Is hard. There is no way around that. Even if you, yourself suffer from severe mental illness, getting into the head of people in the throes of illness is difficult. What motivates “normal” people to do what they do, trying to figure that out, in the vise of everyday life, is terribly hard, so imagine when those motivations are complicated by hallucinations, traumatic events, social awkwardness, and being young and away from everything you’ve known into some place that makes you feel less than human? My girls and guys are real people so it was a struggle for me to paint them with a careful hand without tainting their motivations with my opinions of them. Of course, that isn’t fully possible; I have some unresolved issues with these folks, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have written it.
I let a woman who we will call Minx DeLovely read an alpha/beta of my novel. She loved it, suggested edits, and let me know that she didn’t like my main character but that my main character was extremely real and that kept her reading. That was what I was aiming for- no character should be perfect, and Amber, my main character is tragic and isn’t certain she will survive her youth to heal from her past. She really doesn’t want to, but forges on anyway.
And I guess that’s what makes her relatable, if not likable, the fact that despite the pain and anguish and feeble attempts at stopping everything, she moves forward, unhinged, unaware, but desperate. Desperation makes people survive during the most harrowing times.
My antagonist, is the opposite. Sure, she isn’t too keen on life but she thrives on the attention she receives and stops at nothing to continue receiving it, no matter who it hurts. That’s the basis of Histrionic Personality Disorder and it is etched in every fiber of her being. She cannot stop, for if she does, she stops feeling, being. A holy hot mess. She, too, is unlikable but she is real, not just in the sense that she really exist but because sometimes the bullshit stops long enough for her to emote and when she emotes you can connect with her, try to see from the edges of her world. At least I hope that comes through. She isn’t evil, she’s troubled, just like every kid in the novel.
So. Plenty of mentally ill characters out there but I hope to have distinguished mine from the pack by making them real and relatable. Stay tuned!