Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Author, Know Thy Character,

by Jeannie Campbell, LMFT


Character Therapist [kar-ik-ter ther-uh-pist] noun. A person trained in the use of psychological methods for diagnosing and evaluating fictional characters to help authors write more realistically.

This is what I do. So how can you—a published or aspiring writer—and your beloved characters benefit?

Rather than tell you, I’ll show you. Here are a few examples of the types of questions I field each week.

à“I have the man so tied to his mother that he can't break away from her. Do I need a good reason behind this?”

à“How would compartmentalizing parts of self damage a person? How would the buried parts manifest themselves? How easy would it be to slip up? He's pretended to be someone else for so long...what if he's that new person now, and can't find himself anymore?”

à“My character suffers from a head injury and has amnesia. Her memory will return by the end of the novel, but from my understanding, it typically returns a little a time. What would that be like? How would the character feel/react?”

à“Is it feasible for a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome to take a driving test, fail, and then want to take the test again?”

à“If someone has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and they are triggered, would they have “panic attacks” or something that would send them to the hospital for a few days?”

This is just a sampling of content areas a character therapist could help you with. Internal motivations, effects of external conflicts, plot feasibility, character strengths and weaknesses, behavioral manifestations or limitations…a character therapist’s playground.


The prevalence of mental disorders is astounding. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in every four adults has a mental disorder. TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT. So chances are you or someone you know has struggled with depression (often called the common cold of mental health), anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar, substance abuse, or sleeping disorders.

And what do we most often write about? What we know. So these disorders creep into our manuscripts often as a way to give a hero/heroine a vice (“He’s an alcoholic.”) or to explain away some secondary character’s erratic behavior (“She’s bipolar.”).

Mental disorders often become cliché or stereotyped, because what does the average author know about these disorders? You can Google them, sure, and you’ll get a lot of stale facts and criteria for diagnosing, but very little real-life answers as to how to portray these disorders—breathe life into them—for your characters.

That’s where I come in.


In real life, when you see a counselor, you typically have an assessment session. The counselor asks questions about your background, reason for coming in, etc. Information exchange is the only way for the therapist to get a feel for the client.

It’s the same with fictional characters. All I need to work with is a character sketch. I’ve gotten sketches that were a short paragraph to some several pages long. Some of the more fun assessments I’ve posted on my blog were the result of email “sessions” between the author and myself as we delved deeper.

If you have specific questions, that can help narrow down my focus. Otherwise, I look at the overall psychological picture you present of your character. Quirks, pet peeves, family history, hobbies…all these things add up! I might not diagnose every one of the characters I do therapy on, but quite a few of them qualify.

On occasion, I see a glaring omission from a therapeutic perspective. For example, how can a young heroine who has not experienced any real unconditional love from her parents or anyone else, recognize true love from the hero—much less trust it—if she hasn’t had some sort of example? I pointed this out to one author and she admitted, “It was a missing piece that popped into the light when you mentioned it. I knew there was something missing somewhere and that's what it was!!”

Other times feasibility can be an issue. For example, children with Asperger’s Syndrome typically fear social encounters. So it’s pretty unlikely that one who was able to conquer that fear enough to take a driver’s test would want to get behind the wheel again after failing. Another example of unfeasibility would be portraying a disorder in a stereotypical manner, like a bipolar character switching from manic to depressed back to manic in the span of two pages.


Characters are paramount to any story. Books have to have characters and those characters have to have problems, or you don’t have a book.

In order to resonate with our readers, our books should be authentic to human nature. Could anything be more important? Authors can spend inordinate amounts of time researching legal procedures and geographical locations, but if a character doesn’t ring true amidst all that, you’ve lost your reader and your chance to connect.

Character therapy is just one more tool in your toolbox to take your writing to the next level. Pick my brain so you don’t have to pick yours.


Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the value of this service and you’ve decided your characters need therapy. Now what do you do?

You just email me at charactertherapist@hotmail.com with the words character therapy in the subject line. In the body of the email (NOT in an attachment), include your first name, genre, time period, and your character sketch. Usually back story is taboo, but it’s preferred for therapists! I’ll send you a quick email to let you know I got the sketch and ask any additional questions if needed. Check back on my blog every Tuesday to see when your assessment is posted. I change all names to protect the fictional characters, but I identify each assessment by the author’s first name.

I look forward to therapizing…er…terrorizing…uh…analyzing your characters!

Jeannie Campbell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in northern California, though she claims Mississippi as home. She received her Masters of Divinity with Specialization in Psychology and Counseling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and her BA in psychology and journalism from the University of Mississippi. Her passion is helping those not afflicted with mental disorders to understand and have compassion on those who are. Her blog, Where Romance Meets Therapy, is where she posts her assessments on Treatment Tuesdays. On Thursdays, she writes a Therapeutic Thought to help writers benefit from her therapeutic skills. She can be reached at charactertherapist@hotmail.com.

Jeannie is offering a psychological analysis of your hero/heroine for the first three chapters of your manuscript (in addition to your character sketch), so be sure to leave a comment in the comment section today in order to be put in the drawing, and indicated you want to be included in the drawing! Drawing will be held at 8pm MST.


Katie said...

As Jeannie's crit partner and friend, I can vouch for her and say she is AWESOME! I love reading her posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, because they are very helpful, specific, and insightful! I would jump all over her service. :)

Tina M. Russo said...

Good Morning, Jeannie the Character Therapist.

Today we have therapeutic blueberry muffins and fresh fruit in your honor.

So basically your service helps the h/h thru the entire character arc?

We create the deviant and you are the master of how to help them grow and resolve their issues?

That's pretty amazing.

Ann said...

Fascinating. I checked out your blog and it's cool.

I wonder if characters' problems have changed over the years, reflecting society. (Just a random thought.)

Debra E Marvin said...

Sign me up. I was just telling my CP that it's very difficult to know if I'm doing justice to my heroine's issue. I've done the research but I want to make sure it's real. (And believe me, she needs help!)

What a great service. Now if I got the writer's portable therapist and my characters got some help, we'd all be much better off!

Thanks Jeannie and Tina!

Sandra Leesmith said...

How fun to have your characters analyzed. Thanks for joining us Jeannie. I know it really helps to have a psychologist look at characters so that they don't end up acting out of character.

What area in Northern California? That's where I'm from.

Muffins are yummy Tina. I have some Blue Agave nectar to spread on them. Help yourself.

Julie Lessman said...

JEANNIE!!!!!!!!!!!! It's SO good to see you here in Seekerville as a guest!! I had no idea you were a character therapist!! Could have used you three books ago, girl. You see, I have this really selfish Scarlett O'Hara-type character who could really use some good therapy ... :)

Uh, does it mean that I need a therapist myself if I had the urge to slap this character around in one of my books???


Tina M. Russo said...

Well it's still six am in Northern CA. So save some muffins for the therapist.

Jeannie Campbell said...

ladies, good morning! thanks for not having fruitcake. :) muffins are wonderful. yes, it's 6 a.m. here...making the sacrifice.

katie - you're awesome. enough said.

ann - you know that culture and time frame DO play a role in what is considered problems now. for example, in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 3rd edition, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. currently, we're using the 4th manual text revision, and it's no longer included.

sandra - i live up here in humboldt bay area...full of our own special mental disorder types. :)

julie - you make me laugh! i did a post about having countertransference on your characters...what's that about? YOU created her..... :)

Missy Tippens said...

Jeannie, thanks so much for your post this morning! And it was so interesting. What a cool service!

I can't wait to read your blog!

Mary Connealy said...

Julie, all right, the General Patton school of mental health.

Always an old stand-by.

Jeannie this is really interesting. We're always trying to get inside a character's head. And now there's someone who can make a really REASONABLE diagnosis of your character's personality and make sense at the same time.

I love it.

Are you a working therapist? (Mary says as she steps slowly away from the couch)

Jill Kemerer said...

Thank you so much for this service, Jeannie. I'm fascinated by human behaviour and always find out something new when I read your blog posts. Thanks again!

Lisa Jordan said...

It's amazing the number of resources a writer needs in order to truly understand her characters.

Very good post, Jeannie. Thanks for sharing. Off to read your blog!

Jeannie Campbell said...

mary, i AM a working therapist. happen to have an opening at 9 a.m. PST. should i pencil you in?

thanks, jill and lisa. humans are fascinating, aren't they?

Melanie Dickerson said...

Way cool!

I have this character who was orphaned as a young boy and was abused and neglected for a few years before becoming an apprentice for two bachelor brothers in their building business--this is in the 1800's. So, he grows up to be a nice guy, but in what ways would this abuse typically affect a person? Some people who are abused become abusers themselves, but some react differently. What are some ways this abuse might affect them?

Anybody know? Where would I go to research this?

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Seekerville, thanks for featuring Jeannie. I love reading her assessments and great advice on her blog.

I'd love to be entered in the draw.

Tina Pinson said...

Interesting Jeannie,

You're so right, we can spend alot of time filling in the historical research blanks, talking about the scenery, the clothes and so on, then our characters are nothing but stick people held up by the story window dressing.

I try to connect readers with my character's heart . . . but I'm sure I don't all the time.

I was just wondering, if I send my character to you, can she have a red velvet chaise to lay on? I promised her she'd be comfy if I sent her for therapy LOL

Mary Connealy said...

In my WIP I've really struggled with the heroine, which is different for me. I just realized she was flat. I had her personality in mind and couldn't seem to make her three dimensional. She's tough Texas cowgirl who insists or wearing pants and shooting and riding and roping with the men. Now that sounds like an interesting personality doesn't it?

Somehow I just couldn't make her come to life.

So, just recently, I did some major changes with her that have really made a difference.
Turns out she's a tomboy to earn her father's love, even though her father loves her completely. But he's her stepfather. Her father, who died when she was three, wanted a son and as a really little girl her personality formed around this idea that is she'd act like a boy her father would love her.

So now, enter new father who doesn't need her to be a tomboy to earn his love. But she is one and her new father loves her and she's got it in her head that he loves her BECAUSE of the way she acts.

And here's the quirk that turne her into a three dimensional character, she secretly loves ribbon and lace. She wears it under her mannish clothes, even hides bits of ribbon and lace from her mother so NO ONE will know this 'weakness' of hers.

The hero somehow finds out she loves girly things and is trying his best to love all sides of her. She's got to learn to trust someone will love her if she's feminine.

And, oh my gosh, you canno believe my verification word. I would totally SLAP Blogger if I could reach it. So rude.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Jeannie,

Thanks for your interesting post. How great to be able to delve into character's psyche like that.

One theme my characters seem to deal with constantly is GUILT. Overcoming that is usually key for their character growth.

Thanks for your insights!


Tess said...

Hi Jeannie! More great stuff, as always! I wonder what your office looks like...if you have piles of your therapy books all jumbled up with your character notes and all. I bet it's wonderful!

Jeannie Campbell said...

melanie - abuse affects people in so many different ways. it sounds like the abuse your character suffered was physical and not sexual? and neglect...that can lead to reactive attachment disorder. see this link for a post i did on that:


Jeannie Campbell said...

tina -

I'll roll out the red carpet on the way to red velvet chaise so as not to offend your character's sensibilities. :)

Jeannie Campbell said...

mary - your character sounds absolutely fascinating! i love the hidden quirk of a tomboy loving ribbons and lace. (which would make for a great title, by the way) i'll be really interested in reading how you bring about her transformation. i'm finishing up a book with a similar transformation...woman who believes she was attacked b/c she was attractive and dressed nice....so she hides her figure as a way to deal with what happened to her. i love outward transformation stories!

(okay...maybe not like michael jackson....but you get the idea)

Jody Hedlund said...

Jeannie, GREAT post!! I've said it before, but I'll say it again, you have an awesome brand! Maybe you'll even start a new romance genre: therapy romance. We have mysteries, medical, historical, suspense. Why not therapy!? :)

Mary Connealy said...

Something that I think is complex and fun and pretty hard to do well (I know because I try and fail) is the idea that people lie to THEMSELVES all the time. This is the root of denial like for addictions and co-dependency but also it happens in smaller ways.

So, to have a person who is lying to themselves, unknowingly, and they are by extension lying to people around them. And to do that in small, simple ways, and have the READER know they are lying to themselves...well, it's an interesting exercise.

In Bossy Bridegroom I had a very difficult relationship between an estranged husband and wife, trying to heal their marriage.

He had emotionally abusive tendencies. He knew it. He was trying to change. But I wanted to show HER part in that. How she put up with it. How instead of speaking up when he's be unkind, she'd instead blame herself. She'd sometimes change to meet what she thought were his wishes before he ever made a demand on him.

So he needed to be very honest with the way his actions and words affected her, but she also needed to know her part and face it and stand against her own willingness to be dominated by him.

Anyway, not sure how successfully I did it. I was tackling a pretty intense subject for a Heartsong Presents novel.
Someone told me that it should have been a longer book to handle it adequately.


Tina M. Russo said...

This is totally fascinating Jeannie.

So when you write a book, besides your own ability to recognize the character's flaws and how they deal with it and grow...

What writing tools do you use? Some are Heroes Journey groupies, or Dwight Swain, or like moi, Michael Hague. Anything that resonates with you as a therapist. Most closely models what you do naturally?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

What form of madness is this????

Character therapy?

Oh, mylanta, I JUST had my dog to the canine socio-therapist, now I've got to get my fictional characters psychological help? Jeannie, do you do dogs? It seems that my Golden Retriever Mick has always wanted to be a yellow golden, something about not being accepted by his maternal gold grandparents, but he's a RED golden and just can't bear a redhead's shame. I read him Anne of Green Gables and everything, but he can't relate because Anne's a girl and human besides. What's a dog owner to do????


I love the idea of having you get into characters' heads to make them more multi-dimensional and real. My very favorite, most wonderful, love-'em-always characters are the quirky ones that resonate.

And SO fun having you here. Can you REALLY help Mary? Because we're begging.

Loving the muffins. And Sandra, the whatever-it-is to put on them is delightfully different. Like you!

Jeannie, thanks so much for this. If I wanted to make an angry, cheated on, wealthy housewife seem less bitter and more funny, what would you suggest?

Stopping short of medicinal therapy, of course. So overdone.


Gina Welborn said...

Ooh, a therapist, says the girl who is shoving Mary away so she can sit on the couch.

I've always wanted to see a therapist so I could figure out if I had issues I didn't know about. I mean, really, how can I fix a flaw if I don't know about it. Although, I probably won't find one because I have so few flaws, and even those are quite adorable at that.


Can I at least take a nap on the couch?

Jessica said...

Gina, you crack me up!

Jessica said...

Hi Jeannie,
Awesome post! I agree with Jody that you have an incredible brand. Who knows, maybe you can charge for your services someday? LOL :-) I guess I better send my character thingy your way before that happens!

Jeannie Campbell said...

mary, my hat's off to you for writing a category length tackling codependency in an abusive relationship. i think it's great that you focused on HER in the relationship. so often, the focus is on the abuser, but not on how the spouse/partner enables that behavior. kudos!

Leigh said...

Great post,Jeannie -- what a fun thing to do! And a great way to tie in your real life with your love for writing.

My characters would love to have you analyze them sometime ... we'll just have to figure out how keep it a secret from them. But Hero is pretty zonked on morphine for pain at the moment, so maybe he'd be less suspecting ...

Jeannie Campbell said...

tina - as far as what resource i use the most, it's not one from the writing world. i use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (anyone can buy one of these, but they are pricy - about $70 new), but often i don't want to lug that around, so i use the desk reference version (about $35 new). this explains all the disorders out there (currently known) and what symptoms people have to have to qualify. of course, you then use the symptoms to layer in your story!

Lorna said...

Jeannie, I am absolutely fascinated, and what a wonderful way to combine your two professions! Have you ever met a character you couldn't help?

Jeannie Campbell said...

hi ruthy! hmm...you asked:

If I wanted to make an angry, cheated on, wealthy housewife seem less bitter and more funny, what would you suggest?

i'd suggest giving her an amusing vice, like narcolepsy at the most inopportune times (not that narcolepsy is funny...but you could WRITE is funny...) and then her droll reactions afterward or something. hmm...i'd have to think on it a bit more...

Jeannie Campbell said...

gina - you are welcome any time. :) I think i have an opening after mary leaves.

jessica - send it my way, babe.

leigh - thanks! i guess i started writing subconsciously utilizing my background as a therapist...but it wasn't until i started blogging that i really wanted to capitalize on it.

reading a book where the author quite literally has a bipolar character cycling between depression and mania several times within a few pages....just made me grit my teeth! so i set about to help writers write these very real disorders more realistically.

Mary Connealy said...

Jeannie, I'm so warm and fuzzy from your kind words, thank you.

And Gina, here's my advice, from someone who has been trying to change for DECADES LONGER THAN YOU'VE BEEN ALIVE.

I repeat this to myself when I'm laying (lying?) awake at night.

"If you can't change yourself, you can at least KNOW yourself."

So, don't buy yarn and vow to make the new grandbaby an afghan, just do not DO IT!!!!! It will never get made.

Do not buy one more piece of bric-a-brac for the house because it will never get dusted.

Do not buy expensive tennis shoes because YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO TAKE A WALK.

Well, I may still cling to that fantasy, that someday I'll take a walk.

Oh, here's one, do NOT give away the elliptical machine because you will instantly regret it because NOW if I had one, I WOULD use it. So then I'll buy another one (the fourth) so just keep it and use it for a coat hanger to save the money for a new one.

Jeannie Campbell said...

jody - like i said before, i really appreciate the compliment.

lorna - i haven't met one i couldn't help yet....but i'm sure he or she is lurking somewhere. i'm pretty new with this service for fictional characters. but if it's anything like real life, there will DEFINITELY be characters i can't help. :)

Tina M. Russo said...

THE DSM!!! I have an old copy. Ask me why offline.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

For chocolate I can TELL you why Tina has a DSM offline.

I mean, ask me offline, and I will tell you. What I really mean is, ask me off this loop, and I'll tell you. Technically, we'll still be online, but different.

Got it?

And M&Ms are fine.

But I need a BIG bag to rat out a friend.

The .79 size should just about do it. I'm that desperate.

And no comments about fixing the dog?????

Do blonde dogs have more fun?

Jeannie, I'm glad Gina asked for an appointment. Or a nap. Either would help.


They couldn't HURT. You get it.


Anybody in the mood for sweet tea? I brought some.

Tina M. Russo said...

Jeannie, put your fingers in your ears.

RUTH!!! Rat out a friend for chocolate?

And a .79 bag even.

I am so diappointed. I would have thought you would go for the pound size.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Excellent info! Thanks! :)

Jeannie Campbell said...

you're in luck. i've got a trip planned to walgreens here in a bit...maybe i'll pick up the pound size baf of M&Ms for good measure, ruthy. :)

tina...you definitely got me curious!

Gina Welborn said...

Russo, I'd rat you out for chocolate.

Oooh. A flaw. How exciting!!!

Mary, you are not decades older than me. Not. I just look young for my age. Or at least the age I'll admit to being.

Oooh. Another flaw. This is turning out to be an utterly exciting day. I love talking to Jeannie, my therapist. And this couch is so comfy.

Mary Connealy said...

But I look young for my age, too. All the other folks at my assisted living center say so.

So we're back to DECADES LONGER

Raynene said...

OK ladies, I'm the newbie to this bolog site and Jeannie, you have a new fan! I will definitely contact you for help with my characters. And, I get the countertransferrance thing! Been there, done that, will probably do it again. Delightful to read all the posts and be part of a community! And actually get what's being talked about!

Jeannie Campbell said...

gina - so far, we've covered vanity and disloyalty during this session. anything else you want to discuss?

raynene - i'll look forward to hearing from you!

Katie said...

Okay - I am getting such a kick out of all these comments. You are all very funny people.

PatriciaW said...

Outstanding post, Jeannie. As her other crit partner, I can also tell you she's wonderful, both in her analyses and in her crits. :)

I will say that the writer needs to spend some time really thinking about her character in order to make the most of Jeannie's services. Then you'll know what best to ask, and how to use these great insights to enhance your story. Just wait until I turn you loose on Ashley and Freda, Jeannie!

Jeannie Campbell said...

katie...hope you're feeling better.

patricia! thanks for that plug. you are SO right. the character sketches that i don't get enough on i end up having to email the author and ask for more, or ask them what they want me to focus on. so if you already have that in mind, things will be so much easier for me and useful for you.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Who paid Katie?

Gotta be Connealy.

I'm too cheap.




You're so right.

I should have held out for the ginormous Sam's Club 39 oz. bag of peanut M&M's.

What was I thinking?

Hey, there's still time.

And Jeannie, I think this gives you even more to go on when fixing characters. Tina's a character. So is Mary.

Gina's just plain certifiable. Gina, dear, don't you have a poopy diaper or something to tend to?


Gina Welborn said...

gina - so far, we've covered vanity and disloyalty during this session. anything else you want to discuss?Gee, Jeannie, did you have to make my itty bitty teeny weeny minor flaws sound so...so...well, so high-school-cheerleadery?

You can have your chair back, darlin'. Besides being crafted of the finest red seude and having the most amzing ergonomical fit to a gal's back, it's really not a comfy place to snooze. I hear Mary's retirement villa has a foot masseuse and a sexy pirate barista.

Ruthy, you should have held out for the ginormous M&M bag. I always say if you're gonna be bribed, go above and beyond the call of duty. Walk that extra mile. Do unto others. Ask and you shall receive, sister!

Now about that poopy diaper...

Seriously, therapist chick, you gave me some great stuff to think about in relation to those imaginary people I talk to. Good post, Manyard.

You know, I think I'm just gonna take the couch with me as I leave.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jeannie, your post is fascinating! Trust me, I've had characters who could've used your services. But now they're in print. Too late for them. Maybe the next book.

With the length of that line for your couch, I'd say it's not just our characters who could use your insight. LOL


sherrinda said...

Jeannie! You are just too cool for words! I just love what you do and learn soooo much each time write. Amazing! Loved your PTSD blog today too. :)

Mary Connealy said...

I'm so glad you came. Raynene has been to college for decades longer than Gina has been alive.

Ruthy, if we give you the M & M's will you promise to behave in front of Raynene?

And I think the main allure of psychotherapy is the couch. And since my life is destined to put the therapist to sleep two, we'll need a second one.

I'm into revisions on an old book now. Man, I love these two, they are the most snippy, difficult pair you've ever seen run 1000 head of cattle through a mountain pass.

One of them will NOT survive, unless of course, they fall in love. :)

Krista Phillips said...

*krista pops a stale blueberry muffin into her mouth*

Very cool Jeanie!!!! Love your character therapy:-) I'll have to try it out!!!

Tina M. Russo said...

The lovely and not yet potty trained, Debra E. Marvin is our winner today. Debra drop the character therapist a howdy at her email address:


Tina M. Russo said...

Jeannie, thanks so much for being our guest today and for putting up with our witty repartee etc.

We appreciate your generosity with your time and expertise!! (you got two exclamation points for that)

Jeannie Campbell said...

hey ya'll. i'm so sorry that i've been absent from the discussion here lately...but my daughter got bit by a dog!! so i've been in the ER all afternoon. but thanks for having me here on seekerville! i've enjoyed it so much! :)

look forward to hearing from debra!

Tina M. Russo said...

Oh, Jeannie. Prayers for a fast recovery for your daughter.

Tina M. Russo said...

As you can see..sigh...we can entertain ourselves. Add one part Gina, one part Mary and one part Ruthy and we are off...in so many ways.

Mary Connealy said...

Jeannie! I'll be praying for your daughter, and for all of you.


Jeannie Campbell said...

thanks for the prayers. she got bit in the face...on her lip. had to have one stitch. her mother took it worse than she did, i think. she seems to be okay this evening...a little needy, but gosh...i can't imagine why. i've already had my breakdown - yes, therapists do, too - and i'm about to crash from being so emotionally drained. please keep her in your prayers! thanks so much.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Jeannie, prayers for your daughter.

And I write a GREAT eulogy for dogs.


Kisses to her sore lip...

Mushy, gentle, mommy kisses.

Ruthy (Who CAN be nice, when pressed)

Catana said...

"For example, children with Asperger’s Syndrome typically fear social encounters. So it’s pretty unlikely that one who was able to conquer that fear enough to take a driver’s test would want to get behind the wheel again after failing."

I stumbled across your blog, thanks to my Google alert for Asperger's. I certainly hope your advice about characters isn't as uninformed as your advice about Asperger's. Just to set the record straight--people with Asperger's have problems with some social encounters. That doesn't necessarily involve fear. And not only do many aspies repeat their driver's test, they get their licenses and drive cars, just like everybody else. And, just to help you along, children don't usually take driver's tests.

Jeannie Campbell said...

catana - unfortunately, when doing character therapy, i have to make generalizations based on the human population with a certain disorder. sounds like you know a few aspies who do NOT fall into these generalizations. but to be fair, i did use words like "typically" and "unlikely" to indicate general conclusions. sorry to have offended in any way.

Tina M. Russo said...

Thanks for your input Catana.

Just like any psychological issue, my husband the psychiatrist would have said, everyone is unique and different.

We all perceive the world from our own bias don't we?

Thanks for posting and if you have any other insights on how writers can portray Asperger's feel free to share.

May we email you our questions?

Again, thanks again to Jeannie for being with us and we wish you much success with Character Therapy. Thanks for the open door to visit your wonderful site.

Catana said...

While I appreciate your very courteous answer, "typically" and "unlikely" don't serve, simply because the behavior you describe isn't typical. Your blog seems to be about not generalizing and trying to help people write more realistically, so why is generalizing acceptable in this instance? Authentic characters are based on specific traits, not on vague generalizations. So, it is entirely feasible for a teen to take the test, fail it, and try again.

And yes, I do know some aspies, and I am one myself, but my comment has nothing to do with personal experience. It's based on wide reading, much of it written by aspies. I'm not offended by your interpretation, simply concerned that what you said, in this instance, is not only inaccurate, but contradicts your own claims. Since Asperger's is much in the news these days and has become something of a subject du jour for novelists, I try to counter misinformation whenever I can.

Tina M. Russo said...

Thanks for your input, Catana.

Did you want to leave an email address for question?

Mary Connealy said...

Jeannie, thanks so, so much for being on today. It's one of the most interesting, thought provoking posts we've ever had, except for all the stuff Tina writes, of course.

(We have to say that. Tina got a court order!)

Talking about Character's the way you did is really taking character development to a new and deeper level.

Loved having you on Seekerville.
Hope you get lots of hits on your own blog through this and lots of crazy characters to analyze.
Where Romance Meets Therapy

Tina M. Russo said...

LOL. You weren't supposed to mention the court order. Although a gag restraint is totally useless with you. I told the judge that.

Catana said...

Tina, I'm glad to answer questions, but probably not on the blog. I now see that this a group blog, and I would prefer not to field random questions from one and all. If there is someone who is specifically interested in Asperger's (you?) I'm willing to get into email communication. I'll send you an email.

I've avoided participation in writing groups/blogs, but will follow this one, at least for a while. It looks interesting.

Tina M. Russo said...

Thanks, Catana. Looks like we can reach you through your website.

Constance Marquise said...

Hi, Jeannie: This sounds like an awesome service and one that I will be making use of. Probably often. I'm so glad to learn about it. I'd love to be entered into the drawing. Thank you.

Connie Marquise

Katie said...

When do we get to find out who the lucky winner is for the contest? As this conversation is wrapping up, I just want to throw this out there one last time. Jeannie has been such a blessing to me as both a friend and a crit partner. I know how much time and effort she puts into her character therapy. She has such a heart for this stuff! Thanks Jeannie!!

Susanne Dietze said...

Great post, Jeannie! When you looked at my (disintegrated!) hero, you truly helped me articulate his issues, backstory, and needs! I appreciate your service and kindness.

Are there any good muffins left?

Tina M. Russo said...

Scroll back a few hundred posts. This has been quite a popular post as you can see.

Debra Marvin the baby faced one, won last night at 8 pm MST as promised.

She hooted and hollered loudly. I heard her in Colorado.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love the ins and outs of bringing characters to life, the subtle nuances that liven them up for a reader.

Jeannie, what a pleasure it's been to have you! Of course, it DID cost me Tina's friendship, Mary's respect and Gina's abiding love, but hey, chocolate is SO worth it.

And luckily they're the forgiving sort.

Or so old their short-term memories are totally fried.

Thanks, Cupcake!


Katie said...

This is SO odd... but I scrolled through every single post, and I can't find a single one from Debra! I noticed the time of posts jumps from 6:30 to 10:30 when Jeannie comments a congrats to Debra.... very odd, don't you think? Why do you suppose I cannot read them?

A late congrats to Debra!

Pam Hillman said...

Jeannie, Thanks for such an informative post! After the last few days at work, not only my characters, but I myself, need therapy!

And, can you do something with Mary's split personality?

Much appreciated!

Tina M. Russo said...

Katie, I am certain you are in a parallel universe. Check your refrigerator. If it is empty you should immediately arm yourself.

Mom R said...


Since my husband, Chuck, is an LPC/LMFT, I was intrigued when I read the entry on an ACF posting and clicked onto your blog. What a great use of your skills! I often drag Chuck alongside of me to counsel my characters. He also has a colleague who critiques my work. My latest novel, RESTORED HEARTS, profiles a Christian man struggling to leave a homosexual lifestyle. Wow, was that a challenge for me! Thank the Lord for my counselor husband and his cronies, and for Dr. Bill Consiglio, who specializes in treatment of same-sex attraction. My third novel, CHOSEN ONES, profiles a Nepali girl caught up in sex trafficking. The book will be released by the new year and was just endorsed by Dr. Tim Clinton of AACC. I was ectastic. One never knows if an endorsement will be given or not, but it never hurts to try. At any rate, I applaud your efforts! This service is so needed. Eileen Rife