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 June 22, 2012. So far, I’ve covered six of the thirteen mental illnesses Mactire covers. Today is the Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD).
Mactire didn’t offer an explanation of this illness, he just gave the symptoms. Here they are:
- Unwilling to be involved with people unless sure of acceptance
- Avoids jobs or social activities that are high in social context
- Silent or secretive in social situations
- Embarrasses easily
- Exaggerates dangers of risks and has strong need for a routine
- Has excessive fear and sensitivity to rejection or criticism
PubMed Health offers this explanation: “[APD] is a mental health condition in which a person has a lifelong pattern of feeling very shy, inadequate, and sensitive to rejection. They can’t stop thinking about their own shortcomings. They form relationships with other people only if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are so painful that these people will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others.”
Reminds me of high school. Let’s apply this to a personality type and come up with a believable antagonist. I’ll choose an introvert, as I have a feeling an extroverted personality wouldn’t have to worry about suffering from this disorder. I’ll work with the “Composer,” an ISFP. (Side note: if all these personality types are confusing you, check my blog posts from late last year – I go over each personality type in depth).
The Composer is a gifted artist. They tend to be hedonists, optimistic, cynical, and focused on the here and now. They express themselves through action via artistic mediums and avoid conflict. They are the kindest of all the personality types, and are especially sensitive to the pain and suffering of others when they aren’t handicapped by sociopathy. Now toss in the APD. Now they’ll be afraid of sharing their artistic expressions with others. They will continue to paint, or bake, or design clothing, but they’ll be uncertain of the reaction from an audience, so they won’t perform. They’ll become more inward, more silent, more unlikely to participate in social activities. Add the impulse control issues and immaturity of violent criminals, and you’ve got yourself a believable and unpredictable antagonist. I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the motivational factors: the disapproving mother, the unappreciative or inattentive audience, the dissatisfied spouse. Share what you come up with in the comments section, please.