Character Development

I’m ok…let’s talk about you

The best part about writing is getting to know the people I’m writing about. Each has their own specific character, personality, beliefs and moral compass. We all do. The more I learn about them, the more the resulting detail works its way into the story.

It’s really hard to avoid stereotypes and generalisations. I haven’t set out to make life difficult but I really want to avoid the obvious and I want each character trait to unveil itself through what they do. I want to show their character not tell it to the reader.

I have carefully studied psychopaths, narcissists, sociopaths, autism (and Aspergers). I thought they would present in entirely different ways. In fact, they presented in quite unexpected ways. Ways that I have woven into each personality. In my previous blog Personality Disorders – Anyone? I have explained the differences. Here I will explain how these traits have been developed into the characters.

There’s a big difference between benign and malignant narcissism. We all exhibit parts of every condition, but a benign narcissist is more likely to be the stereotypical confident, self obsessed selfish person. The malignant abusive narcissist has three traits that are observable. MANs present zero levels of compassion or empathy, they absolutely need to put people down in order to feel happy about themselves. They feed off the pain of others and they have to push it through to observing pain in others. And the biggest give away is their grandiose self-image. They have no self-awareness and no possibility that they will become aware of how grandiose they are. MANs cannot be aware of it, they simply cannot see their fantasised self-image. They will fake emotions to get what they want. They have no remorse.

One of my characters is a malignant narcissist, they are a nasty and deceptive piece of work. They are subtle and they are very dangerous. They have learned to hide it well and they do until the need to keep it hidden has dissipated. It is this driver that they use to manipulate, to grab power, to destroy other…even those closest to them.

Autism is slightly harder to apply as it’s a spectrum disorder and unfixed. Aspergers is said to be a milder and more functioning form of autism. It is also of huge debate whether it is genetic or learned. They miss most forms of metacommunication and can’t understand another person’s needs on an emotional level. They can show great acts of kindness and are very comfortable discussing their condition openly. Many have to learn how to express feelings as an action rather than an emotion. For example, if I express my own needs to a person with Aspergers/autism expecting them to do things to meet them, they are unlikely to understand how this feels for me but they can change behaviours to meet my needs. They will show remorse at not meeting emotional needs.

Psychopaths are an entirely different thing. They seem to have characteristics that look like narcissists and they show no empathy. One of the main characters is just about as stereotypical psychopathic as you can get. They have learned to disguise it so that they can draw close to their prey. They are manipulative, but the manipulated are left unaware. They are cunning and smart. Nobody knows when the psychopath is near, except when it’s too late. Their psychopathy is unveiled once they have no need to keep it hidden. Usually, this is moments before their prey falls victim to their actions.

There are varying degrees of sociopathy, some displaying psychosis, some with other traits and conditions. All of them twisting and weaving their way through the threads and tensions of my story. There couldn’t be the ending it has without the actions of dysfunctional characters…let’s hope that I can communicate them effectively.

None of this is a diagnosis or expressed as fact. The words on this blog are my thoughts on character development. My characters, my thoughts, my ideas…not facts.

Photo by LIANE on Unsplash