Superiority & Inadequacy

Welcome back to my series based on the book The Anatomy of Motive by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Douglas was a profiler for the FBI and used his vast experience with violent offenders to create profiles for use in law enforcement. I’m using the information from the book to create believable antagonists. Today I want to look at two warring factors found within most violent offenders: superiority and inadequacy.

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Douglas says most violent offenders possess a feeling of superiority, grandiosity. “Societal mores were not meant for them; they were too smart or too clever to have to start at the bottom and work their way up, or to live by the normal rules that govern a relationship.” The other feeling is inadequacy, “of not being able to measure up, of knowing they were losers no matter what they did. And since the first feeling generally made them unwilling to study, work, pay their dues… they often were inadequately prepared for a job or a relationship that would give a normal person genuine satisfaction. This just reinforced their outsider status.”

What motivates these guys is a desire for control and power that will help them overcome their feelings of powerlessness. “Being able to manipulate, dominate, and control a victim, to decide whether that victim lives or dies, or how that victim dies, temporarily counteracts, for some, their feelings of inadequacy and… makes them feel grandiose and superior as they believe they are entitled to feel. In other words, raping and murdering sets the world right with them.”

When creating your antagonist, keep these character traits in mind. Your bad guy will possess these same feelings of superiority and inadequacy. How he deals with them will help make him an individual (as opposed to a cardboard, two-dimensional bad guy). How does he manipulate and dominate those in his life? Is he passive-aggressive? Does he intimidate with his size? Does he use his vast intelligence to make others feel like idiots? Does his sense of entitlement mean he’s a loner with no one close to him? Does he use physical violence or psychological abuse to get what he wants? Does he play the “loser” card and try to invoke pity from others? Answering these questions about your antagonist, then showing him acting this way in the story, will make for an exciting, unpredictable antagonist readers will love to hate.


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