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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TA not T and A in Writing Stories

I've always wondered if my training as a psychotherapist had impacted the way I see characters. I know I have an easier time writing in first person than I do in third person. I tend to get a bit clinical in third person. Whereas in the first person, I am practicing walking in the person's shoes, something that is encouraged if you want to sit with people in pain and try to get a sense of where they are. You have to be careful with that because it isn't the best idea to curl up on the floor and cry with your client but I think you know what I mean. Turns out, the answer to that writing question is a definite yes.

I've mentioned the book I have been reading on how to write short stories. Writing the Short Story A Hands-On Program by Jack M. Bickham who writes for Writer's Digest. In the last chapter I read he talks about Transactional Analysis (TA). It is rather like the id, ego, and superego I discussed a few days ago but different in that it deals with the conscious state.

To briefly summarize, TA postulates that we all have three different modes of operating from. They are the Adult State, the Parent State, and the Child State. How we (or our characters) act depends on what state they are in. BTW, this is a great thing to do in marital therapy because a lot of couples get stuck in one person always being in the Parent and the other in the Child which grows wearisome for both if they don't recognize it. When I try to tell my husband to get off the computer he has been on there too long. I have left the adult state with him and moved to the parental one. Surprisingly, he resents this :) which can lead to an argument depending on which state he is in.

The author suggests if you have a boring scene between two characters, they are probably both in the Adult state, so change the states one or both of them are operating from. The child state is usually guaranteed to generate some conflict as that is the "I want," me, me, me state.

The author also points out that TA teaches about life scripts. This is that you decide very early on what kind of person we are going to be and how are life is going to go and then we make sure our life fits that script even if it leads us to some dire situations. So, maybe I am using that Master's Degree after all. If nothing else, it gave me a nice superior moment when I read the chapter since I already knew the information.

Several people have said they have been having trouble posting on here. If you have been trying to post but have been having trouble, let me know so we can figure it out. I would love to hear your comments. I am on fb and my email is Looking forward to hearing from you.


  1. I think short story writing is a big 'ol mystery to me. I do enjoy books on writing though, some of the best writing advice I've ever gotten came from those.

    But I like that the author breaks down a scene and tries to figure out what doesn't work. If I write a boring scene between two characters then I figure it's probably because I suck. And I try it again, hoping that eventually, if I do it over and over, at some point the scene won't be boring anymore.

    Folks should be able to post anonymously btw, as long as you have that feature enabled.

  2. Thanks Rusty, I did not have it checked for anonymous so now I do. That ought to make it easier folks. The thing I like about books on writing is that I can feel like I am working on the craft while still actually procrastinating the writing.

  3. I can finally post something to my wife! Love ya honey!