Pardon me for missing last Friday’s post. Summer is a convenient excuse, so I’ll use it. I’m still working on building believable antagonists using Sean Mactire’s book Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think. In it, Mactire 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 eight of the thirteen mental illnesses Mactire covers. Today is the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
Mactire says, “Narcissists have little concern for the welfare of others, but then pretend to care. At least five of the following factors must be evident:”
- Has inflated sense of self-worth with related fantasies
- Has constant need for attention
- Becomes emotionally unstable after being criticized or defeated
- Lacks ability to empathize
- Assumes others will treat him or her well without the need to reciprocate, feels entitled to “special treatment”
- Needs to exploit other people
- Believes his or her own problems are unique
- Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success and power, beauty, brilliance, or love
- Preoccupied with feelings of envy
PubMed Health says it “is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves.” Sounds like every teen-ager I’ve ever known (including myself). However, this disorder goes beyond simple self-involvement and selfishness. There’s an element of obsession to this delusional person. They react with rage, shame, or humiliation when criticizes, and have no concern of other people’s feelings. Wiki.answers.com says Hitler and Stalin were both NPD’s, and suggest that Joan Crawford and Simon Cowell may also be sufferers. (I bring these people up as examples, not to humiliate them, but to get this personality trait more firmly anchored in your mind.)
For fiction, I’ll apply this disorder to a personality trait and see what happens. Today I choose the ESTP, or “Promoter.” He is witty and clever, bringing excitement to even mundane events. He always has tickets to the latest shows or sporting events, he knows the best restaurants (where the waiters know his name), and he has a hearty appetite for the finest things in life: wine, expensive cars, fashionable clothing. He’s attentive to others and smooth in social settings. He knows exactly what words to say, when to say it, and what everybody’s name is. He’s so in tune with people that some mistakenly believe he has empathy. Reality is that he’s really good at reading people’s faces and body language. He watches people, collecting data to use for his own purpose: sell the customer. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goal. (The first character that came to my mind when researching this personality type was Patrick Jane from The Mentalist.)
Now add NPD to this character, and you have someone who will use violent methods to achieve his goals or exact revenge on someone who offers the slightest criticism. He may even take a partner and ruthlessly direct their actions. The NPD Promoter will demand special treatment when he goes into his favorite restaurant, and pity the waitress who forgets his name or what his regular drink order is. Equally at risk are family members who don’t recognize his greatness. If Mom forgets that today is the anniversary of his first “great success” (however he defines it), she may be in danger of his wrath.
Can you think of other ways this personality disorder could apply to antagonists? Please share in the comments section.