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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Character Clinic: Day 2

Blog Tour Buddies: Stop by Diane Estrella's blog to say hello and enter for a chance to win my Writer's Guide to Personality Types!

Today, I've got Sierra's character, Marni* on the couch for Day 2 of my Character Clinic. Marni is funny, eccentric and sees symmetry and purpose in coincidences. Unable to accept the complexity and randomness of life, she builds ups a strange mythology to explain everyday occurrences and to guide her day to day actions. But her perfect world starts to fall apart when one man helps her see beauty in the chaos and uncertainty of life. 

Sierra wants to know: What would cause someone like Marni to be unable to handle uncertainty in her life? Why would she feel the need to have an explanation for every little thing, even if it means living with a strange set of superstitions? Why would she feel compelled to develop those superstitions in the first place?
Here's the opening criteria of the disorder that first popped into my head after reading your description. Why don't you read it through and they let me know if you think it fits? (FYI - I've tweaked it by only showing you the criteria that I think she would fit, based on your sketch.) 

A pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts. 

What say you? Yay? Nay? This is the opening lines of the DSM-IV-TR for Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. However, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't fit the overall criteria needed to have the diagnosis. But her obsession with mental control over her environment made me go to this disorder.

Since she wouldn't fit the entire diagnosis (you can go here for the full criteria), we have to look at the constellation of disorders within which OCPD falls: Anxiety Disorders. Basically, Marni sounds like a control freak. She's probably terrified of letting go of her mythology, because she's found solace in it--it relieves the anxiety she feels about a chaotic, out-of-control world. This mythology has become a protective shield from the world as well as a blueprint she holds the world up to to make sense of it.

Deep down, she's insecure. The need to control--to order her life (even if it is more mentally than outwardly physical control)--is fueled in anxiety. What I can't help you with is why this is the case. You'll have to consider her upbringing, her family of origin. What kind of parents did she have? Were they constantly riding her about things? Demanding explanations? What happened to make her feel that everything has to have a reason, a story as to why it came to be?  

One thing to consider as you write Marni is the impact this adherence to her mythology will have on her socially. Surely there will be times and occasions when her world views will come into direct opposition with regular life. What will she do? Withdraw? Cower? Be in denial? Gloss over it? Ignore it?

People with OCPD are difficult to get along with. They want things to be there way. When she encounters this man intent of helping her see the beauty of chaos, I'm thinking she won't like it to much. I'm assuming this man is the romantic interest, which means you'll have instant tension, which is good. But people along this continuum of anxiety disorders really like things the way they like them....and it'll take more than a few conversations to convince Marni that she's wrong or that her mythology isn't needed or warranted. 

Another question to really dig deep into her what is she afraid of? What importance does her set of beliefs hold for her? If it weren't there, I mean, worst-case scenario---what would she be frightened would happen? It's obvious to me that she developed the superstitions to offset her anxiety and ultimately her fear, so what's the reverse? To be ruled by that anxiety and fear, which, of course, only you as her author know what is.

Sounds like a fascinating character. I'd like to have spent some time with her in my office. Likely, there's much more lurking under the surface than what you've given me....but alas! Not enough time in the day, what with my real clients and all. :)

Good luck with her!


Sierra Gardner said...

Thanks so much Jeannie! What you said sounds spot on and you've given me a lot to think about. Marni* is a character that sort of popped into my head one day but I haven't delved deeply into her story yet. All the things you've pointed out will really help me figure out where she is coming from.

Ralene said...

Good insight, Jeannie!

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