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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Traits of Self-Destructing Characters

I have had a hard week. I had started this blog post yesterday, but fell asleep too exhausted to finish it. I have a client who is the epitome of self-destructing. It's one thing to read about them, but it's quite a different thing to be their therapist.

As a result of my interactions and observations while in session with this client, I'm bringing you--straight from the trenches--a glimpse into the mindset of someone like this. I've noticed some general characteristics that will definitely help make your self-destructing characters more realistic.

1) They will have an obsession, and it will be their Achilles's heel. The character will live and breathe for a particular person, achievement, desire. It usually consumes them, and reality fades as to how unbalanced they are becoming in their quest for this obsession.

2) They will put their welfare below their desire for the obsession, even if it means their death. Whether they are addicted to drugs or a person (think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction), the means to their end are always justified. They can't see beyond the next tree to see the forest, so consequences are minimized or they are completely blind to them.

3) They likely will have a personality disorder or serious mental disorder. This one is on my list by default. Anyone who exhibits the first two will probably qualify for something like borderline personality disorder, bipolar, schizophrenia....something pretty major.

4) Attempts to reason with this person will fall on deaf ears. As mentioned before, reality takes a back seat. As a therapist, I am obligated to do what I can to help my client see a different, better way.  A more healthy way. I usually receive a blank stare or feel like I'm talking to a wall. But writers should give one to two scenes over to someone trying to talk sense into this character.

5) Their demise probably will not be satisfactory to any involved, as it's more tragic. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes the bad guy has to die, and I know this. But if you've done your homework and included the above, their end will resonate with the reader more in a reflective way, not necessarily a "awesome, he/she is dead" way.

If any of this gives you a clue to what my week has been like, then I'll ask for prayers! Dealing with someone like this exhausts you emotionally and physically. In the end, I go home and go to sleep with their name on my lips in a prayer to God to keep them safe and watch over them, because there is only so much I can do and there is only so much the person will let me do.

Let's analyze: Ever had interactions with someone who was going one-way down a dead-end road? What other characteristics of someone like this might you see fit to add?

I'm still giving away a copy of my Writer's Guide to Creating Rich Back Stories...all you have to do is comment on this post about my tentative foray into vlogging.

And click over to read my therapeutic review of Ashes to Beauty: The Real Cinderella Story. Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of the book for a special girl on your Christmas list!