Don't you love it when you have an epiphany? When realizing one tiny thing starts a chain reaction in your brain and you finally understand a problem that you've been facing? I just had one of those tonight!
I have a chapter where one of my characters is sent to therapy because of an incident that occurs to them. They're sent as a precautionary measure, but what comes out of this visit leads to a whole subplot and eventually leads to the introduction of one of my other main characters.
As a person who's been in therapy before, when I heard that my character was being sent to talk to someone about how an event affected her, my mind immediately flew to the realms of therapy, psychiatrists, the stereotypical couch, and the "how do you feel about that..." nonsense.
Running with this idea, I went so far as to ask a friend who is working on his Ph.D. on this topic to ask for help. I want the scene to be as realistic as possible so it won't "rip the reader out of the story" as some authors describe it. I don't want anyone associated with the mental health field who would read it to stop and say, "What was she thinking when she wrote this?"
Well, anyway... he came over for dinner last night and we discussed this therapist character. I've been having a lot of trouble picturing him, so we were trying to figure out what type of psychiatrist he is. Sounds simple enough... yeah right! Everything that I "know" about this guy just didn't seem to fit with what a psychiatrist is. The night ended with me planning on just writing the scene and hoping for the best. Then I would send the draft to my friend and he'd tell me what changes I needed to make to make it realistic. And if that didn't work, he was going to stage a mock-therapy session with me pretending to be the character in question. Now while I can write from the perspective and personality of Casey, actually vocalizing and acting like her would have been difficult.
Well today, while researching the types and wording of possible questions that could appear in an initial visit with a therapist, I stumbled across something that made everything "click" in my head. I happened to scroll past a heading that read, "The differences between therapists and counselors," or something like that. It was at this point that I realized that my "therapist" isn't a therapist at all! He's a counselor! I read information on the role of a counselor and my guy fits it perfectly.
It even makes more sense in the grand scheme of things for him to be a counselor. This character works for a police academy in the story. It just makes more sense that a counselor would work in this setting than a psychiatrist. And a counselor probably wouldn't have any problems with giving advice during an initial visit because sometimes that's all they ever see of the person.
Now, right now I'd love to put my hand up in the good old girl scout salute and vow to never make assumptions about new characters ever again. To allow them to take whatever time and means necessary to introduce themselves to me so I avoid all of this confusion next time. While I'd love to say this... I know that it's not going to happen. Sure, it sounds good on paper (or the screen in this instance), but I know that I'll keep doing this. You know that I'll keep doing this. So I'll just save myself the trouble of making a post in a month starting off with, "You know a little bit ago when I said..."
So no, I won't promise to never ever do this again. But I will promise to always trust my gut feelings on my characters. I won't change them to fit some preconceived notion that I've created for them. I write character-driven stories. If I start ignoring my characters and try to force them to do things "my way" then I will lose what I think makes my stories good. I love the personal feelings that character-driven stories present. They seem so realistic and you're really able to connect with the characters on a personal level. This connection is an important thing for a book to possess in order to become one of my favorites and I hope that someday the fact that I write in this style will make my book(s) favorites for others.
Well, until I blog again!
Talk 2ya Later...
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