1. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Engaged To A Psychopath

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Oscar Leigh, Feb 16, 2016.

    Okayyy, so I know I ask a lot about this subject, but I have this m/m romance subplot where one character is a serious psychopath, with a history of actively being ruthless in a lethal sense. He's a real arsehole. But then, the character Sebastian comes along. Originally, he's just someone to be manipulated because of his use in the circumstances. But then, after Bradford, the psychopath, initiates sexual relations, Bradford begins to develop true caring feelings for Sebastian, even falling for him after a time. This is a startling change for him, as the only person he ever loved or cared about emotionally was his mother, who betrayed him. Bradford goes through some conflicted character stuff where he actually does thing out of concern for Sebastian, and feels guilt for the first time as opposed to just logic-based regret (gasp). He proposes to Sebastian and he accepts. Just afterwards, it becomes revealed to Sebastian what sort of person Bradford is and was. This makes things pretty weird. My idea is that after that Sebastian is more hesitant and way more suspicious of Bradford(Chris to him, Bradford is his surname) but can't help still loving him. Bradford in return continues to experiment with morality, and maybe ends up sacrificing himself for Sebastian? How would you advise I depict Bradford's character development and the change in the relationship? Those points are the most important interest areas so I want them to be realistic and effective character journeys.
     
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  2. dedebird
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    dedebird Member

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    Well my problem with this is being a psychopath doesn't just mean you're a cold asshole with high walls. Being a psychopath is a literal mental problem where you do NOT feel emotion. So he wouldn't REALLY be a true psychopath if he actually can care about people. He would just be an ass that doesn't trust any one.
    You said his mom betrayed him, that is probably what caused him to be so not trusting I'm assuming. Maybe you could have him THINK he's a psychopath and then he has a revelation that he's really not. He has just been hurt to bad to trust anyone, before Sebastian that is.
     
  3. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201505/what-happens-when-psychopath-falls-in-love. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/psychotic-affective-disorders/hidden-suffering-psychopath. http://michaelcross.net/2014/12/23/how-a-psychopath-views-sex-love-and-relationships/. The character is not completely psychopathic, his psychopathic behaviour is increased by his upbringing and literal personality training, that both led him inexorably to a dark path. Psychopaths also can experience connection to people, especially if the people are a positive influence on them. And they do always experience emotion; anger, sadness, happiness, those having nothing to do with psychopathy.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I would avoid putting any label on Bradford. That way he can develop without anybody pointing fingers and saying 'he can't be a psychopath,' etc. Unless he's actually being treated for a mental condition which is part of the story, why go there? @dedebird is right about a psychopath's inability to feel loveā€”at least the way the rest of the world feels it. So just let your readers draw their own conclusions, and let him love and learn, same as anybody else.
     
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  5. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I agree with @jannert on this. A lot of people think they know what psychopathy is but few of them really do (why would they?) and putting a label on is going to make one kind of people say 'Erm, no that's not what that means' and another kind say 'See!'. Just let him be who is. Take the time to characterize him and let the readers decide for themselves if he's a psychopath or an asshole or whatever. Aside from anything else, psychopath is a really emotive term that in popular conscience implies a value judgement. If you call him a psychopath many people are going to read that as 'unrepetently evil' and at that point anything you do to try and make him more than two dimensional will be in vain.

    Putting this kind of label on things is (IMHO) lazy writing. It's a short cut that means you don't need to really bother showing how they really think or act. If they genuinely are made of pure liquid malevolence (presumably something like marmite) then that's fine; show them being evil, don't just tell me he's a bad guy or by the end I'm going to be wondering if I was on the right side in all this.
     
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  6. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Being a psychopath does not make you PURE liquid malevolence. It's a condition of compassion and empathy reduction or incapacity depending on the the strength. And he is neither entirely psychopathic nor indeed does he stay exactly that way, his connection with Sebastian makes him feel more and question his normal stance on morality, although it doesn't suddenly make him compassionate, more kind of identify with compassion as something he has experienced again for someone and appreciates. Or at least that's my current concept. I am asking about this for a reason, to get advice on to do this unusual concept right and effective.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I understand that you want this relationship and these characters to be realistic and their journeys believable. However, the only way that's going to happen is if you write them as individual people, not as 'psychopaths' (ticking all the boxes) or some other label that constricts your point of view.

    It sounds as if perhaps Bradford is your POV character? I'd say just put yourself in his shoes/feet and pretend to be him. What would your reasons be for doing what he's doing? What does being him feel like? If he's conflicted about his unexpected feeling for Sebastian and what he thought his life would be like, make that dilemma come to life. Bradford sounds to me like a person who wants to be in control of what happens to him (don't we all?) and is used to making that happen no matter what, or what cost to others. And suddenly, out of the blue, here is a person who makes him feel things he doesn't really want to feel, including compassion and empathy. That means he's no longer in control of what happens, and getting to grips with these unexpected feelings of helplessness will be a challenge for him.

    I'd work this angle and actually get the story written. I think if you spend too much time worrying about the appropriateness of psychopathic traits, you'll lose your initial enthusiasm for your story. Which, by the way, sounds like it could be very compelling. But I would forget the psychopath label. Just write him the way you see and feel him. If he has no feelings for most people, let us see those people through his eyes. Why does he bother with them at all? What are his reasons? That's what will bring him to life. And then along comes Sebastian....
     
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  8. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Okay, so here's how it works. Chris Bradford is has very little empathy and concern for others, he is not bothered by killing them. He was always had ruthless elements in his view on others and his behaviour. However, his mother, who he did love, abandoned him to a program which only made him worse by training and psychologically manipulating him into a killer skill and mindset. (Not that she knew what they would do, but she still abandoned him) He works for the conspiracy who run the program, and functions as chiefly an assassin and enforcer. He is very charming, has a smooth wit, acts optimistic and has a form of arrogance in his confidence. But he is also quite cynical, pessimistic and sees himself as awful. His boss Janise Riverton is his "meaning' something to give him direction because he is dead to most causes people believe in, so focuses on her as someone he respects and who it benefits him to follow. When she dies, he is bored and lonely, so seduces Sebastian who know is also gay. at that point he does not expect or plan for feelings, just sex and someone to talk to, so he picks someone who he'd like to do those things with. He is the kind of person who wants to feel things are under their control, yes. He is also the kind of person who prefers to be either elusive, manipulative or deceitful rather than honest with people, though that is a general rule, so intimacy is not his thing normally. He tries to remain confident and restrained, so the vulnerability Sebastian bring is new. And to be clear he does not then become and altruist, he just have something to care about in a moral sense that he hadn't done in ages, and Sebastian gives a sort of grapevine to normal morality, and makes him think about it and have more sympathy for it's ideas intellectually( by imagining everyone is Sebastian) He doesn't become a protagonist either, he's still a ruthless often cold guy, but his tenderness and insecurities develop, and takes a somewhat ambiguous netural role. He focuses mostly on Sebastian after Sebastian is shot, including mostly abandoning the conspiracy, only using it as a tool occasionally when he can get them to do something he wants e.g. get Sebastian a fake passport or something.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know if you're actually writing, but if you're not, you should start. Lots of things will become clearer to you, once you start getting Bradford down on paper/computer. Once he starts speaking and interacting with the other characters (who will also be interacting with him) I think your situation will become a lot clearer.

    Just write him. You may surprise yourself a lot, with the depth of understanding you achieve for him, and the possibility that he will become a compelling and very understandable character. At the moment, he's just an idea taking shape. He won't come to life till you 'make' him live.
     
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