Thursday, February 03, 2011

Personality Disorders and the Unsuspecting Character

When developing our characters, we want to avoid stereotypes and oversimplification. According to The Criminal Mind by Katherine Ramsland, PhD, one of the easiest ways to avoid this is to research journals and case histories. Review an actual case and use that case to spin our characters. "The more life details you can find, the more believable the character will be."

Ramsland suggests perusing psychology journals, criminal behavior journals and forensic psychology journals. This links to a case study written by Sam Vaknin profiling a patient with narcissistic personality disorder. This patient just happens to be a writer.

How could we spin this into a believable character? In this case study, the patient did not commit any crimes but with a writer's imagination, "Sam" could be turned into a wonderful criminal.

I would love to see your ideas on how to spin Sam into a deliciously evil antagonist!


Jill Kemerer said...

This is a great exercise. I'm passing it on to my friend who writes romantic suspense. Thanks!

Marcy G. Dyer said...

Thanks Jill! I thought it would be a fun exercise.

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I'm working on some characters right now. This makes me think I need to juice them up a bit. I don't write suspense, but I still don't want milquetoast characters. Thanks!

Marcy G. Dyer said...

VV, - I think whether we write suspense or not, we can learn from looking at the various personality disorders. We all know people who fit some of the descriptions of these different disorders even if they are not ill and cannot be classified as mentally ill.

I think we can use these different disorders to build any of our characters - we all have our little "quirks"

Thanks for your comments!