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Shrinking Fiction with Michael Thompkins

March 21, 2008

Some of you might recognize a few words here and there, and why not? Ideas, as we all know, evolve, and this particular adaptation would not have come to be without the interest and supportive feedback of SCWC participants.

Michael Thompkins, mystery writer and SCWC contributor, is bringing elements of his conference workshops on character development to the internet. That’s right, having paid money to attend the conference, booked and shelled out for a hotel room, and suffered through MSG’s speeches just for this sacred advice, you can now get it for free.

Okay, okay, okay. That’s not fair. After all, it has been the growth of the workshop’s attendance and the response of participants that have encouraged Mike to go forward with this project. And, frankly, if you ask me—then again, who did?—it’s kind of like any performance act. A comedian can’t get up and tell the same jokes over and over again, and Mike can only recycle so much material each time he does the workshop. While it is said that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, Mike’s not that old; sixty is the new fifty-eight as they say, and he’s a smart guy, which means that no matter how hard he tries, he can’t help but learn something new each time out.

That’s right. It’s not a myth. The perspectives received and performances witnessed change the way he looks at the material he presents and the points he hopes to communicate. And, yes, I’m pulling monkeys from sunless regions on that, but come on, we all know it’s true. Good teachers learn from their students. Good performers grow with each performance. I doubt Mike would argue—except, maybe, that I keep calling him “Mike”—and, most likely, would encourage me to keep on as long as I think I’m making him sound smart.

That said, of course, I should probably shut up.

Some of the earliest Emotional Anatomy maps of character structure come from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western Folk Medicine, world-views inherited from the ancients. In TCM, and Western Folk Medicine (Naturopathy, Homeopathy, et al.), there is no difference between the practice of psychology and the practice of medicine. Specific emotions, patterns of thought, and attitudes are associated with specific anatomical organs and other physical structures in complete systems of correspondence. In TCM these are often called Five Element Theory. In Western Folk Medicine these are call humours.

For example, in TCM the human liver is associated with the emotion anger and the mental function of planning, and the heart is connected with the emotion of joy and the controlling of the entire organism. TCM comprises a complex, voluminous system of such correspondences. In the TCM world-view an individual’s anatomical structure, inherited and acquired, significantly influences an individual’s characteristic attitudes, thoughts and feelings. The systems of correspondences in Western Folk Medicine are less organized, less discrete, and less studied.

As a psychologist, I have spent much time studying these and other similar emotional anatomies, the organization of emotional patterns into specific anatomical patterns. My point here is not whether these systems have any relative or absolute scientific merit; I will leave that to the scientists and the physicians. My focus here is whether the psychological systems to be found here in these bodies of knowledge can help us as writers to construct more congruent characters, characters that ring true on all levels, spiritually, emotionally, and physically ….

Anyway, like I said … if any of it sounds familiar …. He’s just getting started, though. Drop by, say hi, let him know you’re out there, what you think, and what you would like from future installments of “Shrinking Fiction“.

-bd

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