Friday, June 3, 2011

The Character Therapist: Dig Deep into Your Character

Happy Friday, all!
My bloggy friend, Jeannie Campbell is on a blog tour to launch her brand new website:
The Character Therapist! It's an on online therapy service for fictional characters.

Here's a little bit about Jeannie:

Jeannie Campbell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. She is Head of Clinical Services for a large non-profit and enjoys working mainly with children and couples. She has a Masters of Divinity in Psychology and Counseling and bachelors degrees in both psychology and journalism. Two of Jeannie’s “therapeutic romance” manuscripts have garnered the high praise of being finalists in the Genesis Contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), of which she is an active member. She writes a popular monthly column for Christian Fiction Online Magazine and has been featured in many other e-zines, newspapers, and blogs.

Ok. So you may be thinking that's great, but...

How can a published or aspiring writer benefit from character therapy?

1) It will help you write characters more realistically
.
Using a search engine to find out information about a mental disorder yields a very different result than asking a therapist who has treated those same problems in real life. Instead of getting a bunch of stale facts, I can help you breathe life into your characters while taking into consideration your unique story world.

2) You can plot more feasibly.
Plotting the external conflict around your character’s internal conflict is essential to create tension on every page. Understanding the character’s driving goals and motivation in relation to their emotional state will help you figure out what plot points need to occur to maximize the character’s arc to its fullest potential.

3) You will avoid clich├ęd or incorrect depictions of mental disorders.
Jeannie's passion is helping those not afflicted with mental disorders understand those who are. Since one in four adults have a mental disorder, the likelihood of one of your characters having one is pretty high. But you want every nuance to ring true about the character, not feel cardboard cutout or stereotyped. So pick her brain instead of yours to avoid pitfalls of re-writing later.


Jeannie helped me out a few months ago when I was plotting a new romance. I don't normally write about deep subjects, so I wanted to get a better handle on the motivation of my hero who was in an automobile crash. His brother had died and he survived. So I emailed Jeannie my questions and asked her to talk about "survivor's guilt" for me. You can read the article HERE.

I not only wanted a clear understanding of what he would be going through, but I wanted to make sure I got my hero's symptoms and actions correct too, and that his motivations made sense to a reader. Her thoughts and insight really helped and I plan on using her for future characters. (Get ready, Jeannie!) LOL


Any kind of writer can benefit in having strong believable motivations, but I personally think for ROMANCE writers it is an essential.


Why?

Because at the beginning of any romance, you have two individuals with "issues". (Otherwise, you'd have no story) LOL Sometimes we writers like to call this internal conflict. But basically, it's some belief or lie that your characters have been taught, told, or shown in their life. This belief is what is keeping them from having a happy healthy relationship with another person. Until that issue is resolved, they cannot be happy in their relationship and have the happily ever after the reader is looking for in the end. Having a strong understanding of your character's motivation and internal issues will ultimately bring a deeper emotional experience for the reader as well.



Think your characters might benefit from some couch time now?

If you do, then email Jeannie.


CONTEST: Jeannie has generously offered to giveaway a copy of her Writer's Guide to Creating Rich Back Stories.


Giveaway will run from now until midnight (EST) Sunday, June 5th, 2011.



I will draw a commenter and announce the winner on Monday.





Thanks and have a great weekend!

46 comments:

Em-Musing said...

A character therapist? How cool is that? LOVE IT! Will definitely be checking it out. Thanks, and have a great weekend too.

Cynthia Selwyn said...

I've got a character who suffers from agoraphobia and the book has stalled because I don't understand her very well. You'd think it would be easy to describe someone who's afraid to go outside, but when you try to put yourself into her p.o.v., you realize that if you're not agoraphobic, you can't relate to her reluctance/fear.

I think a character therapist is a great idea! Though, you do realize that means Jeannie will be a therapist not for the people who hear voices in their heads, but for the voices writers hear in their heads... :P

Nina Croft said...

I was thinking my characters don't really have any mental disorders, then I read Jeannie's answer on survivor's guilt, and I realized that's exactly what my hero is suffering from. I'm off to read it again!

Laura Pauling said...

Awesome contest! I always need help with characters! Thanks Jeanie! And Jennifer.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I know she's worked hard on this launch. Cool of you to host her and that you used her expertise.

I had the pleasure of rooming w/ her last year at ACFW.

A gem.
~ Wendy

Anne Gallagher said...

I don't know about my characters, but I know I could use a little couch time. Lol. Think she'd see me for an hour on Wednesday?

Linda G. said...

What an interesting idea! Though I think a therapist might run screaming (or maybe just giggling) from some of my characters. ;)

Linda Kage said...

I've been to Jeanie's blog before, and she really does offer excellent advice. If I ever get back to the WIP with my whacked out Split personality heroine, I'm definitely going to contact her!!

Jessica R. Patch said...

I just pictured one of my characters on her couch! Excellent! Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.

katcantrell said...

I so need something like this! I have a character who suffers panic attacks. I never realized how difficult it would be to write. Thanks for the contest!

blueviolet said...

I'm sending this on to my writer guy, who could probably really use this! Thank you.

Suze said...

An interesting concept-- that of therapy for characters. As a writer who always pens some version of boy meets girl within a larger framework, I can see how my boy and girl's issues have evolved into more intricate obstacles as I myself have developed and matured in my thinking.

Stimulating post.

Rula Sinara said...

This is an absolutely brilliant idea! I just marked the Character Therapist website as a favorite. Very cool!

Carolyn V said...

Awesome! That is insight that I could use for all my characters. (Now my creative wheels are turning.) =)

Patricia Bates said...

This is an amazing tool. Perfect for the new author or anyone whose been in the industry a while. I'd love to know more! Thanks for sharing.

Tamika: said...

Jeannie is an absolute gem! I love her blog and the rennovation is even more immaculate than before!

I need to get my hands on her guide:)

Enter me!
tamika(dot)eason(at)yahoo(dot)com

PW.Creighton said...

Great tool indeed. I've long advocated that the best way to create characters is to define and craft their psychological personas first. All motivations, actions and desires are driven by psychology and accepting that will create individuals that you follow through a story.

Janne said...

I included a character in a short story who had OCD, but he wasn't the MC and I only knew him from the outside. I'd like to write from his POV-- Jeannie's blog sounds like a great resource.

Kristi said...

This is too cool! What a great resource for writers...thanks so much for sharing!

And Jennifer? I want to hear more about this plotted book you're working on...I'm intrigued!

Tana Adams said...

I love Jeannie! She actually helped me untangle a major issue with one of my characters once! *waves at jeannie*

Lynn said...

Jeannie sounds like she has a wealth of knowledge to share and I look forward to soaking some of it in!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

em - thanks! i'll look for you.

cynthia - believe me, the irony isn't lost on me at all. :)

nina - glad the post was helpful.

laura and wendy - thanks girls!

anne - i can definitely pencil you in. :)

Liz said...

What a really cool idea! *eyes WIP* Yes, I think I know two characters that could benefit from a little couch time. LOL.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

linda g - give me a try and see. :)

linda kage - i'll look forward to it.

jessica and kat - thanks!

blueviolet - i appreciate the "Referral!"

suze, rula, carolyn and patricia - thanks so much!

tamika - hope you win girl! thanks for the kudos. :)

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

PW - couldn't agree more.

janne - i def. got stuff on OCD...check it out.

kristie - thanks!

tana - *waving back*!!

lynn and liz - i'll look for your MCs on the couch some day. :)

Amber said...

What a fascinating concept!

Laura Marcella said...

I'm a follower of Jeannie's site and it's fantastic! Definitely helpful when planning out my characters' development.

Janna Qualman said...

It's an AWESOME (and needed) niche she has! Congrats, Jeannie! And thanks for this feature, Jennifer.

Susanne Drazic said...

A Character Therapist? What an interesting idea. I enjoyed the blog post.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

Amber and Susanne- thanks. I thought long and hard about what could bring to the blogging world... And this was it!

Laura and Janna- thanks for the follow and the encouragement!

Kimberly Franklin said...

This is such great info! Thank you so much for sharing!! :)

Silke Juppenlatz said...

Great idea, and most likely very useful.
I tend to know my characters inside out, make notes, interview them, see what makes them tick.
Usually before I start their story.
I know what they had for breakfast, and what their favorite toy was. Which teacher they hated and why.
None of this ever makes it into the book, but it shapes them, like it shapes us.
Definite thumbs up for doing everything you can to get it right.

Bossy Betty said...

What a cool idea!

Nancy said...

This is great news for anyone starting a novel and wanting to get the character's motivations and thoushts right. I'm not doing a novel now, but this is neat.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yay for Jeannie! I think character therapy is an awesome idea and have only heard good things about the information she's provided :)

Mary Aalgaard said...

I like reading Jeannie's therapy blog. I know just where to go if I have issues for my characters.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

kim, betty, nancy - thanks for your enthusiasm!

cindy - you are a sweetheart, as always.

mary - that makes me feel so good, thanks!

MJKane said...

Wow, this is an interesting concept. I've gone to B&N and looked through books written for writers who are looking to delve deep into their characters. Having someone who is willing to assist writers (live person!) is awesome! Thanks for the opportunity Jeannie!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL I forgot you were also involved with the blog tour today, Jennifer.

Cheryl Klarich said...

Very relevant idea... It's so annoying when characters are flat and stock...
I'm intrigued by this. :)

Jessica Nelson said...

I think she's soooo smart to be doing this!

Ann Lee Miller said...

Thanks for the chance to win Jeanie's book!
Ann_Lee_Miller@msn.com

TheBookGirl said...

What a great idea.

As a reader, I love it when I can tell that an author has taken the time to make a character's particular "affliction" authentic in every respect.

Sandra Cox said...

What a fascinating idea and tremendously helpful.

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