I’m sifting through Marc McCutcheon’s book Building Believable Characters for character building goodness. I’m still in the section called PSYCHOLOGICAL/PSYCHIATRIC PROBLEMS. Today’s problems include MISANTHROPY, MISOGYNY, NARCISSISM, and PANIC DISORDER. There were a few in the list I skipped, either because they’ve been done so many times they’re stale, or they’re too yucky to talk about. Buy the book if you’re interested.
MISANTHROPY: “A hatred for people.” This could be mild, where your character takes a solitary job so he doesn’t have to interact with people (and think of the tension when you thrust him into a position where he MUST interact with people!), or it could be severe. Think of Scrooge, Catwoman, or Iago from Othello. Misanthropy can be fun to play with for any character you create. Play around and see what you come up with.
MISOGYNY: “hatred of women.” Villains.wikia.com adds to that definition: “…known for anti-female chauvinism, it can be physical or emotional abuse or it may be a deep-rooted prejudice against equal rights: a misogynist may see girls and women as evil, debased or even subhuman and mere objects. The level of misogyny can vary from a sexist attitude (chauvinism) to outright murder (some serial-killers).” While it’s easy to see how this could apply to a bad guy (Norman Bates from Psycho, Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones), do you think you could create a protagonist who has misogynistic tendencies and still make him sympathetic enough for readers to root for him? Might be tough…
NARCISSISM: “Excessive self-interest or self-love; self-centeredness.” Again, this is a good one for antagonists (the meathead Gaston from Beauty and the Beast comes to mind), but could you create a decent protagonist with this one? He’d have to be super-charming and witty to overcome that ego, I think.
PANIC DISORDER: “a thought disorder, sometimes aggravated by a heart rhythm defect or other physical problem, in which anxiety spirals out of control. Signs of a panic attack include hyperventilation, racing heart, oxygen hunger and a feeling of impending doom. Such attacks can often be subdued by breathing into a paper bag.” This could be a useful trait for a protagonist, especially if it’s the character flaw/fear they must overcome to reach The Goal. This also makes great comic relief in a secondary character, if it’s treated lightly or over-the-top.
Did any of these stand out and make you want to explore it further? Share your thoughts in the comment section, please.