Sean Mactire’s book Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think offers three factors in creating a great antagonist: the Four Basics (irresponsibility, self-indulgence, interpersonal intrusiveness, and social rule-breaking), a mental illness, and one or more characteristics from the list I posted on January 22, 2012. While I covered the list and the Four Basics pretty thoroughly, I’m taking my time on the mental illness factor. Mactire listed 13 of them. I’m on number two today, the Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD).
PPD has at least four factors that must be evident since early adulthood in order to diagnose it properly:
- Expects to be harmed or exploited
- Sees threats everywhere or thinks others regard him or her as inferior
- Unforgiving, bears grudges
- Fears confiding in others, thinks information will be used against him or her
- Easily slighted or angered
- Questions partners about sexual fidelity
- Questions loyalty of others, such as family
I think PPD could be such a fun thing to play with in a character, and I’ll comment on that in a moment, but I want to start by saying I am in NO WAY making light of people who suffer from this disorder in the real world. Reality is totally different from creative fiction, and I’m looking at this disorder solely from a fictional viewpoint.
To thoroughly utilize these symptoms in fiction, plug them into a personality. I’ll start with my own, since I know it so well: the ISTJ, or “Inspector.” This person’s motto is “rules are to be obeyed at all costs.” They are dedicated to scrutinizing everything for inconsistencies, looking at all the details, letting no irregularities or discrepancies get by them. They make great accountants or inventory personnel. Now give her PPD. Now the rules are her savior AND her tormentor. After all, no one can obey ALL the rules. Now all her rule-breaking co-workers are getting away with things that Should Not Be Gotten Away With. Her supervisor isn’t enforcing the rules. He’s probably looking for any rules that SHE’S broken so he can fire her. All those nasty co-workers, who always get away with rule-breaking, are conspiring behind her to catch her in the slightest transgression, then report back to the boss. You can see where this could easily lead to violent tendencies, if your ISTJ character also has the Four Basics (listed above).
That was so much fun, I’ll try another personality type. How about my husband, the INTP, or “the Architect.” They are preoccupied with spatial relativity and systems design, especially theoretical systems. The world is nothing more than a pile of raw materials to be reshaped according to their design, and it exists primarily to be analyzed, understood, and explained. With their grand desire to grasp the laws of unity and diversity, they can be a bit snobbish and may show impatience at times with others less endowed or driven, which may cause hostility and defensive maneuvers on the part of others. Now toss in a big helping of PPD. Suddenly you’ve got a brilliant computer geek who sees the world as mere components to build his “grand scheme,” and that world is out to get him. He never played well with others before, but now he’ll be down-right hostile to those out to get him. He won’t engage face-to-face; that’d be too much human interaction for him. No, this is the guy who will plot his enemy’s destruction via systems: computer systems, electrical systems, water management systems, etc. Kind of scary. Keep in mind, INTP’s are rare in this world, so an INTP with PPD would be exceedingly rare. Use him sparingly and wisely.
I’d love to try another, but it’s your turn. Choose your personality type, throw in some PPD, and see what kind of bad guy YOU’D make. Share in the comments section if you come up with something fantastic.