In discussing SOMETHING MISSING with a book club last night, the subject of my protagonist’s obsessive compulsive disorder arose, as it tends to do. I was asked if Martin’s OCD was difficult to sustain throughout the novel and if any research into the condition was required.
As I often tell people, I didn’t know that Martin had OCD until much later on, after people began reading the book and saying, “Wow. That poor guy has a serious case of OCD. Huh?”
“No,” I would think. “Martin doesn’t have OCD. He’s just methodical and organized. He’s acting like me.”
Granted, I do not think I suffer from OCD, and many people have told me that they do not think that Martin suffers from the condition. But I’ve also received emails from more than a dozen readers who suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder thanking me for portraying Martin’s condition with such dignity.
So what gives?
When I set out to write SOMETHING MISSING, I did not envision a protagonist with obsessive compulsive disorder. Instead, I saw a man whose career choice would require him to be methodical, rule-oriented and unwavering in his meticulous approach to life. And while I certainly don’t posses these qualities to the degree that Martin does, they are all a part of my life to one degree or another.
I tend to be meticulous and methodical in what I do. I establish patterns, rituals, and rules in order to improve my efficiency and speed in completing tasks. I, too, am hyper-organized and a minimalist, constantly eliminating unnecessary things from my life in order to simplify my existence. Parents often ask me why I was given the biggest classroom in my school, and I have to point out that all the classrooms are the same size.
Mine is just a lot emptier than most.
But ask my friends and family if I suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder and I think they would say no. They might tell you that I possess some obsessive compulsive traits, but not nearly enough to rise to the level of a disorder. And that’s who I think about Martin. If he’s obsessive compulsive, it’s only because his career demands it. It’s a help and not a hindrance to his life, and therefore I have never viewed his condition as a genuine disorder.
Ironically, the protagonist in my second book, UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO, undoubtedly suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, the debilitating version that can consume one’s life.
I wonder what people will think of Martin after getting to know Milo?