Third Post in Borderline Personality Disorder Series
I’ve covered the what and the why, so now here is the how. This is one of the more difficult but also one of the easiest characters to write in a novel. A character can and will add plot twist after plot twist because the only predictable thing about someone with borderline personality disorder is their unpredictability. If done well, this can lead to plot twists and turns that even the author wasn’t aware would happen.
Get Inside the Character
One story that will put inside of a person with BPD is Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by Rachel Reiland. This book can be intense, but gives an accurate account of what it is like to have Borderline Personality Disorder. If you are going to write a character with BPD, this book is a must read. Make notes while you read of your feelings and what you have learned. This will come in handy later.
Channel your inner child
This maybe the hardest step. You need to try and tap into your inner two year old. Think of times when you have been at your worst or acted the most out of character. Focus on those times and journal about them until you understand all your feelings and motivations during those times. Your emotions will be the easiest to tap into, once you discover them, because they are yours and no one else’s.
The Main Motivation is to Avoid Abandonment
Imagine you are tredding water alone in the middle of the ocean.
Imagine that you have been dropped off in the middle of the ocean, alone at night to tred water. Imagine the vast depths of the ocean below you with stinging jelly fish and sharks. Now imagine the vast sky and empty horizon all around you. You wonder if you can tred water long enough for someone to find you. You worry that you might be eaten by sharks never to be seen again. Your body temperature begins to drop in the cool water and you start to shiver. You realize hypothermia has started. What smells, sounds, tastes, feelings do you experience? Now close your eyes and really experience this image in its entirety. Go ahead close your eyes, I’ll wait.
What did you experience? Write it down. That is what abandonment feels like to someone with BPD. If you knew that experience was going to happen again, what would you do to avoid facing that vast emptiness? A person with Borderline Personality Disorder will still experience those feelings only deeper and with intense loneliness.
Abandonment is generally the primary hurt or injury a person with borderline personality has experienced. They will spend their entire life trying to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Imagined abandonment takes on many forms:
- a belief that her boyfriend is about to break up with her (whether he has those intentions or not are not relevant here)
- best friend getting married or having a child
- boyfriend leaving to go on a trip or even a night out with ‘the guys’.
Now imagine that the character with Borderline Personality Disorder will frantically avoid these and similar situations. Just like you would avoid a repeat of being thrown into the middle of the ocean left to tred water.
Recall the Types of Borderline Personality Disorders
- Frequent suicide gestures or attempts
- Unstable Mood
Choose from one or a few of those types and create your character. Based on the above types, ask what your character would do next or how he/she would react to a certain problem. If you have chosen to use anxious and unstable mood, then randomly alternate between these two aspects of your character when answering “What next?” or “How would she/he respond to this?” This will give a more unstable feeling to the character and the reader will not know what to expect.
I have created a worksheet that will serve as your cheat sheet as you write this character. If you use scrivener you can simply add it to your characters folder. The pre-work to understand a Borderline Personality Disorder character may take considerably longer than a normal character. The added time investment will pay off in the end when you have an authentic character in your novel.
If you have any questions please use comment section below. Write a Borderline Personality Disorder character, you can now.