The Therapist’s Office (TCWT)

The Therapist’s Office (TCWT)

(My lack of posting is due to RSI, explained in my latest vlog.)

The TCWT blog chain wants us to put our characters in therapy.

“Take any character from one of your books and put them in a therapy session. Write a (short!) scene about what happens. (You can include multiple characters and make it a group therapy session.)”

I’ve done this before. A long time ago, but I have. IT DOESN’T WORK. They are angry, twisted beasties, and they are not going to sit still long enough to talk through their problems. Not without spoilers, anyway.

Actually, psychologists don’t tend to ask you to explain your problems. You talk, and they deduce your problems (or the cause of them) from what you do and don’t say. A patient is not expected to know the exact cause of their mental screw-ups.

But enough of that. I sat down to write this post with the help of speech recognition, utterly convinced that it was going to be impossible to persuade any of my characters to come and hang out with me. There is a problem with this exercise. Most characters start out in a fairly good state, mentally and physically (unless they are Will Graham and this is Red Dragon). Discussing the issues that they develop therefore means there will be spoilers.

And then I remembered Isabel. Ah, Isabel. A character with a story I one day hope to tell, when I am better at crime novels. I tried, last November. After around 30,000 words, I gave up. It wasn’t the right time.


Isabel does not look afraid. I don’t think I have ever seen her looked worried (but then, as far as she knows we’ve never met, and I’m another anonymous psychiatrist, so I refrain from saying anything). She hands me a sheet of paper with the confidence of someone who believes they were doing something that would be asked of them in just a moment. I had not been intending to ask her for anything. Props aren’t unwelcome to spark discussion at a first meeting.

“What’s this?” I ask her.

She smiles. “My CV,” she replies. “I thought it might help you.”

“I’m here to help you,” I remind her. “Not the other way around.” But I scan the paper anyway. She has the ability to hit the centre of a moving target with five different types of gun and 99 per cent accuracy. Of course, that is not her only qualification. She can type 120 words per minute, and speaks four languages.

While I am reading, Isabel places a gun on the table beside us. I don’t know where it came from, but it is a clear warning. At my questioning glance, she says, “I always take a gun to therapy sessions. It’s nothing personal.”

“I will take that to mean you have been to therapy before,” I said. I’ve been threatened before. Never by such a serene, attractive young woman, however. I can’t deny it makes a change from the characters I usually deal with.

“Yes,” she says. “Mostly just after I finish a job. My employers insist on it.”

I don’t blame her employers. I look back at the resume in my hands. I know the answer before I speak (I wrote her, for goodness sake, but I can’t tell her that), but nevertheless I ask. “Is it true that you have worked as a contract killer for the last five years?”

“That is correct.”

“But you left?”

“There’s no social life in the business. You don’t get out much, and it’s no life for a girl my age. I wanted to become a secretary instead.”

“You’re 23,” I say. “That means you’ve been killing for a living since you were 18.” It occurs to me, at this point, that everything I’m saying is a simple statement of fact. I suppose I want to see her reactions. All I’m doing is making myself feel guilty for doing this to her.

“I began my training at sixteen, but it was two years before anyone hired me. Still, I’ve had a few high-profile jobs in my time. Quite enough excitement.” Isabel uncrosses her legs, then folds them the other way. Her boots squeak against each other. “Worked with the police for a while too.”

“But not any more?” I say, just to clarify.

“Take my advice,” says Isabel. “Don’t kill for the police. Their contracts are fiendish. So many sub-clauses.”

The way she talks is so matter of fact: I can’t help but feel if she’s unhinged, it’s only in the sense that she can talk about her past with so little emotion. To be honest, I’m not even sure she needs therapy.

We talk for a little while longer, but she’s evidently well-adjusted. She doesn’t once go near the gun, or even look at it. When our time is up, we make an agreement to meet again next week and I see her out. I marvel at the fact that I have managed to create a character who, despite fairly stressful teen years, isn’t a complete screw-up.

Makes a change from the rest of them, I guess.


Thanks for reading! Any mistakes are definitely not my fault–blame my speech recognition software :)


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10 thoughts on “The Therapist’s Office (TCWT)

  1. D’awww. I like this Isabel! Although she may find herself somewhat in a minority in your head. Perhaps she can take some time off to practice psychotherapy for the others? Her assassin skills ought to keep her safe. Ish.

  2. Assassins are pretty cool. Sorry to hear you’ve been having health problems. I’d wondered where you were.

    Also, just out of curiosity, what speech recognition software are you using?

  3. Ooh, now I want to read the rest of her story! Your post was so much better than mine – for one, it was an actual story. Two, it didn’t end abruptly due to my mother saying, “NEVILLEGIRL, TURN OFF THE COMPUTER ALREADY AND COME INTERACT WITH REAL PEOPLE.”

  4. Awesome post, Miriam! There’s such a flow in that writing. I never know what to say without things becoming awkward.
    And it’s my post tomorrow? Argh! I don’t even know whom I’m interviewing.

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