Psychology and characters

It’s a fact of life that if you marry a therapist, you get to hear about all sorts of psychological issues, theories and concepts. That’s how I heard about the Karpman Triangle.

Basically, Stephen Karpman (creator of the Karpman Triangle) explained that human beings go into one of the three unhealthy positions of the Triangle when conflict occurs. You either rescue, perpetrate or become the victim. He argued that none of them are healthy, rather they are all co-dependent…but, the point to us writers (yeah, sorry, I took a while to get to it), is that our characters should also go into these positions–at least, if they’re realistic.

Now, the neat thing is this post by Shawn Coyne on just this issue. He’s come up with this great exercise on how to use the Karpman Triangle to develop great characters.

“…focus on the imaginary people you’ve invented. Think about how each one of them would play one of these three roles when faced with a direct conflict.

How would he play the victim of someone else or a power out of his personal control?

How would he become the perpetrator, the character that loses his composure and unloads a bucket of bile on another character?

How would he play the rescuer, the character that steps in between these two combative forces and sides with the victim?”

Then he follows with an excellent example of just how to do that. Love it. What a fantastic idea, using psychology to get to know our characters better.

Thanks for the awesome post, Shawn!

 

The need for self-care

I see burnout every day at my DayJob. We work with the public and they can always use more of your time, your services or simply you. It’s really hard to put a boundary and say no but the alternative is burnout.

Writers experience burnout too. Driven by the thirst to find that elusive dream, I push myself and then push even more. Some times, I push too hard. I lose perspective. That’s why self-care is so important.

Jennifer Gresham wrote a fantastic post on burnout in her blog Everyday Bright. She warns about the danger of overachieving. “In my experience, dreams multiply over time. The more you accomplish, the more you will want and expect to accomplish.”

I don’t think she’s telling us to settle and not dream. I think she’s telling us not to burn out and to not miss out on what we already have accomplished. “The real tragedy is that my dreams often take away from the richness and joy I have in my life right now. …My #1 dream is to enjoy the life I have, not the life I think I should have.”

This is a topic that I don’t want to talk about. I don’t want to hear that my dream is taking away from my life. I’d like to hear how to keep writing and become more successful. But that’s denial and that won’t get me very far.

I loved Jennifer’s message and I want to thank her for having the courage to be honest instead of just pretending everything is fine.

She’s not alone. Here’s Barbara O’Neal’s post on writer burnout from Writer Unboxed and Shawn Coyne’s very positive post on the same subject from Steven Pressfield‘s awesome blog. And, one more for the road, this resourceful post on coping mechanisms for writers by Laekan Zea Kemp.

A big thank you to these writers for great, inspiring posts!