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. So far, I’ve covered two of the thirteen mental illnesses Mactire covers. Today is number three, the Schizotypal Personality Disorder (SPD).
This disorder is similar to schizophrenia. Four of the following factors must be evident to successfully diagnose SPD:
- Evidence of odd beliefs separating thinking from reality
- Ideas of reference
- High social anxiety
- Has occasional illusions or odd perceptual experiences
- Peculiar patterns of communication, such as metaphorical, vague, or digressive speech
- Inappropriate or constricted emotional responses
- No close friends or confidants other than family
- Odd or eccentric behavior or appearance
I found Mactire’s explanation a little vague, so I went online to PubMed Health. It says SPD “is a mental health condition in which a person has trouble with relationships and disturbances in thought patterns, appearance, and behavior… they are very disturbed. They may have unusual preoccupations and fears, such as fears of being monitored by government agencies… and have unusual beliefs (such as aliens). They cling to these beliefs so strongly that it prevents them from having relationships…. they feel upset by their difficulty in forming and keeping close relationships. This is different from people with schizophrenia, who do not want to form relationships.”
I’ll admit, it’s still a little vague in my mind, but there are a few tidbits in there to play with in your fiction. The part about being monitored by government agencies sounded a little like the paranoid disorder I discussed in my last post. The bit about believing in aliens could be fun to use in fiction, unless you’re writing sci-fi and actually HAVE aliens in your story. I think I’m getting off track, though. The part I found the most intriguing, believe it or not, is the part about SPD’s feeling upset with their difficulty in forming and keeping close relationships.
Let’s play with the personality types again. I’ll make my antagonist an INFJ, or “counselor.” Her sole purpose in life is to mentor and help other people realize their full potential. She wants nothing more than to contribute to the welfare of others. Now give her SPD. She’s got high social anxiety–how’s she supposed to help these people when she’s afraid to get near them? She has trouble communicating–how’s she supposed to help these poor people when she can’t find the right words? Aliens might suck up all these needy people, and then who will she help?
I may be veering toward the silly side (okay, I really am being silly) but you can see how you could use this disorder to create a believable antagonist for your novel. Try adding SPD to your own personality type and see what kind of antagonist you can come up with. Remember to pair it with the Four Basics (listed above) for a truly criminal mind.
Next up is Schizoid Personality Disorder, which is different from SPD, despite their similar names.