copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
In Part I of "Writing As A Schizophrenic," we saw that, while two heads may be better than one, neither nature nor God has seen fit, more than rarely, to equip any of us with such an advantage. We also discovered a work-around. It may not be possible to grow a second head, but we can develop multiple perspectives on the same topic, or theme. Good news! There's another advantage to having several points of view toward something. In this case, the "something" is the object of fear.
An example may help, as examples usually do.
Let's bash the lowly snake. Let's say you imagine six different characters, each of which is afraid of the serpent. Some may be older, and others may be younger, and we should have some males and some females among the crowd we're imagining, so we can have a variety of perspectives--in this case, a variety of reasons (and non-reasons) as to why the serpent is feared. The result may be something like this:
Boy 1 fears the snake because of its appearance: it is long and narrow, without legs, and it has pitiless, lidless eyes, flared nostrils, and a flickering, forked tongue.
Boy 2 fears the snake because of the physical associations he imagines it has: it is slimy and cold (he believes), and its skin is coarse and raspy.
Girl 1 fears the snake because of the things a friend told her about an encounter with a blue racer that her grandmother had as a child. According to the grandmother’s story, she was in an outhouse when a blue racer inside the privy chased her from the toilet and across the backyard in front of a neighbor boy who saw her immodestly attired, the snake in hot pursuit. Irrationally, the girl fears that something similarly frightening and humiliating might happen to her (despite the fact that blue racers are not indigenous to her own locale).
Girl 2 fears the snake because of a personal experience that happened to her. To tease her, her pesky little brother once held a snake inches from her face before awakening her, causing her to have nightmares about the creepy reptiles ever since.
Woman 1 fears the snake because of its symbolic value. The serpent is associated with evil, temptation, and sin, and seeing one gives her the willies, making her think that she may be in the presence of Satan himself in his serpent’s disguise.
Woman 2 fears the snake because a cousin had the misfortune of being killed by a rattlesnake when he fell off his horse at an inopportune moment.
Man 1 fears the snake because it’s one of the creatures of which he is afraid, and he fears encountering one because, in doing so, he may expose his fear of the animal.
Man 2 fears the snake because, well, he fears snakes--in other words, he has snake phobia, or ophidiophobia, "an unwarranted fear of the reptiles" that causes him to suffer such symptoms as "shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and. . . dread."
By imagining six different characters and the reason (or, in some cases, the non-reason) that each fears the snake, we’ve added verisimilitude to our character's or characters’ emotional reactions to serpents. We can combine one or more of these six emotional responses so that the same character has all of them or we can parcel them out to as many as six different characters. We can also scatter these emotional reactions throughout our story, keeping the appearances of the snake interesting because, each time it appears, it frightens the same character for a different reason (or non-reason) or frightens a different character because of his or her ideas and attitudes concerning the snake.
Once again, writing as a schizophrenic proves the old adage, “Two heads (or, in our case, two or more perspectives) are better than one.”