01 April 2011

The Perfect Nurse - believeble characters and emotional baggage

First of all, apologies for taking so long to write the next post in the Believable Characters and emotional baggage series. Since I promised to write about The Good Wife stereotype/archetype I've been waiting for my copy of 45 Master Characters to arrive. It arrived today (after many problems), but there is no Good Wife in there. Well, not in the sense I understand this type.
I don't want to confuse anyone by sticking a wrong label on a character, so I decided to put this one off until I'm sure what Elizabeth (Currie) meant by the Good Wife. BTW, dear Elizabeth can you please, give a couple of examples of Good Wives from fiction or film?

In the meantime another character you are likely to come across while reading women's fiction and romance - The Perfect Nurse. As you can imagine - this type often populate medical romance and in fact, heroines in two novels I've read recently, as well as my heroines (Ann and a new one - Stephanie) have many features of The Perfect Nurse.

Photo by photostock
via www.freedigitalimages.net

Key characteristics: The Perfect Nurse is often a strong woman, putting others before herself, helpful, caring, committed to (her family, job, whatever she is involved into), dedicated, would go out of her way to help, generous, altruistic, prone to sacrifice; also tends to forfeit  her own identity and dreams for the sake of the person she's caring for; lacking assertiveness, often struggles to look after herself. PN rarely cares about her looks, she's often not aware of her sex appeal or external beauty.

She needs to be needed, exists through her giving, often can't take or even ask for help. Giving, caring, nurturing are her raisons d'etre; if this is taken away from her - she falls to pieces. She identifies herself through her role as a carer, nurturer (e.g. I'm Josh's mother; if in a caring profession, her job would become her hobby and whatever else she needs in life). If she can't look after other people she doesn't know what to do with herself. Sometimes a PN would realise herself through motherhood and may even have one child after another to feel fulfilled.
Her caring can be stifling and in the extreme she becomes The Overcontrolling Mother or even The Evil Matriarch.

Relationships: PN have lots of friends - people love being around her; she loves being among people she can help, so when it comes to relationships she would tend to fall for men she can care for: single dads, wounded heroes (physically or emotionally), or disadvantage men. In the extreme, PN is likely to be in relationships with alcoholics, compulsive adulterers, liars and other types of helpless cases, believing that her love will cure them. If PN happens to be in a relationship with a strong, sound and perfectly happy hero, it's probably because she thinks he has some secret flaw she can uncover and heal (I'm going to write more about creating realistic and lasting relationships soon).

Typical backstory: PN has always been looking after someone from a very young age. It's usually a woman who had to look after her younger siblings, sick parents or elderly and frail people. Often there is a history of abandonment in their life, but later rather than early - at the time when a little girl can decided to be strong and look after others (8-12 y.o) - this may be in a context of parents divorcing, mother becoming ill/dying.
She's usually gone through life caring for other people, being a home and a peacemaker, a specialist in making other people happy and rubbish at being assertive and looking after herself.

Typical jobs: of course - a nurse, but also other caring professions, like doctors, vets, social workers, nannies, professional carers, teachers. PN would often work/volunteer for a charity. She is likely to work more than necessary, stay after hours to do duties she doesn't have to do because she cares so much for her patients. She also tends to get overinvolved and loose professional boundaries (e.g. Ann, a psychologist form my first novel goes on a private search to find a missing patient). If working in health care system, she is likely to be in conflict with people who perceive health care as business

Motivation: PN needs to be needed. She also strives for love, acceptance and belonging. She would love to be looked after but she can't do it. She often can't even ask for help - asking for help is perceived by her as a sign of weakness. After all, she's the helper!

Biggest fears: not being needed anymore, so loosing the person she looks after (child has grown up, hero is healed), loosing job, retiring; also being forced to ask for help.

Potential for growth: PN may need to learn to let go of her need to look after other people and redefine her identity not through other people. As she isn't good at looking after herself, she may need to learn it, or learn to let others take care of her, and even learn to ask for help.

Examples form film and literature: Demeter, Beauty in Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins.

No comments:

Post a Comment