Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been toying with neuroticism.  Not my own, although I’ve got a pretty good stockpile of that.  I’ve been thinking about character development, and the role odd little quirks and psychological peccadillos can play in making a protagonist, or a villain, more intriguing.  This is a bit of a natural line of inquiry for me, as I was a psychologist who wanted to be a writer in my previous life; now I am a writer who was once a psychologist, although my love for the behavioral sciences hasn’t waned.

Most of my characters are average joes, leading average lives with the same fears, frustrations, and concerns that so many of us share, who are suddenly thrust into a situation outside their control or forced to make decisions that are nightmarish in nature or implication.  But what if one of them struggled with attention deficit disorder in a world dominated by zombies seeking to devour the flesh of the living?  What if a recently-turned vampyr struggled with depersonalization?  How would uncontrolled auditory hallucinations and psychosis affect one’s ability to survive in a post-apocalyptic world?

When Chuck Wendig (who’s blog, Terrible Minds, happens to be outstanding)  issued a three sentence flash fiction challenge, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to toy with the concept of introducing a psychological quirk and seeing where it would lead.  As with most of the paths I walk, it lead into a pretty dark place.  This flash fiction piece, Head Count, is the result.  Enjoy!

His undead neighbors shuffled ceaselessly below his third story apartment window and his compulsion to count and touch them had become almost unbearable; at first he’d thought the desire to count was a quirk – annoying, yet harmless – but now he knew better.

As he counted his remaining shotgun shells and adjusted each with meticulous care to ensure that they lined up across his cheap Formica kitchen table in ranks and files with perfect alignment and proximity, he wondered if 27 would be enough.

He loaded his shotgun, inverted the barrel, and stared into its black depths; as it turned out, one round would be sufficient.