Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.
I'm working on piecing together an antagonist or two for my next story. Since my characters always have a lot going on psychologically, I thought I'd get some help from a good friend who happens to be a psychologist. She's been helpful in the past, but usually after the fact—helping me bend a few things to make everything possible. (It might be fiction, but it needs to be plausible fiction.) This time I've decided to pull things a little tighter a little earlier.
When I ran my first rough character concept by her, she mentioned something about antisocial and narcissistic personality disorder clusters (which sounded good to me in a maladaptive behaviorally intrigued kind of way), and ended with saying, "But they would generally just be criminals, rather than psychologically interesting cases."
You can guess my next question to her.
Here then, are some characters a shrink-type might find intriguing:
- Fallen angel types who are trying to climb back up the ladder to reach redemption. They will inevitably slip on a rung and seal their fate.
- People with strong positive traits who can also be charming. And who find their Achilles' heel due to their unremitting hubris or unremitting ambition they simply can't control.
- Similar to the mad dog analogy ("just criminals"), people who you don't really want to have to shoot, but they either can't or won't stop themselves from doing bad things. The good guys have to reluctantly put an end to them for the good of the whole.
- True dissociative personalities (multiples), though rare, are fascinating when real. However, most of them would do no harm, so there might not be too much in the way of thriller fodder here. The same with people who have more severe forms of PTSD. They tend to be more self-destructive, and according to my shrink-friend, don't need the bad PR.
- Types along the lines of Bonfire of the Vanities, when someone makes a small mistake that anyone could make, but then reacts in an overly defensive or cover-up manner due to pride. One inexorable step at a time, he or she moves toward being truly evil without any kind of awareness that's what they're doing.
When you read about a deeply wounded character who has gone over to the dark side, what is it about them that fascinates you? What causes you to want to know more about them? Are there some character types who aren't on my list?
As writers, what psychological profiles have you used?