through their alters. I guess what I'm saying is the caution to "tread lightly" should be applied overall.

Anyway, I'll get off my soap box now. Sorry about that! :\ Thanks again for the valuable resource you provide to writers!

Sierra Gardner said...

Hey Debbie - I agree wholeheartedly (having been recently convinced of this point by you =). I'm wondering, how does an obsession develop from what was initially just something someone was interested in and when does it transition into a mental disorder? How would this scenario look different if the MC was dealing with OCD? Also, is it common for people who are unhappy with the real world to create alternate worlds through writing, art, etc?

p.s. Sorry for having so many questions!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

miss sharp - interesting you should bring that comment up. i believe that for that particular commenter, that was their experience. it's not indicative of the schizoid population as a whole.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

debbie - thanks for your validation of what i wrote. personal experience accounts for so much!

sierra - i almost went down the path of OCD with this character. because if she started writing to alleviate some obsession she had, and it became almost would look very different.

not all obsessions indicate mental disorders....only when it interferes with quality of life or functioning.

Sierra Gardner said...

Hmmm... I have a character who might be headed down that road. I'll make sure to send her to some therapy in the future =)

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.