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Friday, March 30, 2012

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!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Character Clinic: Temporary Paralysis?

I'm fielding a question today from Heidi. She wanted to know if the following scenario was plausible:

I have a injured character who can walk, but when stressed, he exhibits psychosomatic-type symptoms, where he becomes temporarily partially paralyzed and is in a wheelchair. I looked up somatoform disorder, and I think that is what he has, maybe that combined with a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Heidi -

Thanks for writing in! Somatoform Disorder was a great guess, and you're definitely in the right ballpark. Somatoform Disorders is the overarching category of disorders that are characterized by physical symptoms that don't have a plausible physical reason and are believed to occur from mental reasons.

 The situation you've described fits what is called a conversion disorder. Here are the symptoms with your story world scenario in [brackets]:

A. One or more symptoms or deficits affecting voluntary motor or sensory function that suggest a neurological or other general medical condition. [temporary partial paralysis]
B. Psychological factors are judged to be associated with the symptom or deficit because the initiation or exacerbation of the symptom or deficit is preceded by conflicts or other stressors. [only happens when he's "stressed"]
C. The symptom or deficit is not intentionally produced or feigned (as in Factitious Disorder or Malingering). [he really experiences the paralysis]
D. The symptom or deficit cannot, after appropriate investigation, be fully explained by a general medical condition, or by the direct effects of a substance, or as a culturally sanctioned behavior or experience. [no known medical cause for the paralysis; i.e., your character is in good health]
E. The symptom or deficit causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning or warrants medical evaluation. [I assume this is the case]

The reason behind his paralysis is psychological, not medical. Somatization Disorder could be a close match, but you didn't mention that your character had more than the one physical issue, and people with Somatization Disorder (not to be confused with Somatoform Disorder, which is the category) have a whole host of physical maladies.  

So yes, in short, I believe the scenario you've described is feasible.

Hope this helps!

Let's Analyze: There are a few other disorders that fall in the Somatoform Disorder category. Can anyone think of the most well-known disorder?

Monday, March 26, 2012

TV Crime Drama Analysis

I am hooked on four great crime drama shows, and I thought I'd try to piece together some things that they all have in common so we writers can glean insight.  First, here's my list:

1) The Mentalist
2) Bones
3) Castle
4) Body of Proof

These shows all have major plot points in common, yet they differ from each other in major peculiarities that make the shows unique. Here's my breakdown analysis of each.

1) The Mentalist - Patrick Jane, an ex-conman/psychic, partners with Theresa Lisbon, California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) senior special agent, to solve homicides. His backstory is horrific: wife and little girl murdered by a serial killer Jane publicly taunted on television. His greatest desire is to seek revenge. Lisbon's mother was killed in a drunk driving accident and she was left to raise her brothers and take care of his alcoholic father. We're into Season 4 with very little overt sexual tension between Jane and Lisbon, but a deep-formed friendship and protective vibe from each of them.

2) Bones - Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan, team leader of the fictional Jeffersonian Institute Forensic Sciences Department, partners with Special Agent Seeley Booth to solve Federal legal cases by examining the human remains of possible murder victims. Brennan's parents disappeared when she was 15, putting her in the foster care system and leaving significant emotional wounds. Booth was a former Army Ranger sniper, and serves his penance by catching hopefully as many killers to equal the number of people he killed. I've made it through Season 2, Episode 7 (so NO spoilers below!), but so far, some sexual tension, acknowledgement of each other's hotness, nothing too overt.

3) Castle - Author Rick Castle pulls strings with the mayor to "partner" with NYPD Detective Kate Beckett, the inspirational muse he uses for his next best-seller series of books. Castle is a playboy who rarely takes anything seriously; Kate's the opposite. Kate's mother was murdered and she's become a cop to track down the reason why, very often going too far and almost getting herself killed. We're into Season 4, and we've had one killer kiss last season and lots of sexual tension.

4) Body of Proof - Medical examiner Megan Hunt works with Peter Dunlop, ex-police officer-turned-medico-legal investigator. Megan's marriage failed due to her workaholism, and her relationship with her daughter is estranged. She lost her prestige as a top neurosurgeon when an automobile accident gives her involuntary cramps in her hand, one of which inadvertently caused her to kill a patient on her table. Peter was adopted and harbors insecurities about his place in the world, but he serves as Megan's confidant and friend. Into Season 2 with nothing but banter between the two of them, but they take each other's opinion seriously.

Basically, these shows all have similar skeletons based on a male and female lead, various love triangles and love interests, and deeply scarring personal backstories for one, if not both, of the leads that drives them to their work. Even the secondary characters fall into archtypes of the power-wielding boss, socially-awkward underlings, and the trusted sage.

The above description could be tweaked to fit any genre of any TV drama (just about). It's why the shows are on, because it's what people want to watch. But honestly, it's the peculiarities that make each show memorable.

In The Mentalist, Jane's mental acuity and powers of observation make him indispensable to the CBI in solving murders, enough so that his antics are tolerated, but are still a source of tension for Lisbon and her superiors.

In Bones, Brennan argues for science, evidence, atheism. Booth argues for faith, God, and the unproven. Their polar opposite ways of dealing with investigation causes tension and even humor.

In Castle, Castle's knack for storytelling actually comes in handy for the detectives because he thinks outside the evidence box and often compliments Beckett's deductive reasoning, making their jobs more fun and infusing the show with comedic relief.

In Body of Proof, Megan learns life lessons from the corpses she examines, and these lessons are always put by Peter as her sounding board and then applied to her personal relationships with her daughter or mother or side romantic interest somehow.

We have to look for the "peculiarities" in our work, the things that make our general story structures stand out. In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon wrote, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." But when we take an aspect--just one is all it takes--and tweak it, like the above shows have, and we'll have fresh, innovative fiction.

Let's Analyze: What other TV shows might fit into this same story structure?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Attachment Disorder

Sadly, I see many clients just like this. Happy Weekend!

Friday, March 23, 2012

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!!

Click here to read my review of Katie Ganshert's Wildflowers from Winter and be entered to win an advanced reader copy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Google Alert Fun

If you aren't using Google Alert, you need to be. I regularly get cracked up when something shows up in my Inbox about Character Therapy. Here's one of the funniest things I read about myself. (And yes, I realize that does rather smack of narcissism, but the whole Google Alert system was built around the idea that we all want to read about ourselves. So take it up with Google.)

I found the following post at this link. I don't know the author, and she doesn't know me, which makes this funnier. I hope she writes in. 

I'm an entrepreneur and on a one-woman campaign!! Heretofore not phrases I've associated with myself. Pretty cool.

Let's Analyze: What are some of the funnier things you've read with Google Alerts?

Click here to read my review of Katie Ganshert's Wildflowers from Winter and be entered to win an advanced reader copy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Katie Ganshert's Wildflowers from Winter Review and Book Giveaway!

Wildflowers from Winter is gripping and beautiful, featuring flawed people and the starkness of winter and a flawless Lord and the beauty of spring. It is a book that will stay with you, and make you sneak it to work to read in the bathroom on extended breaks.

Here's a blurb from Katie's website:
A young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa. Determined to pay her respects while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. But the unexpected inheritance of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.

Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. So when Bethany is left the land, he must fight her decisions to realize his dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany’s vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps so carefully locked away.

For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn’t seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love and a peace she’s not even sure exists?

I have stood by Katie like a proud Aunt, watching her journey to publication. Holding her baby in my hands for the first time, I felt pride and joy and amazement at her miracle.

And what a miracle it is. I'm not saying this because I critique Katie and she is my friend. I'm saying it because she's an amazing writer with a gift for turning a phrase in such a unique way that you contemplate the words more carefully, with consideration, instead of blazing past them.

She didn't shy away from the emotional passages either. I honestly cried three times while reading this book. Three. (Well done, friend. Well done!) I don't think I've ever used the word "gripping" to describe one of the novels I've reviewed before. But Wildflowers from Winter is. Most of the truly emotionally-charged scenes had my heart pumping and my breath catching and tears welling along with the heroine, as I was easily able to imagine myself right there on the page with her.

And from a therapeutic perspective, I truly relished Bethany's motivation behind her actions. It was easy to see how the 12-year-old Bethany had taken over her thought processes into adulthood, which is, of course, faulty and dysfunctional. But oh-so realistic. I sighed in satisfaction as Bethany's story unfolded and her romance progressed. It all came together in the last few chapters so beautifully.

Katie, you're an amazing writer and I can't wait to see your name on more books just like this one. I'm tickled to get to read your stuff before everyone else gets the privilege. :)

I'm offering an ARC of Katie's book to one lucky blog follower (click button to the left to "follow"). Leave your email address in a comment below so I can contact you. Giveaway will end on Sunday.

Let's Analyze: When you cry reading a novel at work, what are ways you can pass this off as work-related?

Monday, March 19, 2012

St. Paddy's Day Drama

On Saturday, we decided to head to the snow-covered mountains about an hour inland from where we live on the northern California coast. We hopped in my husband's truck, armed with snow gear, tire chains, McDonald's, and Thomas the Train DVDs. We were ready for epic family adventure.

We bundled our little girl up very much like Ralphie on A Christmas Carol. (She could put her arms down, but think  l a y e r s  here. This becomes vitally important later in the story. And I know you moms out there know exactly where I'm going with this. Points to you all.) Here she is, being pulled in our sled up hill as we snowshoed.

We made it to a secluded destination, away from all the other riffraff out there sliding around. We had epic family adventure, including the joint undertaking of making a snowwoman, complete with frond-like locks and a little chest hair.

I got the slide in of my life. Started out very gently, then I leaned back and literally took off screaming. Here I am on my way to the exhilarating ride of a lifetime. (I did manage to convince Maddy that her Mommy was actually very excited instead of afraid...and that was a part-truth. The excitement came after I realized I wasn't going to inconveniently careen off the side of the mountain.)

Just as Dad was making his way to outdo my sledding prowess, Maddy starts the bathroom dance. Usually it's a gentle flitting about, but this time, she's gyrating as if her life depended on it. She said, "Mommy! I have to go the bathroom right now.  I've needed to go this whole time!" Now whether that meant she had just held it or simply gotten too excited in the events of the day to actually remember she needed to go, I will never know. I took one look at her in all of her gear and paraphernalia and almost said, "Forget it. We'll never make it in time." How's that for mom of the year? "Go ahead and pee on yourself. We've got a change of clothes."

Of course, we didn't do this. My husband and I went into lock-down mode. I was very focused on getting toilet paper from our pack. He was very focused on getting her undressed. I still don't know why I focused on the paper. Of course, I'm a female, and paper is a dire need. At any rate, we peeled clothes off her like we were in a race. She's crying, saying she's cold, and we're like, "Don't pee on yourself! Hold it!" I'm sure this was very traumatic for her, as was having to pee with her butt extended up, suspended mid-air by her father's arms and arcing a spray that would rival a tomcat.

I should mention that this occurred around 3 p.m., and Maddy was most definitely feeling a sudden onslaught of exhaustion. My husband hands her to me, in flagrante, while he gets the paper. We finally get her clothes back on (panties, sweatpants, overall bibs, snow shoes, overcoat, gloves, hat) and I just hold her to get her to calm down.

The trip is ruined. She wants to go home, but we're still 35 minutes from the truck or so. We lay her out in the sled like we're on a rescue mission and the sled is our litter. She falls asleep as we trudge back to the truck, occasionally wincing as some wayward snow from our shoes falls around her face. We didn't even get a family photo.

This type of drama in our family isn't a one-time kind of thing. We've gone out to the mountain a few times and have usually wound up asking ourselves why we try to do certain things with a child. We want her to have fun with us, of course, but perhaps we're still learning that age-appropriate limit? It was just sad to see such fun spiral out of control so quickly. Everyone was ticked off, Maddy was traumatized, I feel sure, and in my best therapeutic voice, I soothed her with cold McDonald's fries.

Let's Analyze: Tell me I'm not alone in this thing called parenthood drama.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Unpubbed Writers Need Vacations Too

Whatever your thoughts and feelings about Family Guy, this is one link that all my writer friends will get a kick out of. There was nothing offensive (at least to me) in this clip...just good laughs.

Friday, March 16, 2012

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!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Character Clinic: Scott Byron Aylward

Today I've got Katherine's murder mystery character on my couch. Scott is a very effective detective. He's married to a surgical nurse, and at home, he's messy, disorganized, and unfocused. A girl in his hometown is murdered, and Scott often feels compulsion to seek justice for victims. Lately, he's been a mess. He's starting to drink and forget to eat, running compulsively, and spending his own time hunting down leads on the home-town girl's murder. His wife recently left him, getting tired of waiting for him to "grow up."

Katherine wants to know: Scott is in therapy, but doesn't see that he needs to learn to be happy with or without his wife. Nor does he see that winning his wife back is an unrealistic goal. What would you as a therapist tell him to do? What exercises would you suggest for him to follow to gain focus?

Oooh! I true therapy question. I must say that if you ask twelve therapists, you'd get twelve different answers, but I'm honored you chose me. :)

Many times clients come in with unrealistic goals. It's not for me to tell them that the goal isn't feasible, but for them to come to that realization on their own. I might start out with a discussion about what things in their life they have control over, and what things they don't. I break out a chart like the one below to give structure to this activity.

I then have the client list all the things that they would like to see change. As the person lists everything (and usually it is a litany), I plug each item into the right box.

So Scott wants to his wife to come back. This would fall in Box 4, since it isn't something he can do himself (she has to come back) and it isn't a change that happens internally for her. It's a physical, external change of location/marital status. If he said he wanted to "grow up" and take more responsibility in his life in order to get his wife back, this would fall in Box 1, because it happens internally, and only he can make this change.

What clients usually see is that the only thing they have 100% control over is Box 1. In fact, control slips further and further away as you go to Boxes 2, 3, & 4. I usually will play devil's advocate and ask questions that help the client arrive at this conclusion.

Therapy is about internal change affecting external change. At least it is to me. There are lots of things you can do to get immediate external relief, but unless you change internally, the external change doesn't usually stick. It's a lot of work, so I hope to help clients not worry about what other people are doing, and focus on themselves. Perhaps this exercise will help Scott do that.

I'm open to answering additional questions about this method if you have any. I think it could make a compelling scene with him in therapy coming to this conclusion.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Lesson in Subtext...for Men

Below are nine words women use...and what they actually mean. You men out there will thank me. You women out there will have to pick yourself off the floor, b/c this is absolutely hysterical. And true!

(1) "Fine"  
This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.
(2) "Five Minutes" 
If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.
  (3) "Nothing"  
This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.
  (4) "Go Ahead" 
This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!!
(5) Loud Sigh 
This isn't actually a word, but it is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)  
(6) "That's Okay"
This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. "That's okay" means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.
(7) "Thanks"  

A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you're welcome. (I want to add in a clause here - This is true, unless she says 'Thanks a lot' - that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say 'you're welcome'.. That will bring on a 'whatever').
(8) "Whatever"

Is a woman's way of saying...Go to the place where the sun don't shine...
  (9) "Don't worry about it, I got it" 
Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking 'What's wrong?' For the woman's response refer to # 3.

I wish I could claim this as original to me, but alas, my dear father sent it to me in one of his many forwards. I scoured the internet and found many renderings, but no origin. If anyone knows, please let me know in the comment section.

Happy Monday!

Let's Analyze: Any other words or phrases we could add to the list for our menfolk to learn from?

Friday, March 9, 2012

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!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Character Clinic: Scott Byron Aylward

Today I've got Katherine's murder mystery character on my couch. Scott is a very effective detective. He's married to a surgical nurse, and at home, he's messy, disorganized, and unfocused. A girl in his hometown is murdered, and Scott often feels compulsion to seek justice for victims. Lately, he's been a mess. He's starting to drink and forget to eat, running compulsively, and spending his own time hunting down leads on the home-town girl's murder. His wife recently left him, getting tired of waiting for him to "grow up."


Oops. Clearly this one wasn't ready to post, as I was waiting to hear back from the author. Will repost next week.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Psychotic Characters: The Lust Behind the Kill

Today will conclude my series on serial killers....mainly because it's just too dark to post regularly about! But don't worry, I'm sure I'll revisit it at some point in the future. Never say never, right? If you missed the other posts in this series, then click here and here.

We last ended with a brief description of the types of serial killers out there, but I promised to go a bit deeper with the Lust Killers, as these are the ones projected in the media the most, perhaps because they are the most disturbing to those who are sane.

Lust Killers basically have sexual gratification as their main motivation. They almost always exhibit sadism (inflicting pain on others for their pleasure). They usually are not opportunistic killers, but rather highly organized, with vast amounts of planning and forethought put into their kills.

Infamous "Lust Killer" Ted Bundy
They tend to go through four phases:

Fantasy - they act out the crime over and over in their mind, maybe with use of pornographic material. The desire to kill is manifested, and this time period may last years before they progress to phase two.

The Hunt - the killer might be focusing on primarily on the "right" type of victim, or he may focus on the "right" type of location. Once he finds the victim, he may stalk them (hunting) for a long time, memorizing their schedule down to the minute. It could take many more years to go through this phase, and cover 100s of miles.

The Kill - the victim is lured into the trap and then the killer makes real on his fantasy. Depending on how elaborate the kill ritual is, this could take a while....several days or longer, even. There will almost definitely be "overkill," in that there could be extreme torture, mutilation, or dismemberment. The killer might have sex with the corpse, drink their blood, eat body parts ( asked for this!)...whatever they can do to preserve their moment of ecstasy however they can. The killer might take a token of their kill or leave a calling card, but not always.

Post-Kill - the killer will likely feel empty or depressed, because their torment was only relieved short-term. More lives will have to be taken in order to have temporary relief. It would be during this stage that a killer would write a confession to the police or media. Unless caught, it is inevitable that he will kill again.

So how's that for a happy ending to a post, huh? Hope that this helps you with your serial killer development.

Let's Analyze:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Compulsive Email Binges?

How many of you go on email binges? And by that, I mean you sit down one night and respond to all these emails that loosely require a response? I confess to doing this. And I also confess that my reason for doing so is two-fold:

1) I'm compulsive at times. I see unanswered emails in my inbox and it bothers me knowing that the virtual ball's in my court. I'd rather fling it back over to the other person and delete the email, knowing that now the burden rests with my friend/acquaintance to keep up the correspondence. In so doing, I might even copy/paste some parts of a basic "catch-up" email to expedite the process. (Is that bad?)

2) I like receiving email. The more, the merrier. I love to open my email and see tons of personal messages, not messages from various loops I'm a member of, Groupon's daily deal, or chances to increase male anatomy that I do not have.

So I email people all at once, sometimes 15-20 folks, then I sit back and wait for the bounty to arrive. I take great pleasure is weeding out them out of the large amount of email I receive.

Let's Analyze: Am I alone in the world doing this? Does anyone else out there do the same thing? I guess I want to make myself feel better. :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Favorite TV Show: AWAKE

If you haven't had the chance, my readership would really enjoy NBC's new psychological drama. I am in love with the idea behind the show:

Following a tragic car accident, detective Michael Britten finds himself awake in two separate realities: one where his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, "Saving Grace"), died in the crash and his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen, "Terriers"), survived and another where Hannah has perished, leaving Michael and Rex to pick up the pieces. In order to keep both of his loved ones alive, Michael begins living in two dueling realities, churning up confusion. In one reality, Michael and his wife debate having another child, while in the other, his son Rex is turning to his tennis coach, Tara (Michaela McManus, "The Vampire Diaries"), to fill the void from the loss of his mother.

Trying to regain some normalcy, Michael returns to solving crimes in both worlds with the help of two different partners, Detective Isaiah "Bird" Freeman (Steve Harris, "The Practice") and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama, "That '70s Show"). Michael is assigned a different case in each reality and quickly discovers that his dual existence is actually a powerful tool. He begins to solve impossible cases by using his two realties to gain unique perspectives and link clues that cross over from world to world.
One of Michael's therapists says that his mind
is like a mobius strip. WAY COOL.

Helping Michael to navigate his two realities are his bureau-assigned therapists Dr. Evans (Emmy Award-winner Cherry Jones, "24") and Dr. Lee (BD Wong, NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"). While both therapists work to untangle his two worlds, Michael has no interest in proving either one is false. But when memories of the accident begin to haunt him, he is forced to confront the truth about what really happened the night of the crash.

How AWESOME is that? If you missed the first show, you can watch a trailer below:

I'm going to be following this series very closely and do my best at diagnosing him....but wowza! I'm not even sure where to start because the show does such a good job of keeping you guessing (which is the big draw) about which reality is real!

I gave a big sigh after watching this. Let me know what you think in the comments! I might have to do a running analysis or something. Way fun.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Little Stephen King

My favorite is the little dark-haired boy cowering behind the seat. Happy Weekend, and happy anniversary to my brother and sister-in-law!!

Friday, March 2, 2012

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!!