Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Musings: The Mental

Happy Valentine's Day!

Last week we mused on the emotional consciousness/characteristics of a character, today we're going for the mental aspects of a character.

How they think. If the character is a detective then we, the reader, would assume they would have certain traits...intellectual traits. A thinking process in order to follow clues and put them together. A military person would think slightly different...or completely different. Look back on some of your favourite villains. A thief’s thoughts would be different than a serial killers.

Enough from me, let's get to our Muse authors and how they've shown this in their characters:

My male and female protagonists and many of the supporting characters have certain broad similarities of character.  This is inevitable since they are usually in positions of authority and responsibility, whether in the military, police, or civilian life.  They are responsible to their cause, orders, those serving beside them, and those dependent on them.  They are intelligent, sensitive to others, and caring to a greater or lesser extent.

All people differ, and so do these in many ways.  They are from different cultures within the general society and reflect the ways of those cultures.  I often reveal this by a turn of phrase, a manner of reaction.  I'll use the male protagonist from the Star Commandos as an example.  Varn Tarl Sogan is from another system and very different culture, and he struggles to make his way in the Federation despite the numerous strong challenges he encounters.  He has his pride, a lot of it, and he has his fear of betraying his origins or too much of himself.  It is only with his closest friends, those he considers to be his family, that he can fully relax.  Despite everything, he is open to friendship and manages to expand that close circle during the course of the series.  Others who get to know him find him not only worthy of respect but likable.

At the beginning of my novel, Monday's Child, to be published in spring, Helen, the 18-year old heroine, is in Brussels waiting for a marriage proposal from Viscount Langley.

The viscount, is in England, visiting his ancestral home with the intention of informing his parents that he will marry Helen.

Although Napoleon has escaped from Elba, and Langley is a major in the Glory Boys, he and Helen are euphoric, looking forward to becoming man and wife. Yet, to use a cliché, 'life rarely runs smoothly'. Helen with her artist's eyes perceives the anxiety that underlies the gaiety of Brussels during the 100 days between Napoleon's escape and the Battle of Waterloo. Langley, who served for many years in the Peninsula Wars, at the end of which Napoleon was exiled, must summon his courage in more ways than one.

TERRI BERTHA, Mainstream NEW author

Each character’s mental aspect is major in making them appear believable, interesting and unique.  It “defines” the character and the reader comes not only to “know” the character, but “learns” the character's motivations as they respond to dilemmas and challenges in the plot.  The mental aspect is also relevant to how the character is perceived by others in the story and the relationships that exist between them.  Are they known to normally act in an intellectual, logical or emotional fashion and when they do waiver from their usual mental state, does the character grow or change and can it lead to a more interesting story?

When characters' thoughts are revealed, I find it easier to engage with them and remain interested in them because I understand their motives and intentions. For me, being aware of characters' thoughts is part of the pleasure of reading and is one of the reasons that I prefer books to films. Sometimes in films, actors' thoughts are spoken aloud so the audience understands the mindset of a particular character or characters but usually, one is expected to deduce the thoughts from the actions. Of course, if you've read the book of a film, you'll have a head start in understanding the thought processes which drive the plot.
As an author, I hope I give the reader an insight into my characters' thoughts and I try to make the thoughts correspond to the idiosyncrasies of their speech. For example, in DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE, Daffodil has specialised knowledge from the twenty-first century, which her friends from the nineteenth century do not have, such as her mobile phone.  They use and understand different vocabulary, so I tried to ensure that each character's thoughts matches their comprehension and the language of that era.

When I decide on a character this person usually has their own characteristics. They show who they are immediately to the reader so it is obvious you are with this character. They speak differently than any other character. Maybe they have a favorite word or expression they use. They have a different tone of voice too. Some might be sweet, while others might be sarcastic. They interact with their friends differently too. Sometimes, the character might be different with other people than they are with the main character. Whatever it is, you can always tell the difference between my characters.

The importance of this difference is pretty obvious too. When you are reading you don’t want to get confused about who is speaking or who is doing something. Using dialogue tags and other times using the name helps, but the reader will get confused it your character suddenly changes for no reason. Now if there is a reason for the change then that is okay. But it is important to remember who is in the middle of the action and who is speaking. Readers tend to identify with a character and follow this character throughout the book. So it is the job of the author to make sure that these characters are easy to tell apart.

This is difficult to do when you are only in the point of view of your main character, but the main character can be thinking about actions with the other characters. Also while speaking with them the other character’s thoughts can be seen by their actions. If a character is having an argument with the main character then you will see how this character acts. Maybe they will be yelling or moving around the room or sitting biting their lip. All of these convey their thoughts. Or your character can overhear what they are saying without their knowing it as Carolyn did in If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. She overheard Maura talking about how she really felt about her.

As an erotic author, I need to know how my characters think because I've placed them in roles or situations "normal/average" assumed society would deem risky or loose. Knowing why they, the characters, are okay with these allows them to be more "normal/average" for the readers. This inside knowledge enables me to explore something outside of my own comfort levels. Not so much to justify anything, but to understand and accept that people are different. Maybe even that I have more sides to myself than I'm willing to admit.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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