Today I'm turning the blog over to author Ann Gimpel.
Who Are You?
No, really, who are you? Is a string of adjectives pouring out of your mind? Things like wife, mother, son, chemist, librarian, athlete, physicist, cook, chauffeur? All of those things describe either where you fit in a family system or what you do to earn a living. Or how you like to spend your spare time.
What happens if you strip all that away? How would you describe yourself if you couldn’t include familial data or vocational and recreational pursuits? Not all that easy, huh? It’s important, though, because this is the basis not only for self-knowledge, but for developing three-dimensional, believable characters. In most evocative fiction, the main characters lose things—a lot of things. It’s what’s left that forms the bedrock of personality.
Jung proposed a dimensional theory of personality. One of the dimensions was introvert-extrovert. All of us lie somewhere along that continuum. Extroverts gather their information about the world from others; introverts from themselves. The next dimension is intuitive-sensate. Intuitives gather knowledge about the world from their inner landscape. Sensates rely on body knowledge. Then we have thinking-feeling. Some of us lead with our hearts. Some with our heads. There is a fourth dimension, but it was developed after Jung’s death, so I won’t include it here.
If you’re curious about yourself, go online and type Myers Briggs Type Inventory. There are some free versions of the MBTI you can take.
Even though much of this exists at a subconscious level, I believe really good authors place their characters in situations with challenges that fit their personality structures. Character consistency is really important. When you build story people, they need to feel like the same person from start to finish in the book. One of the tools is to structure their personalities and have them act congruently.
Do I engage in a conscious thought process of, well this character is an introverted intuitive and that one’s an extroverted sensate? No, not at all. But by the time I’m done with the first few chapters of a book, I know my characters pretty well. If there are a lot of them, I’ll use a story board so I can keep what they look like and sound like straight. I’ll also add a few notes about basic personality.
In addition to basic personality structure, there’s a social veneer many of us adopt. That’s what allows us to smile pretty no matter how we’re feeling inside. Some of us do that a lot. Some of us thumb our noses at convention and say, “Hey, world. This is who I am. Like it or leave it.” Ditto for fictional characters. I mean, what are story book people, but projections of ourselves? To the extent they mirror something that resonates for us, we can relate to them.
Let’s take a quick look at Lara McInnis and Trevor deGroot, the two protagonists in Psyche’s Prophecy and Psyche’s Search. Lara is an introverted intuitive who leads with her mind. Trevor is an introverted sensate who leads with his heart. Trevor has quite the social veneer. He’s very good at keeping secrets. Lara, on the other hand, is fairly thin-skinned. The two of them have complementary personality traits, which makes them a good bet as a couple. It’s really hard to pair up with someone just like you. They have your strengths, sure, but you both have the same Achilles’s heel. So, the pairing works fine when the waters are smooth and way less fine when you have to deal with stressors as a couple.
One of my beta readers for the last book of this series, Psyche’s Promise, commented that she wondered why antagonists in fantasy are so often filthy, stinky and dumb. I took her words to heart. There’s not much I can do to give Gradoxst, my primary antagonist, a bevy of personality traits he didn’t have in the first two books. What I did was write another novel—YA Contemporary Fantasy—and build an antagonist who’s a truly worthy adversary. He’s stunningly beautiful—sort of a male equivalent of a Siren—cunning and very smart. Outwitting him wasn’t easy—for me or my characters. In fact, there’s a place where he actually won in spite of my best efforts.
Circling back to the question at the front end of this blog post: Who are you? How much of that are you willing to share in a comment?
Book One of the Transformation Series
By Ann Gimpel
What if your psychotherapist could really see into your soul? Picture all those secrets lying hidden, perhaps squirming a bit, just out of view. Would you invite your analyst to take a peek behind that gossamer curtain? Read your aura? Scry your future…?
Classically trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Doctor Lara McInnis has a special gift that helps her with her patients. Born with “the sight” she can read auras, while flirting with a somewhat elusive ability to foretell the future. Lara becomes alarmed when several of her patients—and a student or two—tell her about the same cataclysmic dream.
Reaching out to the Institute for answers, Lara’s paranormal ability sounds a sharp warning and she runs up hard against a dead end. Her search for assistance leads her to a Sidhe and ancient Celtic rituals blaze their way into her life. Complicating the picture is a deranged patient who’s been hell bent on destroying Lara ever since she tried to help his abused wife, a boyfriend with a long-buried secret and a society that’s crumbling to dust as shortages of everything from electricity to food escalate.
Book Two of the Transformation Series
Born with the sight, Laura McInnis is ambivalent about her paranormal ability. Oh it’s useful enough some of the time with her psychotherapy patients. But mostly it’s an embarrassment and an inconvenience—especially when her visions drag her to other worlds. Or into Goblin dens. In spite of escalating violence, incipient food shortages and frequent power blackouts, Lara is still far too attached to the comfortable life she shares with her boyfriend, Trevor, a flight attendant who lost his job when aviation fuel got so expensive—and so scarce—his airline went out of business. Forced to seek assistance to hone her unusual abilities in Psyche’s Prophecy, Book I of this series, Lara is still quite the neophyte in terms of either summoning or bending her magic to do much of anything.
Reluctantly roped into channeling her unpredictable psychic talents to help a detective who saved her from a psychopathic killer, Lara soon finds herself stranded in the murky underbelly of a world inhabited by demons. The Sidhe offer hope, but they are so high-handed Lara stubbornly resists their suggestions. Riots, death on all sides, a mysterious accident and one particular demon targeting her, push Lara to make some hard decisions. When all seems lost, the Dreaming, nestled in the heart of Celtic magic, calls out to her.
Books On BoardAbout the Author Ann Gimpel
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Two novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, and its sequel, Psyche’s Search, have been published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing, a small press. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)
Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains. It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved. Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers her solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company. Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.
Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. A trilogy, the Transformation Series, featuring Psyche’s Prophecy, Psyche’s Search and Psyche’s Promise is complete. The initial two books have been published, with the final volume scheduled for release in 2012. One of Ann’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist and the Transformation Series is no exception.
In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. Part of her website is devoted to photos of her beloved Sierra. And she lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone else is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.