Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD

chemicals in the brainI ordered this book, Meet Your Happy Chemicals by Loretta Graziano Breuning, PhD. The following is a summary of what the back book cover states about four brain chemicals. I thought learning about the chemicals would be useful in showing how our POV character or the antagonist could be deficient in

one or more of the chemicals, which could explain some of their behaviors.

Dopamine makes us jump for joy. Dopamine feels great so we try to get more. It rewarded our ancestors’ will to explore.

Endorphin helps us to mask pain. Our ancestors survived from predator attack because endorphin caused them to feel good. Exercise triggers endorphin so we can safely reach home. Laughing or crying triggers it too.

Serotonin is stimulated by the status aspect…the pride of associating with a person of a certain stature. It triggers our need for respect.

Oxytocin is stimulated by touch and by social trust. It flows when we stick with the herd and create social bonds. Herds protected our ancestors from harm.

In my WIP, Norman in the Painting, my protagonist, Jill, has a need for more dopamine and endorphin. Her inner fears cause her to love running. Her goal is to run three miles every day. The endorphin rush makes her feel safe. Her lack of dopamine causes her to have no desire to explore. She spent most of her years close to her hometown and has no interest in travel. I’ll make sure she will produce more dopamine that will help her grow in her character arc.

The antagonist has a severe deficiency in oxytocin and serotonin.

Does your character have a chemical deficiency?

Do You Have a Character with a Diastema?

gap in front teeth distermaDiastema could be a distinguishing feature in a character for a short story or novel. Diastema is the space between the upper front teeth.

Some celebrities have diastema, Madonna, Woody Harrelson, Jack Black, Elton John, Brigitte Bardot, Michael Strahan, Condoleezza Rice, LeAnn Rimes, Ron Howard, Eddie Murphy, Samuel L. Jackson, Rhea Perlman, Seal, Ernest Borgnine, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rob Reiner, David Letterman

David Letterman, among others.

MadonnaI’d like to use diastema for one of my characters. I’ll think about which one.

Is Your Character Addicted to Being Right?

Wrong, I'm telling youIf any of your characters are addicted to being right, they would rather be right than happy. They have to have the last word in an argument and proving their point of view takes precedent over listening to others. Even after being shown they are wrong, they still search for ways to prove their point of view.

Characters that are always right are often eloquent, but they actually are stuck. Their focus is on making sure the other character understands why they are right. They explain over and over because they think the disagreeing character doesn’t realize why they are right. They need approval and appreciation. They have to be in control.

Low self-esteem and a lack of open-mindedness and willingness to listen to others’ beliefs underlie the need to be right. Contrary ideas frustrate them. Being right all the time is tiring. It demands an ability to distort facts, to make excuses, to delude themselves and to blame others.

never wrong cartonFriedrich Nietzsche said, “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”

James Russell Lowell said, “The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

In my multidimensional mystery novel, Norman in the Painting, Reggie, the antagonist, is addicted to being right and he will threaten and kill to be in control. Jill was attracted to his eloquence until, too late, she discovered his flaws.

Do you have a character addicted to being right?


Information from Louis A. Tartaglia, M.D. Flawless!

What Kind of Apple Does Your Character Like?

apples green and redWhat kind of apple does your character like? The preference might not seem important but it adds the sense of taste and personalizes your character. It’s a detail that can add  some depth.

Another point to consider is the popularity of different apple varieties over the last few decades. Red Delicious was the top choice in the 1950’s and 1960’s. If your character is living in those years, they probably would eat a Red or Golden Delicious apple. Because the Delicious flesh is often  mealy or mushy, the Gala became a favorite for it’s crisper and juicier texture. After the Galas, Fuji, with its dense, crisp, and sweetly tart taste was the biggest seller. Next came the Honey Crisp with a sweeter taste that has been my favorite. Today new varieties are available such as Jazz and Envy, although harder to find, Envy is equally as good as the Honey Crisp.

I consider my characters’ ages and personalities to pick a type of apple for them. Hada and Lev in Hada’s Fog, because they are in their 70’s, would eat Red or Golden Delicious and then complain that the ones they bought were mushy, but the couple resists change to a crisper apple. Jill, in Norman in the Painting, would prefer Honey Crisp and Reggie, the antagonist, would buy Jazz apples. Arctarius, the mysterious character, might choose a Fuji.

Apples may not enter the story at all, but they are an addition that could enhance it.

What kind of apple does your character prefer?

Your Characters' Smiles

smile quoteCan you tell the difference between a fake smile and a natural smile? A genuine smile includes wrinkles around the eyes, the mouth muscles move, the cheeks rise, and eyebrows dip slightly. Research has shown that an apology given with a smile in a courtroom, produces a lesser penalty than an apology without a smile.

A fake smile is made only with the mouth. People often think that deliberate liars smile often. Liars knowing that fact, will smile less and will hold the smile longer, as if to wear a mask. A fake smile appears stronger on one side of the face than the other. Observe several types of smiles. One is the tight-lipped smile. Women recognize it more easily than men since they use it to show they don’t like someone. It’s a rejection signal The Joker in Batman and Bill Clinton, for example, use the drop-jaw smile. The lower jaw is dropped down to make it look like the person is laughing or playful. Diana, noted for a sideways-looking-up smile, won the hearts of people. Prince William uses it now with the result of winning people’s affection and it also reminds them of Diana.

A smile is a curve but sets all straight

Did you know most people in Atlanta, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, and Texas smile more often than other Americans? If someone smiles constantly, people wonder what that person is up to. President Jimmy Carter, a Southerner, smiled all the time and his backers worried that Northerners feared he knew something they didn’t. President George W. Bush had a permanent smirk on his face.

When we writers understand what different smiles mean, we have another tool for showing our characters’ body language in relation to their intentions and feelings. In my novel, Norman in the Painting, Jill, my protagonist, would give Arctarius a tight-lipped smile because she doesn’t trust him. Jack smirks at Jill even when she’s angry at him. Jill could give Ed, a Diana smile to enlist his approval.

Take a minute to make a list of your characters and which kind of smile they use the most.

Information from Allan and Barbara Pease.

How Do your Characters Shake Hands?

Two hands ready to shakeHandshakes communicate dominance, submission, or equality. When hands meet, if one person turns his or her palm facing down, it’s called the Upper Hand and means that person wants control of the meeting. The submissive handshake is from the person whose palm faces upward. In social situations, women often offer a soft handshake to men showing femininity and that they will let the man be in control. Women who use firm handshakes reveal they are open to new ideas.

Two people who keep their palms in the vertical position create equality and mutual respect. The pressure of a handshake is considered in the same categories. Equal pressure from each person is the ideal and during the handshake, it can be adjusted. For instance if one person is using less firmness, the other person can reduce the pressure to match. Male hands can exert more power compared to the average female hand. A male who desires equality would make adjustments for her and a woman would increase pressure if she realizes he will be stronger. Handshakes last a short time but reveal information whether people are aware of it or not.

When writers include characters’ handshakes in a scene, a discerning protagonist can let the reader know the other character’s intentions. The writer has another tool for showing body language.

Jill in my novel, Norman in the Painting, knows everyone in the small town where she lives. She hasn’t had the opportunity to shake hands with a stranger yet. If she did meet someone for the first time in the early pages of the book, I would make her handshake a submissive one. Later, as she develops confidence, I’d change her handshake to a firmer one.

How do your characters shake hands?

Your Characters' Handwriting

pen and handwriting strokeVimala Rodgers wrote a book called Change Your Handwriting, Change Your Life. The description on the back cover, states that handwriting is “a road map to the psyche, a clear path through the winding labyrinth of our personality. Every loop and flourish reveals an attitude, each line and slant displays a quality.” Several years ago, I studied the book and changed the way I wrote to have positive results in my life.

As Jill, the protagonist in my novel, Norman in the Painting, is about to write a note, I took Rodgers’ book off my shelf and thought how I could describe Jill’s key letters that would reveal more information about her. For instance, the letter t shows the writer’s attitude toward “goal-setting, self-image, self-esteem, and belief in one’s abilities to achieve.” (p.29) The higher the cross on the t means the higher degree of effort the person/character puts behind projects. If the t is half crossed or the cross line doesn’t touch the t to follow across it, the person/character puts off doing things until the last minute. A writer who crosses the t at the top, the very top, is enthusiastic about her goal. Jill is determined to help Norman at all costs.  I’ll have her cross her t’s at the top with a firm stroke.

Then I’ll look at few more letters that show her attitude as she writes.