You Can’t Go Back Again: Characters as the Psyche

My most recent entry focused on lessons learned about writing during the process of hammering out an initial draft of a new work. Fun entry, and drew a lot of very thoughtful and useful responses. Shannon Mayer’s response, in particular, gave me reason to reflect on just what this writing process means to me. I’ve said before that the writing process is almost a spiritual one for me, though I had trouble putting my finger on just what that meant. Shannon finally answered that question for me, though, when she said that (roughly paraphrased) she learns just as much about herself as the writing process when completing a novel.

Yes, I thought. That’s it. It wasn’t just the matter of refining my writing process or strengthening my writing skills. It was about better understanding some unexplored aspects of my psyche. Obviously every character that really lives and breathes represents a part of ourselves, whether we recognize that fact or like it.

I couldn’t quite explain the part of my psyche represented within Matty (perhaps my survivor instinct), but I know it’s there. Kelli of Room 3 quite clearly connects up with some of my propensities for caretaking, even to my own detriment. Obviously, these aren’t Mary Sues – each character has flaws and is certainly not meant as a stand-in. I wouldn’t want to be in either of their shoes, quite honestly. But at the same time I can’t deny that they’re a part of me.

Each novel, if we’re diligent and honest to our emotional landscapes, gives us a chance to put those pieces of ourselves through the paces and follow them to their logical end. Matty’s reluctance to get involved in larger matters is my own reluctance – and at the end of the day, I see just how damaging the choice of making no choice can be. I realize that, ultimately, that is the selfish benefit to art: the growth and exploration of the personal psyche. This becomes something of a larger benefit, though, as it allows readers to connect with that part and hopefully not only identify, but spark some of that thought within themselves.

This puts me onto the track of writing for money versus writing for art, but I don’t have the time to talk about that now. More on that soon.


On that note, Room 3 is finished, and the cover is very nearly finished! My goal is to present the cover and a new page by the end of the week, just in time for the work to get into beta readers’ hands. With that will come the first real sample of Chapter 1, to give you folks a goody, something to sink your teeth into while you wait. Keep your eyes open!

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  1. I don’t think exploring the personal psyche is selfish–exploring and bringing to consciousness those aspects of ourselves that hide in the dark is useful for everyone–and people who read the work identify with the same things inside themselves…good post…

    • Nikki, good point. Sometimes helping other people begins with helping ourselves, to become more aware of what’s going on inside ourselves and then being able to share that. At that point, like you said, your work can share that aspect and maybe they can draw something similar from within.

  2. Not exploring our psyche holds us in clutches of self-absorption. Seeing what’s there is the only way to consciously decide what’s really you and what’s not. The unexplored state is the state of utter selfishness.

    • Boy, I can think of a few people that I’ve encountered for whom that is very accurate. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. Christina’s response is perfect. I won’t try and top that. I will say – yay!!! – looking forward to the sample chapter!

  4. I couldn’t agree more…it makes me want to go back to my books and think through the characters in more detail! Thanks for the thought!!

  5. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 01-26-2012 « The Author Chronicles

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