Psychology is absolutely fascinating to me. As a writer, it has done so much to help my characterization. Knowing some things about psychology has taken the guess work out of character development. Just start with the character’s childhood and you’ll know what to plug in.
I have a lot to cover here, so give me a moment to lay the ground work. The writer of Fifty Shades of Grey did not do any psychological homework. She made up mental conditions and random responses for Grey. Bottom line, the conditions Grey has do not come from the childhood he experienced. Also, the childhood he did have, never developed in the writing as they should have. I know this because I have a friend who just earned her Doctorates degree in psychology and she broke down Fifty Shades of Grey for me. The analysis I just provided came from her. Not me.
It took me seven years to write Dolor and Shadow and Lorlenalin’s Lies. More than 270,000 words broken over two fantasy novels. I finally saw the beginning of the end April 2014. I went through a final edit January/February 2015 and, in March I wrote “Broken.”
Between October 2014 and March 2015, I stumbled upon mental awareness and, like Don Quixote, I awoke from a 35 year old mental state I hadn’t known I was living in. The change in perspective threw me on my back side and suddenly I was questioning everything.
Remember Beautiful Mind when he realizes he has Schizophrenia and the room mate, child, and government agent were never real? That is where I have been since 1 April 2015. The worlds, the life, the reality I saw…none of it was real.
A few weeks later I was reading through a scene with Kallan. A cold sick settled over me as one clear truth rang through. All of Kallan’s characteristics were based on my old perspective on psychology, which I just learned was wrong.
Yep. Seven years of developing my main character…and it was wrong.
Kallan had a loving father and mother. She lost her mother when she was a child and then, ten years later, located a massacre of women and children. She blames herself for her mother’s death and also for being too weak to stop the massacre. She dedicates her life to becoming stronger then holds her father who dies in her arms: a reminder that, after all her work, she is still weak.
Here is where the psychology becomes deep. Kallan is ultimately unable to accept death and let go of her father. She slips into denial, the first of the five stages of grief. But Kallan takes this a step further. She uses vengeance to mask her denial and so launches a war for Rune’s head. Kallan denies her denial and when she has the chance to kill Rune, she let’s him go because her real goal is not vengeance. It is to hold onto her father for as long as she can. Kallan views the war as the last thing her father left her. Kallan wants to keep the war going to hold onto her father because the end of the war means she loses her vengeance and can no longer pretend her father is still with her. If the war ends, she will have to face her father’s death.
That is Kallan’s psychological make-up. Now…let’s look at the symptoms. I made Kallan withdrawn. She suppresses her emotions and shuts down. I made Kallan shut down so well, that she destroys her own life source, her Seidr. This will kill her if she doesn’t reverse it and soon.
Kallan has trust issues with Rune who she thinks killed her father. The trust issues are justified, but Rune witnessed her symptoms centuries earlier and watched his father and brother fall apart from the same symptoms. And Rune knows how to fix it. But Kallan is distance and emotionally disconnected and she won’t let Rune in.
This is where my reality check hit me. All these symptoms, Kallan’s emotional detachment, her suppression, and withdrawn state are my own issues. They are my own mental problems and psyche that I assigned to Kallan because I thought this was normal. But is it? I was panicking. With seven years of writing, two books, 270,000 words behind me, and a release date scheduled for May 31st, 2015, I didn’t have time to be wrong.
I called up my psychologist friend and gave her a crash course in Kallan and my psyche.
I have CEN. Kallan doesn’t. I have a distorted perspective, ego, and self-image (This may be BPD…Borderline Personality Disorder). Kallan does not. I am emotionally withdrawn because of my CEN, which Kallan doesn’t have. Kallan’s mother died when she was seven. She blames herself for that and also, had part of her memory erased during the grieving process so she never learned how to grieve or accept death. Is it logical to assume she would have emotional detachment?
After an hour long phone conversation in which I provided Kallan’s psychological profile, the psychologist was able to confirm that yes, Kallan’s psyche is dead on and yes, she would have symptoms similar to my own despite having two different diagnoses. She also explained why. I was relieved.
Basically, Kallan does have a form of CEN when she loses her mother. Also, it is common for a child to shoulder the blame at the death of a parent. Kallan takes this a step further by failing to stop the massacre and again, by failing to save her father who she becomes overly attached to after her mother dies. This makes her less likely to accept his death. Also, the memory suppression/mind tampering when Kallan’s mother died easily could be a reason why she can not grieve. She was prevented to grieve with her mother’s death and this enhanced her issue.
Emotional detachment and withdrawn could have developed from the CEN after her mother’s death, so I’m good!
But now, after my perception has changed, I look at Bergen and Rune…I look at Dagny (a character I develop in Book #3). I can’t help but wonder, how will I proceed to write about emotions and relationship characteristics that I know nothing about?
I am curious to see how I will handle this in the near future.