Villains: The Psychopath or Sociopath

Villains: The Psychopath or Sociopath

By: Nicole Galloway-Miller No matter the genre, every story needs an antagonist, a character who works against the hero or heroine and thwarts his or her every move. When writing a villain, it is easy to turn to the tried and true clichés of evil in-laws, serial killers, and stalkers. These types of characters make excellent villains. When creating a realistic antagonist, an author must consider the character’s primary motivation. What separate mediocre villains from memorable ones is the reason the antagonist desires power, prestige or revenge. Oftentimes these goals are the result of mental illness. Psychology is a great resource for exploring the motivations of criminals. As a writer, being familiar with some common personality disorders and how they manifest is extremely beneficial. This information can be a big help during the characterization process. One of the most common diagnoses is Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), the psychopaths and sociopaths of the world. Symptoms of this mental illness include irritability, impulsivity, deception and a blatant disregard for social norms. Often people with this diagnosis are aggressive and do not feel remorseful or guilty. They have above-average intelligence and a wide variety of talents. When creating a villain with this disorder, it is important to remember that they exhibit these symptoms from an early age. In fact, many were juvenile delinquents. Psychologists disagree about the number of types of ASPD. Since the symptoms manifest themselves in many different ways, there is plenty of fodder for inspiration. Most sociopaths exhibit Jekyll and Hyde characteristics. On the surface, they are charming and pleasant. Underneath this façade lurks their true nature, aggressive and violent. Driven by a lust for control, attention, power and money, they are expert manipulators and can often get large groups of people to do what they want. Their ultimate weakness is that eventually these psychopaths can no longer maintain the act and turn violent and abusive. Sometimes the focus of their destructive tendencies is companionship. Aware that most people are tortured by doubt, guilt and inhibitions, sociopathic individuals create a relaxing, pleasant and safe environment. They tell them their partners, want those people want to hear and appear interested in their likes and dislikes. After some time, their true nature emerges. The psychopath becomes violent and abusive, lashes out at their significant others and shatters the peaceful environment. In other sociopaths, they are social and friendly in public and at home. Once at home, these individuals turn into monsters, abuse their families, and close friends. Since most people with ASPD are suspicious and paranoid, psychopaths may bully and antagonize coworkers they see as threats. Even when on their best behavior, sociopaths are unreliable, impulsive and moody. They often nurse...

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Show Don’t Tell!?!?

  Show don’t tell—at once the best and worst piece of advice a writer can hear. The first reaction is “But I’m telling a story!” The next thought in line is “this isn’t a screen play!” A writer must balance their story with visual descriptors to avoid setting their story in a void. If the setting is not intrinsic to the story, then the audience will have a more difficult time sinking into it, melding with it. For example, while taking a writing class in my undergraduate program, I found myself in a discussion with a fellow student, about his work—a highly emotional tale about homosexual lovers in Nazi Germany. But he didn’t know anything about Berlin in 1938. His knowledge of the setting he’d chosen for his opus was based on WWII movies. Most of the story happened in very neutral environments that only happened to have a Swastika or Nazi flag in them. Without the Third Reich, his story could have taken place in New Jersey 1978 or Dubai 2001. It could have happened in space, aboard the starship Velvet. He was failing in his primary task of showing us, the audience, the world his characters lived in. His story happened in a void and made it unsympathetic to everyone. Setting and place is just one aspect of “show don’t tell.” The other piece is engagement of the reader. Look at the following example: A: He drank the whiskey. It burned and he coughed. His eyes watered. He sighed. B: He jerked his head back and choked down the liquid gold. The smoky poison made his throat clench tight. His eyes, suddenly wet from the burning vapors, turned the piss colored lights of the dirty bar into watery snowflakes. As the chemical heat suffused his body, he let out a long breath. Both A and B accomplish the same thing: they tell us that the character had some whiskey. In both A and B we get a sense for the characters comfort level with whiskey. That’s where the similarities stop. B also tells us that the character is in a bar (not a void), more about what the character is experiencing and feeling. The character is more real because we can more easily imagine his discomfort. His eyes are burning; he’s fighting back a knee-jerk cough from a shot of hard liquor. We also get the impression that the character is under stress—but we don’t know how or from what. In fact, while B gives us huge amounts of information, it leaves us with many questions. Not to mention the fact that it tripled the word count. The question now becomes, “How about situations where there’s a...

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Read Stuff: Huldredrom – Dream of the Hid-Folk

Huldredrom – Dream of the Hid-Folk by Christopher R. Knutson   Review by Eric Staggs   This unique piece of literature came to my attention through pure chance. Since I have found that the best pieces of literature often do arrive via unforeseen channels, I agreed to read and review it.   I’m glad I did. The style of writing at first seemed simple, unsophisticated, but as I progressed, I found I was drawn into the unfamiliarity of the culture, the complexity of Norwegian proper nouns seemed to help heft the weight of their folklore and a new found Christianity.   The story takes place in a picaresque rural village; imagine fens and glens and heathers, buffered on all sides by brooding mountains whose caps are white year round. These snow caps help to anthropomorphize the mountains, giving them an ancient and wise presence. Within these mountains and valleys lives the Hid-Folk. Fey and spritely, these trolls, changelings and their kin live out long and mischievous lives just under the nose of the villagers. The Hid-folk have a habit of stealing human babies and raising them as their own.  The author opens with a classic I-told-you-so moment and the tragic disappearance of a baby.   The plot is at once simple and convoluted – the rules that govern the interaction of mortals and hid-folk are complex and not always logical, but offer a vivid peek into one of Europe’s oldest mythologies. Hid-folk live a semi-parasitic life, stealing lovers and food and cows and whatever else strikes their fancy from mortal villagers, who in turn have developed a whole array of protections against such incursions.   At times almost comical, these cultural clashes between the Hid-Folk and the Villagers carry with them a deeper sub-text. The old ways are under siege by the new Christ-God whose representatives have banned the worship of the Old Norse Gods. Yet, for our characters, the reality remains: Hid-Folk could be any stranger you meet while tending the sheep and elemental spirits might easily burst forth and offer you knowledge or simply wish for company. The only evidence of the truth of Christianity is the agony the cross and tolling bells causes the Hid-Folk.   Vivid imagery and thorough understanding of the culture push this story forward at a comfortable pace. Descriptions of place and time help bring to the reader’s mind concrete imagery and paint each scene in fluid detail – allowing for just enough personalization to make each reader’s experience unique.   Not quite a love story and not quite a fairy-tale laden with moral and metaphor, Huldredrom: Dream of the Hid-Folk­ by Christopher R. Knutson is an entertaining read for all ages...

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Spectacle Fiction Contest!

Spectacle Publishing Media Group is offering a $100.00 prize in our inaugural publication fiction contest. All writers qualify! Experienced authors and new talent! We’re seeking fiction or creative non-fiction tales about “life changing events” for the better or for the worse. The collection is entitled “On The Brink…” 2,500-5,000 words character driven stories all genres This contest continues until the 15th of August. There is NO submission fee. That goes against everything we believe in. Send your stories with a brief introduction to let us know if it’s a light or dark story to Submissions@spectaclepmg.com. Please be aware that by submitting your stories to SPMG you are granting consent for those materials to be published. Click here for more information about publishing with SPMG. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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