The Birth of Robin Randle

path-2 copyIf I’m bringing you along for the ride then I should at least start at the birth of the Robin Randle Stories. At the time I was struggling, to put it lightly, with delayed onset Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The personal particulars aren’t important but what is important is the fact that PTSD is an indescribable thing. I can’t come up with the words that would impart to you the full scope of what it is like to be trapped inside yourself not knowing who the hell you are anymore. At the time I was working on a project I call Mercy Lake. I still want to develop that story but what happened was Robin Randle. She was supposed to be a waitress at a diner in the town of Mercy Lake. I didn’t feel she was going to become a major character in the story but I was having a hell of a time defining who she was at all.

I decided to write a short story about her. I like to let the characters reveal themselves as I write. I start with a lot of “known facts” but for me it’s in the writing where I learn the details of their lives. I wrote, “The Long Walk Home.” I knew when I’d finished this early draft of that story that it wasn’t finished. There was more and to get to that more meant I had to write another then another story. Suddenly I had a small story arc and a bunch of new characters I hadn’t planned on creating. Most of all I learned Robin Randle didn’t belong in Mercy Lake. She was something different.

Before I started writing that short story I apologized to Robin because I had decided to dump all the pain and confusion I was living in real life right into her made up life. I know, hell of a thing to do. I stopped after that first set of stories and took stock in what I’d just started and thought about all these other ideas that had been ruminating in my brain. I decided, what the hell. I had promised myself I’d never write a novel. I’d tried that once and earned a wonderful rejection letter. After that I decided to keep to movies and spent years writing screenplays most of which still sit unproduced. Movie scripts restrict story development by their very nature. A movie runs 90 to 120 minutes so that translates into a 90 to 120 page script. Can’t fit War and Peace into that can you?

I felt something different with Robin’s story. I felt free from that limited space. I could explore. Wander off down this road or that and really learn things which translates into having much more story to tell. Things get complex and I think fun. I love to write and I felt that Robin had a story to tell so I was going to let her go with it.

After writing the novel I realized that most of the PTSD symptoms I’d been experiencing were gone. I didn’t even know I’d done this but when I wrote this novel, The Madness of Robin Randle I had painted a picture of life inside the mind of a person with a dissociative disorder. I hadn’t started out with that as a thing it just became one and I think it is the central theme of the book. How do we know what is real and what isn’t? During the course of writing this book I explored a lot of stuff and I’ll unpack all of that over the next several blogs.

At issue here is understanding the psychological concept of self-states. Talking to those folks who haven’t liked how Robin responds to events that take place in this novel I began to learn that they’d missed something. As the author I had to look at the book and ask myself – Did I fail at something or did the reader miss something? What I found was these folks were all about mechanics. How a story should be structured. Not that there is any one right way to do this there are those structures that are most excepted. This novel doesn’t work like most especially compared to a lot of novels published today. My book isn’t a beach read for sure. All my readers love my world building but those who loved it told me they had to stop reading and sit and think and in the end they realized they’d spent some of that thinking time looking inside themselves. I’ll take it.

When I taught the 7 Habits program I explained that we have several lives. We have our public life, the face we put on for the world, we have an inner life, the one that makes up how we think of ourselves then we have a deep inner life. That is the one we hold close. The one that holds the truth of our lives. We rarely share this deep inner life with anyone but it is the one that eats away at use of we don’t have some kind of alinement from it all the way to our public life.

This is a simplification of the facts. In reality we have several self-states that make up who we are. These states impact how we see the world and we will change from one to another based on the situation.

On the Psychology Today website Gregg Henriques states, “Because memories are encoded by emotion, traumas can result in very powerful shifts in memory systems, such that for some, they can be blocked out completely and for others, they can result in the chronic activation. PTSD occurs in some folks because of the inability of the memory system to effectively integrate and habituate to the trauma, which can then result in fairly dramatic changes to the self-state.[1]” – Click HERE for the artical.

Robin is lost in a maze of self-states and for me that is what the novel is about. I think those folks who miss this shift into their own self-state that blinds them to this so they just can’t see it. There is a lot of complex things going on inside Robin’s head that cause her to respond to things they way she does. You see her change at times, and these different responses to events around her relate to her current self-state as she fights to find the truth of who or even what she is.

I have to be honest; I didn’t plan all this complex psychological stuff. I was just trying to draft a story about this girl and had decided to put all of my crap into her. It was transformative for me and seems to be for others as well. I’m a visual artist. I’ve taken photographs in the attempt to create art since high school. In college I had a wonderful art teacher who didn’t care a wit about teaching me about cameras, lenses, or film speed. He taught how to see. He taught me that part of an artist’s job is to show the world what it really is. Show those who couldn’t or wouldn’t see truth, the truth.

When I began this journey of writing The Madness of Robin Randle I was searching for truth as much as Robin was. I needed answers and she did as well. It was her that took my hand and said, “It’s okay. Come with me and we’ll find our way.” Maybe that’s what being an artist is all about. Finding our way then showing others so they can form better self-states, better lives.

[1] For more about Gregg Henriques – Gregg Henriques, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at James Madison University.