Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Psychopath


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Good morning! Today’s post comes to you a bit late. I’m still recovering from my novel workshop on Saturday. Elizabeth Mosier, through Philadelphia Stories, guided 14 novelists through writing exercises and deconstructing our novel. A great learning opportunity, but, as my once broken coccyx will tell you, an uncomfortable and mind-numbing 8 hours spent sitting in a hard, wooden chair conceptualizing my novel.

I would like to apologize to all my visitors for the amount of time it’s taking me to respond to your comments. I love to read the goings on in your life and writing. Please bare with me.   

Ok, on to another mystery/thriller topic. The past few posts dealt with methods a suspect might use to render someone weak or even kill them. So, who is this unknown suspect (unsub)?  

According to Forensics: A Guide for Writers, a psychopath “tends to be self-centered (egocentric and narcissistic), manipulative, emotionally shallow, and devoid of empathy and remorse (p.407).”

They like to revisit the scene or collect newspaper clippings to relive the fantasy they brought to life through the crime.

Psychopaths, like Ted Bundy (pictured above), are capable of using a ruse to lure their victim. They present a problem to the victim they feel comfortable lending help to solve.

You can also spot a psychopath by their lack of emotional response. These individuals are incapable of feeling emotion, which makes them all the more frightening, and also makes serial killing much easier.

 A psychopath doesn’t just come to fruition out of the blue. Many attribute their behavior to actual brain formation, when agitated by environmental factors such as physical, psychological and sexual abuse, the unsub’s psycho switch is turned on. Since everyday life is difficult to handle, they often slip into fantasies to protect themselves. They may start out as innocent, but over time, the fantasies evolve into sexually violent scenes. Unfortunately, unlike other abused children, their fantasies become so important they begin acting them out.

“When the offender goes on the hunt for victims, he is in fact seeking a character in his fantasy play. He looks for a certain type of person or one with a specific look (p.408).”  

Now, keep in mind, many doctors treat the psychopath and sociopath similarly, but their anti-social personality disorders differ. The difference manifests in their behavior. The psychopath not only appears normal in relationships, they are also controlled and well-planned, leaving very few physical clues at the crime scene.  The sociopath is more erratic. Their interactions with people are minimal and they tend to leave clues at the scene of a crime.

John Sandford’s antagonist in his first Lucas Davenport novel, Rules of Prey, is a psychopath. The title of the novel alone lets you know the unsub, maddog, carefully plans his crime, following a list of rules to prevent his capture, as he systematically kidnaps, tortures and murders brunette women.

I know, another ugly and frightening topic, but it’s important for me to understand my characters thoroughly to ensure a realistic mystery/thriller story.

What types of character personalities do you like to explore in your writing? 

3 comments:

anthony stemke said...

Say, very interesting. Psychopaths being so different naturally are interesting, especially in a novel where the reader can't wait to see what will occur next.

I like seemingly normal females who exhibit inner strength when a situation develops. Like - a sister who is separated from her siblings during WWII and goes to extraordinary lengths to find them.

Josh Hoyt said...

This is some good information. I watched a video where "The Iceman" was interviewed. Very creepy interview. He was almost likeable if he had been talking about something other than killing people. It is great how you talked about the importance of nature and nurture being part of the problem. They are not just made but also born.

Amie Kaufman said...

That workshop sounds great, though owwwww.

When I was at law school, we spent time studying a number of famous cases (over here, anyway) that involved psychopaths... it's really something so alien.

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