Imposter Syndrome. Is it real or not? I’d love to hear your take on this topic. However, for this #AuthorToolboxBlogHop post, I’d like to focus on making it real for your story. An author’s job is to make his or her story world and characters real to the reader, whether fiction or memoir.
Let’s begin with a definition. Dictionary.com defines Imposter Syndrome as:
anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one's accomplishments to luck or other external forces.
I don’t know about you, but in some instances, this defines me. Inferiority grabbed ahold of me and hung on with both hands for most of my college journey—especially at the University of Pennsylvania. I couldn’t get past the fact that I lacked the foundation the other students received to prepare for the Ivy League. I felt I got lucky receiving the Phi Theta Kappa scholarship to attend Penn. This brings on the feeling of being a “fake” IL student; the “oh-my-gosh what if they find out I’m not as smart as the other students” feeling. This is what I’m getting as part of the Imposter Syndrome.
I’ve talked about Character Arcs and the need for progression of the character in the story before in an Author Toolbox post. You can read it here.
To make our characters believable with whatever syndrome we want to give them, we need to look closely at the character as a whole person. We need to know what goes on in his life, on the outside, yes, but also what it means to him on the inside, why he feels so strongly about what is happening. Again, it’s the why of the story. Why does what happens on the outside of the character, the plot, matter to the character personally? Story is about how what happens in the plot affects one specific person—our protagonist.
We can give our protagonist all sorts of disorders and problems. But we need to thoroughly understand both the disorder and the inner problem and how they manifest in this particular character. Many real people feel inferior to other highly accomplished people. I believe Imposter Syndrome is alive and kicking. I am a highly insecure writer; hence my connection to Insecure Writers Support Group, a great group to find support and security by the way.
I hope these few suggestions help you to understand the need to know your protagonist intimately to create a character the reader will truly care about, whether it's fiction or memoir.
Please ask any questions about my college memoir and share any insight you may have about the use of Imposter Syndrome in writing your story in the comments section of Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much!
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