Any other writers have this problem?

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stevita

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I have a trait that I'm trying to portray in a character, but it's hard to articulate it.

It's Christyn from Served, if anyone's keeping up with it, and basically, her personality goes like this: she's a mirror. She tends to absorb and reflect the energy of the people around her: if she's with someone who puts out a calm vibe, she'll be calm and in her element, but she'll get into it real fast if she's forced into close quarters with someone who's acting hot-headed and cantankerous. I want to call it empathy, but it's not exactly that. If someone's being trying to conflict with her, she has no empathy for them in the moment. A big part of her descent into feedism revolves around sensing Damian's needs, but she can slip into the role of the war tactician on a busy restaurant shift just as well as the doting caretaker in her relationship and she is very, very influenced by her environment, to the point where her drinking problem is in part influenced by her need to smooth out the sharp edges of everyday life. Is there a word for this? Is it a sensory processing issue? I feel like I'd have an easier time writing for her if I knew what this was called. Also, do any other writers have this issue where you have a character trait you want to write but you don't have a word for it?
 

Tad

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I wish I wasn't on my phone, I feel like there is so much more I'd say if at a proper keyboard!

I am somewhat like that, perhaps? My user name is in part because I felt that I was "a tad bit of this and a tad bit of that and a tad bit of this other thing and..." and that it was people and circumstances that would pull one part or another to the fore.

I've never had a good word for it. It isn't that I reflect people exactly and it isn't quite an empathy thing. I tend to think in metaphors so sometimes I think of as being like a session musician, other times I think of it as having a lot of possible resonant frequencies and finding which frequencies someone else is projecting. As much as anything else I'll use the word resonate to talk about which aspect of me gets emphasized.

The only stories that I've completed are fairly short, so don't delve deeply into character. (Even then I have deliberately made characters different than me in some way, because I found writing too close to myself led to me becoming dragged down in navel gazing instead of getting writing done). So no real experience trying to illustrate subtle aspects of character.

What I can say is that to me at least, the story has illustrated Chistyn's chameleon nature pretty well, and I'm not sure that the audience needs a label applied to her.
 

Shh! Don’t tell!

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I think a common word for that is mirroring. I don’t tend to have that problem with needing a single word. If I can describe the trait in a few sentences, I’m all good. It’s interesting to hear other people’s internal processes while writing, though.
 

Ffancy

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The kind of mirroring you’re describing here seems similar in some ways to the mirroring that’s often done by people with Borderline Personality Disorder because they don’t have a stable sense of self, but I’m not sure if that’s what you are going for.
 

stevita

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The kind of mirroring you’re describing here seems similar in some ways to the mirroring that’s often done by people with Borderline Personality Disorder because they don’t have a stable sense of self, but I’m not sure if that’s what you are going for.
Over time she gains more of a sense of who she is and what she wants. At the time when she gets with Damian she's fresh out of an abusive relationship and as I type that I realize why she's had so much trouble figuring out who she is when she's alone.

Right now I have her down for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, substance abuse disorder, CPTSD, and qualifying for nightmare disorder. (Psych major here, also been thru 3 years of therapy.) I hesitate to diagnose her with BPD only because she doesn't experience splitting and doesn't experience much anger in general.
 

Broseph

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I must admit—as a writer and someone who studies literature, describing a character through their behavior, words, looks, thoughts (or what they don’t allow themselves to think or notice) etc can often do much much more than finding an adjective that appears to sum them up. I suppose if the person gets a diagnosis in the story, it makes sense to bring that to the readers‘ attention. I’m reading 100 Years of Solitude right now and am blown away—Marquez is able to describe very imperfect people in an imaginative and human way. They could all be diagnosed with something, I suspect. But by showing their behavior and how others react to them, he lets them remain human. Not sure if this is related to what you’re doing in the slightest, but thought I’d share it. If nothing else, write your way through any impasse.
 

GrowingBoy

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Say it, no ideas but in things

 
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