In my last post, I offered the ingredients for a great antagonist: the four basics (irresponsibility, self-indulgence, interpersonal intrusiveness, and social rule-breaking), a mental illness, and one or more characteristics from a list (see previous post for the list). I’m taking all of this from Sean Mactire’s book Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think. I’ve already covered the four basics, and the list was pretty self-explanatory, but I didn’t touch on the mental illness factor. Mactire thoughtfully provided 13 mental illnesses in his book, and I’m going to cover each of them in a separate post.
Mactire starts this section off by saying, “Antisocial personality disorder is the most common disorder seen in career criminals with a history of violence. Personality disorders are chronic, pervasive and inflexible patterns of behavior and thinking that are very common to the maladaptive minds of the criminal world.” Then he offers his list and their symptoms. Today’s mental illness is Borderline Personality Disorder, brought to you by the letter I.
At least five of the following factors must be evident since early adulthood (15-18) for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) to be diagnosed:
- Physically self-damaging behavior
- Uncontrolled, inappropriate behavior
- Unstable, intense relationships with people
- Unstable mood
- Unstable identity
- Chronically bored; requires high levels of stimulation
- Avoids being alone or feeling alone, will not allow himself to be abandoned by another
- Unpredictably impulsive regarding sex, drugs or alcohol
After reading the list, I was still a little stumped as to how this would look in a character, so I went to PubMed Health online and read up. That site says BPD “is a condition in which people have long-term patterns of unstable or turbulent emotions, such as feelings about themselves or others. These inner experiences often cause them to take impulsive actions and have chaotic relationships.”
I’m not a mental health professional, and I readily admit I still don’t know what this would look like in a bad guy. I have a feeling this disorder is difficult to diagnose in real people, because many of these symptoms can appear in people who don’t have any disorder whatsoever. But if you combine all these symptoms in a single character, you’re bound to come up with someone unpredictable, and therefore interesting to a reader.
Stay tuned for personality disorder #2.