An understanding in psychology is likely to endow the writer with the ability to create fictional characters with depth and emotions. Having had interest in psychology, found this an asset in fiction writing. Freud’s Ego States is perhaps the most well known psychological theory, but what about Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis? His book Games People Play helped validate my idea for my novel, The Shuttered Room.
How Transactional Analysis Was Used in the Charles J Harwood Thriller
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Berne proposed that childhood issues can cause a person to play out a behavioral pattern over and over for a hidden payoff (which might be approval, sympathy or vindication). These ‘games’ can be destructive or offer a comfort blanket for the individual against facing psychological truths.
Freud’s Ego States in Fiction Thrillers
Freud’s ‘adult’ (our high reasoning) becomes trapped within the damaged child/parent of the person’s psyche. So these games can be played out between the damaged ego of one person, with another. The intervention of the adult reasoning from any one individual will cause the game to flounder or fall down. An example of one of Berne’s games will help to elucidate these life games.
An Example of a Life Game Wooden Leg Identified by Berne
Wooden Leg Here, the ‘wooden leg,’ is a symbol of being helpless. This maintains the victim role for the player with the affliction, so he/she appears helpless to get out of doing an unsavory task. The script goes thus:
Student: ‘I couldn’t do my homework because my laptop played up.’
Teacher: ‘Why don’t you pop to the library to do the research?’
Student: ‘I couldn’t because it was raining.’
Teacher: ‘Why didn’t you put your raincoat on?’
Student: ‘There’s a hole in the hood and I would have got wet.’
As can be seen, other (unwary players – in this case, the teacher) must play to reinforce the game. The unwary player may come away feeling used or manipulated without being able to pinpoint the reason.
Some games are closely related, such as Why does this Always Happen to Me? This is the victim role who doesn’t want a cure. ‘My misfortunes are better than yours.’ This keeps people close by via guilt, gaining sympathy or offers of help.
And Kick Me where the victim subconsciously puts out the signal Don’t Kick Me. The urge for some of course, is to kick. The ‘Kick Me’ victim, can lament, ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ The culprit might be a string of ‘using’ boyfriends or always getting into debt with rotten moneylenders!
Transactional Analysis in Fiction
Humans basically need to ‘transact,’ and will wither without some sort of discourse, even if it is a simple ‘hello’. This means these life games are used to gain something, anything. But how does this relate to my book? Well, I had the notion we all have a unique inner voice that (if from trauma) may cause one person to develop anorexia or another to become narcissistic. Berne’s book helped validate my idea for a thriller.
Inner Toads of People What Would The Gremlins Say?
In my book, the Shuttered Room, Jess is taken hostage and held in an upstairs room by three thugs for ransom. But in lonely childhood, Jess used to broadcast perceived inner voices of what people might be thinking as they went about their business. She does it for private entertainment, not in the belief she can actually read people. That is until this obsession takes a grip as she spies upon her captors from a hole in the floor.
Horrible Neurosis of People
As Jess gets wrapped up in broadcasting these inner voices, she starts to hallucinate creatures that might spout such mantras, some of which appear ‘toady’ or reptilian. Keeping in mind Berne’s life games, I conjured the vernacular of these inner voices and what they might look like. Jess notes the voices are needy, whiny, peppered with expletives and bad grammar, mixing first with the second person.
Look How Hard I Try Life Game
Jess’s husband, Harvey is afflicted with the life game, Look How Hard I Try. Jess conjures forth his inner vernacular with the following: ‘Look at me, look how hard I try. Let the world see my resolve, my precious efforts. Righteousness is my food and you are just a morsel in my need. I will cloak myself in blamelessness so that no one can see my guilt.’
Here we can see he wants to appear the victim of terrible responsibilities but this game is borne from guilt and fear of intimacy.
A Deeply Psychological Thriller by Charles J Harwood
I assigned a life game to each character within my novel, but also made up a few of my own. Here is a character list with the life game afflicting each.
Jess’s Husband, Harvey: plays Look How Hard I Try (explained earlier). He also plays ‘Alcoholic’ The so-called affliction-sufferer may not be alcoholism, but some other that makes his life a misery. A rescuer will come to his aid and someone else will persecute, but the alcoholic will always suffer a relapse.
Justin, one of Jess’s captors: has delusions of grandeur made lurid by Kick Me that turns rancid when Perversion rears its ugly head later in the book.
Kia, one of Jess’s captors: plays Rapo, a flirtation game where a woman gets a payoff from rebuffing a man’s advances. She sees herself as the Princess who needs pampering and likes to be sexually pursued. However, this causes her to be sexually used. Rapo's worst version is when a woman falsely cries rape.
Jess’s Dad Now I’ve Got you You Son of a Bitch and serial Sweetheart. He criticizes his wife, but sugar-coats it in 'sweetheart.' She does the same to him.
Jess’s Mum As well as Sweetheart, Ain’t it Awful? A sort of idle gossip at social gatherings.
Jess’s stay in hospital reveal staff with: Harried, Wooden Leg; Kick Me; Now I’ve got you, you Son of a Bitch; Why does this Always Happen to Me? Why don’t You, Yes, But; Rapo; I’m Only Trying to Help You.
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Jess’s Teachers: betray voices that nurture anorexia, narcissism, controlling personalities and fear of chaos. Jess uses the tags the Greenhorn, the Narcissist, the Peacock and the Man Eater (Rapo).
The 2 Main Characters Jess and Jake: cannot be revealed, as it would ruin the plot twist of the story.
Psychological Twist in my Thriller: The Shuttered Room by Charles J Harwood
An idea about the voices of our inner neuroses kept nagging at me until I began writing. I imagined what sort of inner dialogue would foster anorexia, a need to be needed or for someone to kidnap someone? The disturbing notion of what would nurture the psychopath became a central strand of my novel. Since coming across Eric Berne Games People Play, my idea came clearer to me and I could conjure the sort of mantras of certain people with damaged egos. Jess spies upon her captors below but finds some nasty, twisted mantras within her captors.
Read about more Charles J Harwood Thrillers
Read about more Charles J Harwood Thrillers