Write it–Shadows that Bite Characters

DSCN6933Originally published on Bonjour Bellingham with musing about my second novel, “Agnes et Yves”

Before I fully understood the psychological and spiritual concepts of shadows and projections, I still managed to create characters with shadows that bit them.  The easiest example of shadows and projections is with my character Agnes Cass (“Agnes et Yves”).  When the novel opens, we flashback to Agnes’ insufferable childhood in Paris, living with a mother who spends too much time with the natives (Parisian men), getting naked.

Meanwhile, Agnes endures her mother’s irresponsible behavior, as well as, her mother’s sudden interest in everything “French” which includes listening only to French music, watching only French movies made in France, and eating only authentic French cuisine.

So Agnes does what any teenage girl trapped in Paris, she escapes and flies back to San Francisco where she hopes to severe ties with her mother and France.  However, Agnes meets Jane, another journalist who soon becomes her best friend.  Just like Agnes’ mother, Jane obsesses about everything French.  She even has a French poodle.

While Jane waxes on about France’s many virtues, Agnes falls in love with a flamenco musician from Spain, who basically treats Agnes like another port of call during his whirlwind tours.  Agnes doesn’t see the shadow that bites her and leads her to eventually lose her job, her reputation, and her grounding in the world.  Until Agnes learns that she projects her own insecurities onto her mother, and French people, she’s trapped in her own machinations.  In a sense she is just like her mother, only instead of chasing several Parisian men, Agnes chases after one Don Juan, but with a reputation for devouring women.

I won’t tell you about the transformation Agnes goes through, or how she ends up falling for a Parisian man who doesn’t fit her usual stereotypes.  I won’t tell you this because I would like you to read my novel.  However, I will ask you to find your own characters’ shadows and projection then see how you can work those more deeply into your fiction, short or novels.

Look for the following:

How your character relates to other people

Your character’s pet peeves, especially related to other people

The truth your character is not facing

Cognitive distortions

Exaggerated behavior (also known as over-the-top)

Areas where your character trips her or himself up

To do this, you’ll need to wear the hat of a psychologist, even if that means remembering what you learned in your college psychology courses.  You can also dig into self-help and pop psychology books to bring further depth to your characters.

Enjoy the process of sending your characters shadows into the light.

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