“A psychologist for the main character in your first novel? You’ve got to be kidding! Why not just pick a Bean Counter? It would have been more exciting.”
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a psychologist myself for my day job. But I understand where you’re coming from. I really do! I’m not proud to admit it, but Psychologists can sometimes be the poster boys and girls for anal retentiveness!
It’s true! We’re trained to do serious scientific research. We constantly critique and look for the flaws in everybody else’s research. We spend years of our lives doing Masters and Ph.D. dissertations that are serious stuff! And once we graduate, we spend much of our time writing serious medical-legal reports that make balancing your monthly bank statements look exciting.
Even worse, we’re trained to be perfect at all of these tasks! That’s pretty ironic, don’t your think? We spend countless hours trying to cure our clients of their perfectionistic thinking. But, heaven forbid that our thesis or assessment reports aren’t perfect!
Strangely enough, everybody seems to know this except psychologists! People love to make fun of us. We make great fodder for television sitcoms, like the bumbling Bob Newhart of the late 1970’s and Charlie Sheen’s current character in “Anger Management”. Sheen’s popular character is a walking ethical dilemma that must give psychology’s discipline committees nightmares every week!
So, given the public perception that psychologists are boring, why in the world did I create a main character who is a Psychologist anyway?
When I had the idea for my first novel, “Walls”, my initial impulse was to create a main character with an exciting profession. You know. Exciting characters like the ubiquitous detectives, writers, reporters, forensic scientists, or spies that we see in popular novels, movies, and TV shows. I purposely resisted the idea of creating a character who resembled me in any way.
Then I changed my mind. I made my main character, Dan Whitney, a psychologist precisely because there are very few lead characters who are psychologists. I did it because I truly love what I do for a day job! I love being a psychologist. I especially love the challenge of helping people find the inner resourcefulness and resiliency they need to put an end to the chaos and dysfunction in their lives.
And I figured that if psychology is exciting for me, I can make it interesting and exciting for you to read about!
I also realized that Dan Brown, in his novels “Angels and Demons” and “The Da Vinci Code”, also created a lead character who appears to be rather dull at first glance. But Brown takes his character on adventures that are far from ordinary. Who would have thought that a guy who studies ancient symbols would get caught up in treachery and intrigue inside the Vatican, or in a life-threatening search for the Holy Grail!
Creating Dan Whitney and the other characters in “Walls” has been fun and relaxing! After writing two dissertations and hundreds of serious psychological reports over the years, it has been like a breath of fresh air to do a 180 degree turn in writing style. I got a chance to lighten up, to create characters who are both real and entertaining, and to write dialogue that sounds like the way you and I speak everyday! My goal in writing “Walls” is to make psychology come alive in a way in which you, my readers, can connect with it.
Okay, I know what else you’re all thinking. Is Dan Whitney just a fantasy version of me?
I suppose the honest answer to that question is both yes and no. Yes, Dan is a psychologist who starts out leading a very ordinary life, much like mine. He sees psychology much the way I see it. What can I say? I have to start out writing what I know! But if I left it at that, Dan wouldn’t provide much excitement for my readers.
What makes Dan Whitney different? First, I tried to give him a lot of his own emotional baggage to get him into trouble. I also tried to put him into some wild and crazy situations that I’ve never experienced, but are exciting for readers! You do want the book to be exciting, right? My hope is that, by the end of “Walls”, you will see that Dan’s adventure has changed him so that he’s a stronger character than he was when you first met him. If you want to get to know Dan better, check out the Dan Whitney page of this website!
So why did I make my lead character a psychologist? Because psychology is the study of what makes us all do the crazy things we do! How could that not make for an interesting and exciting main character?
Watch for Dr. Dan Whitney and “Walls” in the near future. I know you’ll enjoy his adventures!