I’m digging through Marc McCutcheon’s book Building Believable Characters. I’m still in the section called PSYCHOLOGICAL/PSYCHIATRIC PROBLEMS, but I’m closing in on the end if you’re getting bored. Check back in a day or two if that’s the case. I’m skipping paranoia, paranoid schizophrenia, and pedophilia because I don’t want to talk about them. That leaves PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PERSONALITY, PHANTOSMIA, and PHOBIAS for today’s discussion.
PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PERSONALITY: “a manipulative, immature personality charactered by hostility, petulance, and fault-finding. One suffering from the disorder may express power through passive means, such as by being chronically late or forgetting. They may also alternate between being overly dependent and overly independent. A passive-agressive person placed in a work setting frequently destroys morale through childish or antagonistic behavior.” This personality type is especially grating because no one wants to be around this guy. I can’t see a way to make a sympathetic protagonist from this one, or an effective antagonist (unless you’re writing chick-lit and you make the mother-in-law this personality type) but this would make a great side-kick character or a lesser antagonist. Am I wrong? Can you think of any passive-agressive protagonists from literature that I’ve overlooked?
PHANTOSMIA: “Odor hallucinations.” I’ll admit, I’ve never heard of this one. I can think of a way to use it though: odors can be a strong trigger for memory, so I’m thinking of a character with a horrific past not worth remembering and a mild case of phantosmia that triggers these memories at the worst possible moments. A nice twist would be to bury a clue in those past memories that is necessary for overcoming/solving/reaching The Goal, therefore making the hallucinations a hated yet necessary thing. Any better ideas out there?
PHOBIAS: “an irrational fear of a particular person, place, or thing.” These are so much fun to play with, especially if the phobia you’ve chosen for your character MUST be overcome before they can reach The Goal. McCutcheon offers a fabulously long list of phobias (and the technical term for each), but I’m not going to type them all. Many of them are common or overdone in literature/TV/movies, so I’m going to pick out the most interesting ones:
Committing a sin
Do any of these stand out as something you could use? Share your idea with us in the comments section.