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If for some reason you haven’t figured it out yet, there are different forms of depression. Situational depression, sadness, blues, etc. is the kind that “makes sense.” Your dog died, you lost your job, your best friend gets cancer… Most people don’t run out and get pills to fix these kinds of blues, and those who do should be met with resistance from doctors. It’s important to grieve and not hide your emotions with chemicals.

The other big D, the one that can vary from a little cloud of gray to a suicidal malaise, the one that doesn’t make any sense, isn’t attached to anything upsetting, can be harder to deal with.

And yeah, I know. Cause by nature, I’m not all that chipper. I’m not perky or pleasant, generally speaking. And I’ve had those days (and weeks and months) of sitting in my cubicle, tears streaming down my face, wondering if there’s anything in my desk sharp enough to slit my wrists. Not because I was upset about anything specific. Not because I had a good reason, per se. Which, of course, only makes it worse. Because it’s not like you can explain away that overwhelming urge to have the floor open up and swallow you.

I know some people right now who are feeling their way around in that hole, who’ve tried coping in different ways. Some turn inward, quiet, trying to sort it out on their own. Hallmark Southern, there. Don’t ever let anyone know there’s something wrong with you unless you can “testify” at Revival about it. Some try to fill the void with drugs (legal or not) or video games or gambling or food or sex.

I also know that works better for me than all the pills doctors have ever tried to shovel at me is also way harder to do than popping a Prozac or a Lexapro or Abilify. Because what works for me, what keeps my little head demons at bay, is exercise, and apparently the more of it the better. (Though, I can get a little obsessed, too. Probably because I know how easy it is to lose the habit, to go back to staring blindly at a spot on the wall wishing for the energy to take a nap.)

Which is not to say some people don’t need real medical and therapeutic assistance. Or that what works for one works for all. I’m just suggesting that if one thing isn’t working, try something else.

Fictional characters, however, maybe shouldn’t get too much help. They’re more fun damaged and crime fiction characters in particular are often very damaged. Some are hard drinking, drugging destructive types, trying to hide their sorrows in a chemical haze. Some channel their energy into kicking bad habits, some have overly-defined exercise routines. And while female characters sometimes get a bad rap (especially outside of the cozies) for being too damaged, male characters don’t seem to get off too lightly either. They’re guys who’ve seen too much, lost too much, or raised in the kind of family that’s much more interesting on paper than life.

When putting my own main character down, I may have damaged her a little too much. Not because it seemed fun, but because I spent a good number of years working with damaged kids and some of that seeped in. It’s also interesting to see what happens in one of those dysfunctional families. Often, all the kids have the same life and end up sharing similar fates. Sometimes, though, you have the “good kid” who escapes circumstances, or you have kids who end up thrown into a parental role way too early, which can have its own damaging effects. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of different personalities meeting adversity in different ways. Which is why the things I had happen to my three sisters, I had happen with my thoughts on these possibilities. 

Davis, by far seems the most resilient on the surface. I’ve had students a lot like her. They use violence to mask internal pain and they sometimes seem to start fights if for no other reason than if someone punches them, they have a physical manifestation of that pain. She is, no doubt, a hot mess. Nik, the oldest sister, is the best held together by all outward appearances. She’s the most stable with the best approximation of a normal life that doesn’t hint at their upbringing. She’s using that veneer of normal, though, as a salve and anytime it’s threatened, she tends to lose it in unpredictable ways. The youngest sister, Lane, is younger by enough that her version of the things they lived through together are colored and she had her own hard times after the other two moved away. She’s also still young enough that her coping mechanisms are still forming, and aren’t always the best. She’s very much a product of my last job and she’s probably the most stereotypical of the bunch, which is sad to say.

For NaNoWriMo this year, which I started doing because I needed an aforementioned kick in the pants, I was torn between going back to the three sisters and getting to know them a little better or another character that’s been living at the periphery of my brain for a while now. Thing is, I like him, but I still can’t quite figure out what to do with him. And I kind of wanted to see what would become of the sisters the way I left them at the end of the last manuscript.

Which doesn’t mean I’m managing to make the word count every day. Not through lack of staring at it, mind you. But because no matter how many times the website and nano cheerleaders tell me to write “with abandon” and to just write anything, even “hobo foot cheese” a million times, I can’t seem to bring myself to do it. So I keep opening old files of notes on the sisters and plucking stuff out, throwing it down and playing with it. Or writing part of a scene and then tweaking the dialogue for another day. Or writing a couple of scenes out of order and then deleting part of one. Or… this would explain why earlier today my daily word count was -37 and now it’s up another 10,000. Because I dumped something from another document, that I plan to splice with something else. In the end, it might get whittled down to 1667.