On our last podcast and post, we talked about the character misbelief, which is basically what the character in your story believes that isn’t real or true.The big component of this is that your character believes this big lie about life or about themselves because of something that hurt them in the past.
The thing that hurt them in the past that causes that big untruth that dictates their lives is often called a wound.
Whew. So much lingo.
- False belief/big lie
- Wound/thing that hurt them in the past
So, the cool thing is that you can use these false beliefs to make a better story. We talked about those false beliefs in our last podcast, but it could be that they aren’t lovable, they are unworthy, that might always makes right.
The wound makes this a logical thing for them to think even though it’s super wrong. The big trick is that you want to show this to the reader rather than tell them.
You can’t just write:
Carrie cried because she was unlovable, which she knew because Steve Sills told her so at the seventh grade dance.
And you can’t just write,
“I’m only doing this,” Carrie said, “because of what Steven Sills told me at that seventh grade dance.”
You want to show these beliefs rather than tell them. Instead, you want to show the reader by how the main character reacts to something BECAUSE of their false belief.
It’s all about our character’s mind tricking them into lies. That’s called a cognitive distortion in real life, right?
There’s a great post by Jami Gold that talks about 15 ways to show false beliefs in our characters. And honestly, they are so much like real life that it kind of hurts. She talks a lot in that post about Michael Hauge who talks a lot about this and is kind of the guru of false belief.
Here we go:
15 Ways to Show False Beliefs in Our Characters
(Note that these cognitive distortions are not exclusive. We can use multiple methods to show characters’ false beliefs throughout a story, so we don’t have to choose just one.)
If characters believe X about themselves (e.g., they’re unlovable), they might react in one or more of the following ways:
- Filtering: Magnifying the negative and ignoring the positive
They’ll dwell on plot events that prove their belief right and they’ll gloss over those that prove them wrong.
- Polarized Thinking: Seeing things in black-or-white
They’ll deem any attempt to overcome that flaw a failure if it doesn’t turn out perfectly.
- Overgeneralization: Basing conclusions on single piece of evidence
They’ll pick out a single word, act, or event to reinforce their belief.
- Jumping to Conclusions: Assuming others’ feelings or motivations
They’ll assume others’ actions are driven by their flaw.
- Catastrophizing: Expecting disaster to strike
They’ll worry a minor mistake due to their flaw will cause great tragedy.
- Personalization: Taking everything as a direct reaction to them
They’ll see themselves and their flaw as the cause for everything others do or say.
- Control Fallacies: Seeing themselves as a victim
They’ll either think fate forces them to be a victim of their flaw, or they’ll make themselves into victims by accepting blame for everything because of their flaw.
- Fallacy of Fairness: Judging life by “fairness”
They’ll expect things to turn out positively to make up for the pain “life” inflicted with their Wound.
- Blaming: Blaming others for troubles
They’ll think others are responsible for the pain of their Wound.
- Shoulds: Prioritizing “rules”
They’ll set up rules for how to deal with situations caused by their belief and feel guilty when they violate those rules.
- Emotional Reasoning: Believing feelings automatically true
They’ll trust their feelings about their belief above all other evidence.
- Fallacy of Change: Expecting others to change
They’ll expect others to change to accommodate their belief and think their happiness depends on meeting that goal.
- Global Labeling: Extreme and emotional mislabeling
They’ll exaggerate and overgeneralize their flaw to the point of creating unhealthy emotions.
- Always Being Right: Being right is most important trait
They’ll argue about their belief with the insistence that they’re right—no matter the costs (including to others’ emotions).
- Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: Expecting actions to “pay off”
They’ll expect life to reward their sacrifice in the name of their belief.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Sometimes a misbelief can be helpful. Pogie thinks she’s a bad ass. She is not.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.
Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!