» 9 Famous Authors Who Didn’t Get Published Until Their Fifties (Or Older)

I actually do hear a lot of people complain that they’re too old to begin a writing career. But the fact of the matter is, you’re never too old to do anything career wise unless you’re dead or have developed a form of amnestic disorder/dementia.

Considering I’ve read about and met people in their 50s and 60s going to medical school, sitting down to write every day isn’t a challenge by comparison.

So don’t get discouraged. You have a chance to write and get published. Now, you can even choose to go indie and publish on your own with a platform like Pronoun. There’s really no excuse for not sitting down in front of the keyboard.

Even if you have arthritis, you can use a speech-to-text program to aid you in your endeavors.

Below are nine examples of authors who weren’t published till they hit the big 5-0 or later. Write a lot, improve your craft, and don’t give up.

Source: » 9 Famous Authors Who Didn’t Get Published Until Their Fifties (Or Older)

I’ll be back with The Psych Writer soon, going back to tackling personality disorders and how to write them well.

Advertisements

» 5 Things You Need to Know as an Indie Author

This week, I’m taking the time off to take care of things around my household. But I don’t want to leave you hanging!

Recently, I came across an article called 5 Things You Need to Know as an Indie Author. I really like Authors Publish. Their online periodical actually offers helpful advice for people who want to get published, either traditionally or independently.

This article actually gives tips for those of you who want to self-publish, and how not to do it stupidly. Unfortunately, there is a lot of trash just thrown up by indie authors, and it’s hard to wade through the riff-raff to get to the gems. Not everyone is James P. MacDonald or Cali Usher. Authors like Jim and Cali offer up a great product for the price, and they’re both indie authors.

So if you’d like to be more like them (or me, ha ha), take those five tips to heart. You can be a legitimate indie author, but if you don’t produce quality and market it right, your work will get forgotten.

What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write

This week, I’m taking a break from The Psych Writer to discuss writing.

Writing is my bread and butter. I have some posts I’ve written about writer’s block, and facing the terror of the blank page. In fact, I’ve written about the blank page twice, at least. But writer’s block still seems to be one of the biggest complaints I’ve seen among young writers or writers who are just starting out.

Recently, I got this in the form of a question. “What am I supposed to write when I don’t know what to write?”

Since I am trained as a therapist, I tend to want to pick apart problems and either reframe them or otherwise deconstruct them in order to help.

So when you don’t know what to write, it could be for a variety of reasons.

  • You may be afraid of failing and not completing a project.
  • You may be afraid of succeeding and not knowing what to do next.
  • You may think your writing will never be good enough, so part of you feels it’s not even worth starting.

There are obviously many more reasons for keeping that page blank, but for this post, let’s just focus on these three. If you have one or two you’d like me to address, please shoot me a message on Facebook if you’d like, and I’ll address them in future posts.

  1. You’re afraid of failing and not completing a project.
    It happens. I have a few manuscripts I’ve abandoned about 3/4 of the way through because the idea wasn’t panning out, I couldn’t write the characters in a way that satisfied me, or a variety of other reasons. It happens to everyone. Think of your favorite writer, living or dead, and I could almost guarantee you they have abandoned and unfinished work.

    The best way to get around this is the “fuck it” philosophy. Say to yourself that you’re going to start a project and if it doesn’t pan out, fuck it. Start over, change direction, whatever. You can also just keep going even if you know it sucks, because the first draft of everything sucks. So go until you’re finished. Write until there’s no story left. You can revise it later.

  2. You may be afraid of succeeding and not knowing what to do next.
    This is one I’ve heard a few times now, so it’s not terribly uncommon. In this case, you’re fortune-telling. Can you really see the future and know you’ll be devoid of further ideas? Well, so what? One book that’s finished beats the hell out of one half-finished story that never got off the ground. Preventing yourself from succeeding because of what might be next cheats you out of the satisfaction of a finished project.
  3. You may think your writing will never be good enough, so part of you feels it’s not even worth starting.
    There’s one thing I’ve learned, and I’ve said it above–the first draft of everything is a steaming pile of crap. Some of it has potential, but every first draft needs to be reworked. You will learn to kill your darling manuscript with a hatchet at first, then come back with fine, surgical editing tools to improve it. Tell the part of you that tells you it’s not worth starting to shut up,  because that part of you cannot know what it feels like to finish a project. You have to get to the end to know what that’s like.

When you sit down to the keyboard, or sit with a pen and paper, block out the future. Block out expectations. Block out everything but you and that page, and tell it your passions, your fears, your world.

Get writing.


I am Anne Hogue-Boucher, and I write books. You can read them here.

The Psych Writer: Exploring Borderline Personality Disorder

I had an idea for introducing the personality disorders after I went through some of the others, but I also take requests, as I said in one of my previous posts. Via Facebook, a request came in for me to write about Borderline Personality Disorder. So I’ll be moving into the Personality Disorders a little earlier than I expected.

That having been said, personality disorders are what we consider “bigger” in therapy. Personality disorders are deeply ingrained into the personality of the client. They are invasive, pervasive, and ever-present.

I live in Georgia. Here in Georgia we have an invasive plant called kudzu. It’s everywhere. It grows all over the place and it can’t just be cut down or even burned (burning is illegal anyway because duh, we’re in a drought most of the time and the place would go up in flames faster than Michael Jackson’s hair in that Pepsi commercial). It has to be uprooted from the ground by its root crown.

That’s exactly what personality disorders are–they’re the kudzu of our personalities. They strangle the existing plant and take over completely. They become the plant itself.

So when we’re dealing with a personality disorder, it takes a long time to get to that root crown and eliminate it so that the person can be less miserable and learn to function better so that the people around them can have improved relationships with them. With several of the personality disorders, close relatives and friends grow weary of the “antics.” It makes it difficult to sustain and maintain relationships.

Personality disorders can also interfere with work relationships and productivity, as well as the general day-to-day functioning of the patient. While the same can be said for any disorder in the DSM-5, with a personality disorder, it is much  more treatment resistant, prone to severe relapse, and is lifelong.

A patient has a personality disorder for life. They are never cured. But they can manage it, find relief, improve their relationships, and even help themselves hold down steady employment. They can work towards stability if they work hard enough. It takes a demanding amount of work.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) falls into “cluster B” of the personality disorders. If you don’t count Personality Change due to Another Medical Condition or Other Specified Personalty Disorder and Unspecified Personality Disorder (which we don’t), you have ten personality disorders in three clusters:

  • Cluster A: This is know as the odd or eccentric cluster. It includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personalty Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder.
  • Cluster B: This is the dramatic, emotional, erratic cluster. It includes Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • Cluster C: This is the anxious and fearful cluster. It includes Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (which is not the same as OCD).

Borderline is considered to be in the dramatic, emotional, erratic cluster. It is characterized by a lifelong pattern of of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, and marked impulse control issues (DSM-5, p. 645).

So what the hell does that mean? That means the patient has little to no stability in their relationships with others (professional and personal), erratic behavior and lack of self-control to the point where self or others are harmed.

According to the DSM-5, the signs and symptoms of BPD are a pervasive pattern (as stated above)–but what makes up these patterns? The DSM-5 reports that for a person to be diagnosed with BPD, they must have five (or more) of the following (which I will give in plain English):

  • Frantic efforts to keep from being abandoned, whether that threat of abandonment is real or imaginary. This does not include suicidal behavior or self-mutilation as that is a separate criterion.
  • Repeated unstable and intense relationships that alternate between extremes of idealization and devaluation. Going from “you’re perfect” to “you’re the scum of the earth.”
  • Unstable sense of self. This instability is marked and persistent and goes to extremes. Not only does the love-hate relationship apply to other people, it applies to themselves and their self-image.
  • Recklessness/lack of impulse control in at least two areas of life that will cause them harm, such as unprotected sex with strangers that could result in STIs, overspending, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating, etc.). This still doesn’t include suicidal behavior or self-harm.
  • Recurrent suicide attempts, threats, gestures and behavior, or self-mutilation.
  • ‘Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood.’ This one’s a bit hard to explain. Imagine the worst overreacting you’ve ever seen. Now imagine it could happen at any time for any reason. You run out of cotton balls and the person has a massive anxiety attack and the anxiety affect lasts for a few hours. It’s a bit like that.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness. (Exact words from the DSM. Self-explanatory.)
  • Difficulty controlling anger. Intense anger fits. Inappropriate anger to the stimulus. Imagine telling the person you’re out of donuts and they smash a table in response, demand to see your manager, threaten to sue, and threaten to kill you. While that might be funny and unbelievable, yes, it is that extreme.
  • Stress-related paranoia or severe dissociative symptoms that are transient. In other words, it doesn’t last, but the person will abruptly become paranoid, or they’ll dissociate (the world isn’t real, people are inhuman or automatons, etc.).

Now, writing a character with BPD is actually a challenge. Sure, you can go through all nine of the criteria, but I could almost guarantee you that you’ll create a caricature instead of a character. Even with black-and-white perceptions that many people with BPD have, they are still human beings. Avoid making a cookie cutter. You’ll want to add lines of sympathy to that character. He or she didn’t get there on their own. In many cases of BPD, there is not just a genetic component–there is often a history of abuse–sexual, physical, etc.

The person with BPD does not mean to do these things. They cannot help it. That’s why Dialectical Behavior Therapy helps so much. Patients learn from a system of mindfulness and awareness. DBT was developed by Marsha M. Linehan, who has successfully managed the disorder herself. Bear in mind that if you are writing someone with BPD, remember, they cannot help themselves when they do these things. Yes, some of the behaviors are purposefully manipulative, but they are not malingering. Until they get professional help, they are often unaware that these things are not acceptable, because even though people tell them so, they are often focused on assigning blame to others for their reactions.

Always remember, you are still writing a human being, though these are the extremes of the human condition.

If you came here looking for help with BPD, know that it’s out there. Start with this article here and then search for a therapist in your area who specializes in DBT.


Anne is a former supervised therapist and current author. You can read her books, stare at her Twitter, or stalk her on Facebook if you want.

The Psych Writer comments on 11 Things People Do Because of Anxiety

When writing about depression, I came across an article a friend shared on Facebook. It’s a good article, written by a layperson who obviously did his research. He got everything on the nose–except for #11.

But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, I’d like to tell you when you’re writing an anxious character and you need to use show instead of tell, use this article as a guide. Don’t tell your audience the person has anxiety disorder, show them. Like with any disorder, you’re not going to tell them all about it, you’re going to show them all about it. Make the reader lean in and wonder what the hell is wrong with this character. Make them wonder why the character is obsessing over something trivial to the point of being ludicrous, for example.

The only reason I object to #11 in this article is because while anxiety does burn up a person’s energy, this type of burnout can be indicative of much, much more than Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Yes, anxiety wears a person out, but if it is to the point where a person cannot get out of bed, this is much more serious. It can be indicative of a physical problem, a nutritional deficiency, or Major Depressive Disorder. Any person who has anxiety should never, ever ignore this symptom and let their therapist or physician know immediately.

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, which I will go into later on for The Psych Writer (after an exploration of Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen-By-Proxy).

In the meantime, enjoy this article from Simon Segal, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Source: 11 Things People Don’t Realize You Are Doing Because Of Your Anxiety

Wendy Howard tackles Beverley Allitt: Women in Horror

I really enjoy Wendy Howard’s writing. As a part of February’s Women In Horror Month, I had the privilege of meeting her in virtual space and writing an article about torture.

Maybe I’m biased towards Wendy because she shares a name with one of my favorite characters of mine (Wendy Willow). Nah. She’s just a compelling writer.

This was one post that Wendy wrote for WiHM. She discusses a very real serial killer who had Munchausen Syndrome AND Munchausen-By-Proxy Syndrome. These are both rare conditions, and to have them together was, as I said in the comments, “like finding a unicorn. A horrible, flesh-eating unicorn, but still.”

In my series The Psych Writer, I will be tackling both Munchausen and MBP. I think it would make for some interesting characters if handled correctly, and I like to pick things apart. As I said, Munchausen Syndrome and MBP are rare, but they’re fun to explore (as long as you’re not the one suffering from it).

Enjoy Wendy’s article and sleep tight.

Read here: Beverley Allitt: Serial Murderer and Evil Woman In Pop Culture | Women in horror

The Psych Writer on Major Depressive Disorder, Part Three – MDD with Psychotic Features

This is the final installment of The Psych Writer series on Major Depressive Disorder. This week, we turn our focus on MDD with Psychotic Features.

Of course, when writing any disorder, focus on showing rather than telling, and remember, your character is human. Give them more dimensions than their disorder.

What’s tricky about writing MDD with psychotic features is not making it look like schizophrenia or bipolar with psychotic features. You will need to make sure that the depressive features are most prominent, otherwise the reader isn’t going to get it.

Naturally our writings are always open to interpretation by the reader–that’s what makes it such an enriching experience. It’s not the focus on the symptoms that makes the writing interesting, anyway. It’s the expression of the character and their life that makes the reading compelling.

So, we’ve already reviewed what MDD is all about, but what about psychotic features? Psychotic is a word that’s used in lay terms that tends to get confused with other terms (hell, even I’ve confused the terms when I was exhausted at one point). Psychotic is a term for losing touch with external reality.

The patient who is psychotic can experience any of the following, with some examples for illustrative purposes:

  • delusions – believing someone has bugged their home, is being gang stalked, they have a terrible disease, or that they’re the Archduke Ferdinand.
  • hallucinations – seeing, hearing, tasting, or smelling things that aren’t there, such as seeing a person that no one else can see.
  • anxiety – the person may seem anxious and restless.
  • withdrawal from family and friends – sometimes due to the delusions and hallucinations, the patient withdraws from social interactions. This is not just an “oh, I don’t want to go to the mall.” This is more like they don’t answer any of their phone calls and they stop talking to people entirely. Think the most extreme form of withdrawal possible.
  • suicidal ideation and actions – they may attempt to kill themselves or think about it all the time.
  • disorganized speech – this isn’t your average non-sequitur. Disorganized speech is often completely incoherent. There are several types of DS:
    • word salad – seemingly random words put together in a sentence. “My pants raisin toggle the burp slurped in a cat.”
    • derailment – completely unrelated or tenuously related ideas put together as if they were related. “I have to pick up my dry cleaning. There’s a bar in the street that keeps me from walking to the park.”
    • neologisms – words that are made up. “I took my wife to the helgistahooven for a new haircut.”
    • perseveration – a response repeated uncontrollably (this can be verbal or gestural). “Did you pack a pair of socks?” “Socks, socks, socks, socks, socks, socks, socks…”
    • thought blocking – when a person stops talking abruptly in the middle of a sentence without any explanation. “I went to the store and-” *silence*
    • pressured speech – rapid speech that sometimes is incoherent.
  • difficulty concentrating – this is pretty self-explanatory.
  • hypersomnia or insomnia – sleeping too much or not enough.
  • suspicion of others and situations – this is usually due to delusions.

Keep in mind that the person with psychosis is typically unaware of these symptoms and signs. They are often so out of touch with external reality that they have no idea that their delusions or hallucinations aren’t real, and that their behavior has changed to be out of the ordinary.

Here you see there are some things that crossover with depression, such as suicidal thoughts or actions, anxiety, and withdrawal. Knowing this, it’s easy to understand how difficult differential diagnosis can be.

The standard treatment for MDD with psychotic features is antidepressants and antipsychotics. If that doesn’t bring relief, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) is another common method.

Overall, when writing a character with this disorder, there’s an opportunity to do a little reality bending. Just don’t make it too much of a trope.

Coming up for The Psych Writer, we’ll tackle some of the following subjects (not necessarily in this order):

  • Bipolar Disorder I and II
  • Munchausen Syndrome
  • Munchausen-By-Proxy Syndrome
  • Anxiety Disorders – Generalized Anxiety Disorders, Panic Disorder, PTSD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Personality Disorders: Exploring the three clusters of the ten disorders.

I also take requests. Any disorder you’d like me to explore? Contact me via Facebook.


Anne is a former supervised therapist at the Master’s level who abandoned it all to become a writer. Visit her shiny Author Page to learn more about her and read some of her more macabre thoughts on paper (or eBook).

The Psych Writer on Major Depressive Disorder, Part Two – Treatment Resistant Depression

Welcome to part two of my series on Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). If you’re looking for the introduction to what MDD is all about, you can find that here.

Last week in part one, I wrote about writing a character with MDD, after detailing the symptoms for the disorder (link in the first paragraph). This week, I’m going to discuss Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD), which I still like to pronounce as ‘turd,” because it really is a turd. When you’re writing a character and would like them to have TRD, it’s important to understand what it is.

So rather than go on with a laundry list of how your character may be written, I’ll go through what TRD is and how it is treated. Then you can decide how your character will fit into it or not. Remember, you’re writing your character as a human being, so it’s okay if they deviate a bit. Humans are not their disorder, so neither are your characters.

TRD is defined as MDD that has not responded to a minimum of two antidepressants. Although some literature says only one, in most professional settings, two antidepressants are tried before determining whether  the depression is treatment resistant.

The difficulty lies in determining the threshold for TRD. There is complete remission and partial remission in symptoms, and there is also reduction in severity of depression. So determining what’s enough for the patient is what determines whether depression is treatment-resistant or not. Personally, I prefer elimination of symptoms, and if any are left, then that’s not good enough, so it’s time to try something else or add something to the treatment. But some people are okay with partial remission. It’s sometimes enough to have some relief over no relief, so best practice is to support the patient’s decision if they have good decision making skills.

When a person has TRD, there are things that they can try to get help. Usually treating TRD begins with an increase of dosage or switching medications. If that doesn’t help, then an add-on is usually used. For example, if the SSRI isn’t working, a combination of an SSRI and an NRI may be used.

Sometimes playing around with medications doesn’t help, though, and sometimes it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. But if it doesn’t work and the patient isn’t already in counseling, they can try a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Other treatment avenues are Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Most people cringe when they hear “ECT,” but that’s because they associate it with what they’ve seen in the movies and in old videos when the treatment was actually horrible. Now, the patient is given a sedative and most sleep through it. I’ve watched it done (on video rather than in vivo) and the experience was underwhelming. Of course, there are risks with ECT, including short-term memory loss, but for some patients it beats the hell out of MDD/TRD.

Now, finally, the numbers. This is something you may want to consider when creating a character. Around 10% to 30% of people have TRD, and that number varies on the spectrum of TRD (whether it’s full or partial remission, reduction in severity, etc.). So when you’re creating this character and you want to give them TRD, consider Special Snowflake Syndrome (SSS).While it’s recently been co-opted as a political inflammatory term, I refuse to use it in that manner. SSS means that your character has become a little too precious. If you give them TRD, make sure that they don’t come out corny and cliched, and actually make their suffering real rather than something they manage to brush off whenever it’s inconvenient to your plot.

If you came here looking for help with depression, please seek the help of a licensed professional in your area. Depression is a horrible, soul-sucking disorder that takes your life piece-by-piece. Don’t let it take control over you. Call for help. It’s out there.


There is little more horrific than what lies in our own imaginations. If you love reading about nightmare worlds and strange happenings, check out my author page. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Goodbye to a Companion Animal | The Macabre Author

I had gone on a short break after learning that my pup was terminally ill in Hiatus for a Companion Animal | The Macabre Author.

I am officially back and am going to stay back. Today, my sweet pup died suddenly (either a blood clot to the brain or heart). We are bereaved.

When I first found out that Tish was terminally ill, I sat down and wrote her obituary. She actually sat in my lap when I wrote it. I like to imagine that secretly, she could read and enjoyed reading it.

I wrote it using a “fill in the blanks” style so that it could be modified with ease when the time came. I have reprinted it below.

21st pic tish

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Chihuahua, Morticia Luanne Hogue-Boucher Strong on Saturday, March 11, 2017. She was a beloved member of our family, and died suddenly of an ischemic attack or myocardial infarction. She experienced no pain and did not cry. She died instantly. This was after a period of home hospice care for five Months. She was 14 years old. Her last meal was a wonderful breakfast of chicken meatballs and cat kibble, which she enjoyed a great deal.

She was born in Tampa, Florida on December 20, 2002 and was brought to her adoptive home on February 14, 2003. It is said that companion animals choose their humans, and this saying rings true for Morticia. She quietly sat in her cage while her sister ran circles around her. Anne put her hand in the cage and her litter-mate ran right by. Morticia, however, put her paw in the center of Anne’s hand. The connection went straight to her heart. She was instantly family.

In the car ride home, Tish cried a little at first, but when her parents talked to her and assured her it was safe, she settled right down and began a long love affair with car rides (though sometimes she got carsick on sharp turns).

Her first act in her new household was to greet the cats, Nikita, Pishnook, and Sappawee (all belated now), who all believed she was a large rat. However, a piercing bark and chase convinced the cats otherwise. Instead of viewing her as prey, they knew she was something special. They soon became good friends, and cuddle buddies.

Morticia led a fast-paced, active puppyhood marked by pranks that earned her the title of “Little Clown Dog,” such as putting kibble in Mami’s shoes, and drinking decaffeinated coffee when her mother’s back was turned (which only happened once and thank goodness she was okay).

She was a performer of great tricks, such as the barrel roll, dancing in a circle on her hind legs, high and low fives, and even being able to find the treat in the hand. She enjoyed overpowering a pit bull named Elvis who became her play buddy and platonic boyfriend, and hanging out with the belated Babe Jerkins, a well-loved Great Dane. She was also buddies with the late Lukah Juge-Jerkins, and she taught him to bark for fun, and possibly profit.

Her favorite pastimes were short walks, long car rides, and visiting her Nanda (the late Helene Van Amerongen) and her Abuelos (Dean and Diane Cadoret). Above all, her favorite foods included P-Nuttier biscuits, Cowboy Cookout for dogs, and a special dog food made with Kobe beef, which she ate during her final days to ensure maximum canine happiness. She also loved Milo’s Kitchen chicken meatballs.

When her parents moved to Atlanta, Georgia, she adapted quickly, enjoying her new environment and welcoming three new cat siblings into the family. Though she didn’t get along with Jeff (he is too big and used to try to grab her food), Abbey and Charlie were her steadfast friends. Jeff and Tish kept the peace by occasionally sniffing each other and engaging in non-violent communication. Sadly, Tish eventually had to say goodbye to Sappawee and then Nikita. She ensured to cuddle and care for them in their final days.

Morticia’s life was often about food, but without the pretense of gourmet demands. Her favorite fast-food place was Sonic, especially their tater tots. Yet she managed to keep a trim figure for the most part, shedding weight with ease and the help of her parents.

During her clownish performances, she also trained for Chihuahua races but never engaged in them. She enjoyed zooming around the house at top speed to “Ready! Set! Go!” and reveled in the applause. She enjoyed singing Christmas carols with her family, howling along and making everyone laugh. She assumed all laughter was because she was the entertaining clown of the evening—and to her parents, this is so.

There is so much more to be said about the happiness and joy this little canine brought into her parents’ lives and to all the people she met—it could fill a book. Suffice it to say she was an ideal little dog in a big, imperfect world.

She is survived by her adopted parents and siblings who will miss her more than she’ll ever know.

Morticia, you brought so much joy and happiness into our lives at a time we didn’t expect. We didn’t know if we would be good parents to a tiny dog, but your little paws left big prints all over our hearts. You are the Official Best Dog and we just hope that we were able to help ease you into the transition where all roads meet. We hope that road is paved with yummy dog treats and all-you-can-chase butterflies. May you be free of pain, and free of fear. We hope it is warm and sunny where you are now.

We love you. Goodbye.

The Psych Writer on Major Depressive Disorder, Part One

Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for medical advice and is for educational purposes only. If you read this and any of the below sounds like you, seek the help of a licensed professional in your area.

Depression is a big topic. There are different types of depressive disorders, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which affects about 6.7% of the US population. That’s around 15 million adults.

Last week, we reviewed an introduction to MDD, and I still didn’t even get into all of it. So I’ll do that here, briefly. Because of the many sufferers of MDD, there get to be a whole slew of levels of severity and specifiers. While you’re writing about these characters who have these disorders, don’t forget they are a person and they are not their pathology.

Nothing is worse than a character whose only interesting thing about them is their disorder. Remember Forgetful Jones from Sesame Street? Even he had more than one dimension. He was a cowboy. So if a cowboy Muppet with amnestic disorder can be more than just a one-dimensional character, Depressive Jones can, too.

When you decide to write from a place where your character has MDD, decide what type they have. This can be mild, moderate, or severe. They can have psychotic features (delusions, hallucinations, etc.). They can have partial or full remission as well. (Partial remission is having some of the symptoms but not meeting the full criteria for MDD for a period of less than two months. Full remission is an absence of symptoms for more than two months.)

MDD also can come with certain specifiers, such as with anxious distress or with catatonia, but there are too many specifiers to go into without scaring you away from the subject forever. I could likely write a book on each of the specifiers. So, in the interest of time and space constraints (which I will now call space-time constraints to either irritate or amuse mathematicians and physicists), I won’t list them all here. You may wish to skip over certain specifiers, but with psychotic features you can often cross it over with supernatural fiction. This should be handled carefully, though, because otherwise you risk it becoming a trope.

Another important thing to remember is that MDD distorts a person’s perceptions. I used to tell patients that their brains were trolling them. This troll brain is part of the illness. It is best expressed through Beck’s cognitive triad. The person with depression has a negative view of themselves, of the future, and of the world. They often don’t believe they’ll ever get better, this is the way it is, and that there is no one or nothing that can help them. This triad does not necessarily apply to all people with depression all of the time, but there tends to be more leaning towards negative and pessimism during the course of a depressive episode.

When writing from a therapist’s point of view, your character would see the person as ill. They would note things such as poor attention to personal hygiene, being tearful, and a depressed affect (they look “sad” or “down”). It’s an ethical therapist’s job to help a patient process their thoughts and reframe things that happen to them–to teach them how to rethink things. They also do things such as medication education and other interventions. Treatment often consists of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

An unethical therapist would do things such as foster dependency, and interventions that keep the patient depressed and vulnerable to manipulate them into doing things the patient would not normally do. People with depression can be quite vulnerable, and so open to suggestion in order to find relief, a therapist without ethics could possibly ruin the patient’s life further.

I’m not sure if it’s as interesting to write about a therapist treating someone with depression as it is to write about someone who has depression, but even then, it’s important to give your characters full dimensions.

No matter what, though, write your character as a person first, and their condition second. Otherwise, you risk making a flat character that’s nothing more than a stereotype.

If you came here looking for help with depression, please seek the help of a licensed professional in your area. Depression is a horrible, soul-sucking disorder that takes your life piece-by-piece. Don’t let it take control over you. Call for help. It’s out there.


There is little more horrific than what lies in our own imaginations. If you love reading about nightmare worlds and strange happenings, check out my author page. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.