DL Fowler's Blog

What’s Your Story About?

We are going to be asked, “What is your story about?” There is a three-part answer to that anxiety-inducing question. The short answer is the story’s theme. Another reply is to outline the moral dilemma—a choice between opposing principles that lies at the heart of the Lead’s psychological journey. We can also describe the physical journey that our Lead character pursues. All three answers help focus our writing.

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(Part 2) How writing is like practicing Jungian psychology … or …

Posted in Carl Jung, Characters, Inside a Writer's Head, Psychology, Ripples, Writing by DLFowler on September 7, 2011

It’s not writer’s block. Two characters are arguing in my head and I’m waiting for them to finish.

There are three characters in the scene, only two are arguing.  (more…)

Earmarks of a Psychopath

One of my characters in Ripples is a psychopath. A retired CEO from a major financial services company.  (more…)

What’s Special About Female Protagonists?

I was recently asked the following question in an interview on PaperBackSwap’s blog.  You can read the entire interview here.

In your new novel, Lincoln’s Diary, the protagonist is a female. Was it difficult for you as a man to write a book from a woman’s perspective?

Not really.

As a writer I like to show my characters’ emotions by describing how their feelings play out on their faces, in their gestures and through their actions. Women make my job easy because they tend to be quite aware of their emotions and telegraph their feelings through facial expressions, body language and movement.

Men aren’t nearly as versed as women when it comes to understanding their own emotions. As a result, they find it harder to express themselves not just verbally, but through their bodies, generally.  And when they do understand what they’re feeling, their instinct is to mask it. That makes it hard to follow the writers’ rule, “Show, don’t tell.”

That said, a main character in my next novel is a man who has focused his whole life on keeping his emotions a closely guarded secret.

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Non-violent Psychopath at Risk

Antisocial and narcissistic. Jacob has to avoid both at any cost. The stack of articles he’s pored over the last dozen years say so. They tell him he could have turned down the serial killer path long ago. But early on, he chose to flog the other seven ‘defects’ into submission. Or at least he’d channeled them into a brilliant career as a corporate CEO.   

 Burying the memory of the little girl who lit up his life – she always made him beam, at least until she was taken from him – helped balance his sense of right and wrong. As long as he kept that straight he could make his narcissism seem to be about other people’s wounds. It was easy to rally the troops when he defended another tormented or abused soul. That gave him a sense of belonging to something bigger than himself at the same time he got a taste of the justice he ached for. So he’d make it about something other than himself. Unselfishness at its highest. But if he fixated on his own horror, he’d be a lost soul no one else cared about. And eventually, all he’d become obsessed with balancing the scales any way he could.

 Keeping that stolen little girl buried in the clutter of his memories these last dozen years had kept Jacob on the sociable path. Now meeting Amanda took that option off the table. If their ripples had never met, he’d still be safe. So would the rest of the world. Except for Amanda.

So if he burned Amanda’s violator, would that just be the beginning? Or would justice taste so sweet he’d devour every scumbag who might have robbed him of the little girl he once cherished? A tingle rushed up his spine as he imagined draining the lifeblood from one bastard after another, like a vampire feeding its thirst for survival.

Keeping Eyes and Ears Open

Sitting in Starbucks this morning with a couple of friends. We talked about my recent titled Non-violent Psychopaths. One friend said, “You mean like white collar psychopaths?” My other friend chimed in, “As opposed to red collar psychopaths?” I replied, “Mind if I use those in my next book?”

Non-violent Psychopaths

Before anyone goes postal on me over yesterday’s post, let me offer some supporting documentation.

In 2005 British psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon published their research findings in an article titled, “Disordered Personalities at Work”- Psychology Crime and Law. They found that three of the eleven personality disorders shared by criminal psychopaths at Broadmoor Hospital were more common in the test sample of high-level British executives.

The three disorders included:

  • Histrionic personality disorder: including superficial charm, insincerity, egocentricity and manipulation
  • Narcissistic personality disorder: including grandiosity, self-focused lack of empathy for others, exploitive behaviors and independence.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: including perfectionism, excessive devotion to work, rigidity, stubbornness and dictatorial tendencies.

My purpose is not to call out corporate CEOs and label them as psychopaths, but to point out that not all psychopaths kill. And that we probably rub elbows with psychopaths every day who are quite charming and capable of convincing us they’re our friends. They just have an agenda that could be costly if you get sucked in.

So don’t be surprised if some of my psychopathic characters are non-violent. Non-violent if you ignore the deadly effect of the stress and other emotional anguish they lay on their victims.

And now that I’ve brought it up, what does the hairline border that separates non-violent psychopaths from serial killers look like? And what does it take to cross it?

Hey, maybe I’ll explore that invisible line in RIPPLES.

Journey Inside Someone’s Head

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, My Books, Non-violent Psychopaths, Psychopaths, Ripples, Themes by DLFowler on January 4, 2011

I’ve been inside a very unpleasant mind lately. Not a psychopath in the violent criminal sense. That is if you discount the physical havoc mental abuse and inducing stress can wreak on the body.

I’m too old anymore to get worked up over finding non-violent psychopaths wandering around behind well adjusted smiles. I worked for many years in the financial services industry.

I also look for them masquerading as stalwarts of their church communities. They even come from the best of families.

What’s hardest for me is to keep things in perspective. They’re not so different from you and me. We all spend too much time reacting to disappointments we’ve accumulated since birth. Not enough focus on the Grace that wants to permeate our lives.

It’s taken me decades to stop getting angry over the underbelly of the human condition. People don’t seem to be happy unless they’re hurting others, or failing at that they hurt themselves. They seem to be restless about who they are. Not that they’re trying to be the best they can be. They want to be someone else and are oblivious to what
that costs the people around them.

Now the notion of pyschopath suggests that what they do is something they can’t control. Hmm. There may be some strong impulses at work. Probably some brain dynamics pumping out chemistry that makes it hard for them to be nice people. They’ve learned how to fake being nice people, but only to get what they want. So I guess they need to give themselves the Grace to like being who they are already. Sans the psychopath thing, of course.

It might be simple, but it’s also probably hard.

New Project – Ripples

Posted in Inside a Writer's Head, My Books, Ripples by DLFowler on January 2, 2011

RIPPLES is a story about choices and consequences.
And not just the chooser’s consequences. Because collateral
damages often eclipse the main event. That’s what happens
after Jacob’s 3 year old granddaughter is abducted.

Her kidnapping sparked my newest manuscript. It has nearly wiped out two families, and I’m just on page 28 of the first draft. So, stay tuned as the story unfolds.

But don’t expect any spoiliers. Only teasers. And possibly some footage from the cutting room floor. Not that it’s being made into a movie -well, not yet.