1. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    How to write insanity?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pythonforger, Mar 26, 2011.

    I'm writing about an insane character and I need tips. Here's some info:

    -He makes friends with his victims, then brutally and graphically kills them.

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    -He's a sociopath and a psychopath

    -He has high charisma and is trusted by many

    -Nobody knows he's insane, not even his victims, as he wears a mask.

    -He became insane because a serial killer killed his family, and he instinctively used an old hatchet to behead the serial killer. The trauma, mixed with the suggestive events, caused his insanity.
     
  2. Soul
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    Soul New Member

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    Most of the hint were already utilized by Bret Easton Ellis in American psycho,and last 2 were used in Clive's Barker short story Dread.Maybe you should want to portray some other disorder like ocd,or some borderline disorders or even asocial disorder to make charcter seem more alien,or even bestial.hope this helped you in any way :)
     
  3. LadyLazarus
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    LadyLazarus New Member

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    It depends entirely on the mental illness really, doesn't it.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Contributor

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    Are you writing true mental illness, or some cartoon resemblence to it? If you want to be serious about it, do some reading on the mental condition that you are trying to describe. For one thing, people with mental illness often don't look it. This is especially true of serial-type killers. That's one of the things that makes them so hard to catch.

    Also, true mental illness has a physiological cause.
     
  5. LadyLazarus
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    LadyLazarus New Member

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    Also, I'm no psychologist, but I'm pretty sure that someone can't be a sociopath and a psychopath.
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Contributor

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    Correct. They are both branches of ASPD. I suggest some research on the subject, as there are lots of sources out there.
     
  7. Bay K.
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    Bay K. New Member

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    If he was a relatively 'good' guy before he went insane, then why is he killing ordinary, innocent folk?
    (I know, I know, he's INSANE --a pscho and sociopath).
    Why not make him befriend other bad guys and kill them instead -- the psycho vigilante.

    And when you say he wears a mask, you're speaking metaphorically, right?


    -----------------------------------------------
    Be good, wise and strong
     
  8. goldhawk
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    goldhawk New Member

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    He can be a sociopath and a psychopath. A sociopath doesn't get along with others. A psychopath doesn't have empathy for others. What he can't do is be a sociopath and charismatic and trusted by others. If he was a sociopath, he wouldn't know how to be charismatic and he doesn't have the skills to make others trust him.

    On the other hand, psychopaths often are charismatic and trusted. But they're not sincere. It's an act they put on and they're often very good at it.
     
  9. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo New Member

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    I know a lot about this subject so please ask away.

    Technically, the term psychopath isn't used, but the meaning lives on in our culture. The word just means "Sick Mind" with Path meaning Sick and Psycho equals mind.

    So, it means a sick thought process. A normal example would be a rapist or pedophile, as their beliefs about their targets are not what people like us think about. An extreme would be a serial killer who think that a god is telling them to kill people (I've met a person like that). The fictional extreme would be The Joker where he wants the patent fish (the animal) and proceeds to kill eveyone who won't let him.

    So, people with a sick thought process exist, but the new term is Sociopath, which means a sick member of society. That was created to tern the focus on how society and culture creates these people and to imply they can be fixed.

    Anyway, you hit on some key points. The sociopath tends to be charming, funny, ect. That's because the "get" people and work the crowd like a comedian, actor, and so on. Thus, the pleasant behavior is a calculated manipulation. Also, there's a famous book called Mask of Sanity that described the facade used by psychopths (term at the time).

    In California there was a guy to beheaded a mother, daughter, and friend. When he was a kid a serial killer did that to his brother. That incident happened about ten years ago. His behavior is an example of trauma creating a superiority complex where the killer of his brother was the most powerful and impressive person he knew and he just had to do what he did. So, you nailed that idea.

    American Psycho: I read the book and it's not really an example of a crazy person. The writer took normal ideas like frustration and jealousy and made them extreme.

    For instance, at work a normal guy might think he'd like to kick someone in the face. It's nasty, but it's not the same having a network of bizarre reality warping ideas.
     
  10. w176
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    w176 New Member Contributor

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    People isn't just "insane". People with with a eating disorder, a depression, a phobia, or anxiety, or schizophrenic, or borderline, or antisocial personality disorder (where psychopathy/sociopathy is a subgroup) are all clinically insane.

    But a depression isn't a psychosis, and anorexia isn't psychopathy etc. You cant just write "insanity".

    You need to read up on what you are going to write about. And that means reading several college level textbooks. And if you can't read the college level textbooks you will have to read the high school level textbooks first. There is no short cuts.

    You also need to take note of what comes with his diagnosis and not. If he is a sociopath, he probably not be psychotic as well. (Psychosis is when you see hear things that not there like "the devil mad me do it" cliché, but usually it much more harmless thing. Like a voice telling you that your boyfriend is cheating, or believing that you life is a movie.)
     
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  11. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo New Member

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    The term "insane" is a legal one where you are totally out of control, at least in the US. However, all the other disorders you mentioned have a some kind of odd thought process that causes the person to engage in behviors that aren't part of average social behavior.
     
  12. w176
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    w176 New Member Contributor

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    Thank you. I wasn't aware of that slightly difference in meaning between the English and the correlating Swedish word.
     
  13. Kio
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    Kio New Member

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    I think it's best you do this research on your own. One of the reasons why I'm a psychology student is because I wished to understand the thoughts and behaviours of those who are "insane". I'll offer you the information I know.

    If this character of yours is a psychopath/sociopath (I've been told they are one in the same, just different names; correct me if I'm wrong), then there is a high chance of him being able to relate with anyone else around him. Since he lacks empathy, he cannot understand another person's pain. When he gets in trouble, he will show a lack of stress at being caught. There is also a theory that those with the antisocial personality disorder have a lower SNS than others and, therefore, commit wrongdoings in order to find stimulation. The sociopath is incredibly charming and is able to be trusted by others (I've even been told that a sociopath have a tendency of being more attractive physically, but I can't be certain on that). He is able to lie, cheat, steal, and kill anyone as long as he feels the need to do it. You can say that a sociopath is simply very selfish and out of touch with others, despite his outward personality. There is no known treatment for the sociopath.

    That's all I remember, really. "Insanity" isn't all jumbled up into a list of symptoms that do not conform with the norm. There are all the different kinds that you must take into account. I can't suggest any book/ show/ movie that has accurately portrayed someone with a personality disorder. Many of them end up getting something wrong. You should just read on the disorder you wish for your character to have. The DSM-IV might help you since it lists out all the disorders along with their symptoms. However, it is also surrounded by controversy since it was written by a group of white males, so there may be some bias in it.

    Look into multiple sources and keep in mind what you've found. That's the best thing you can do right now. Don't rely on the media to give you a clear idea on what "insanity" is because, more often than not, it is wrong.
     
  14. goldhawk
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    goldhawk New Member

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    OK. I refer to the work of Dr. Robert D. Hare, who clearly defines a psychopath as a person who does not feel empathy for others. He does not feel any discomfort when others are in pain but he does realize that they are. Because of this, he can use fear and pain to manipulated others, but unlike a sadist, he doesn't enjoy this. To him, it's just another tool.

    AFAIK, sociopath is not a psychological term. The best I heard is this is a person who does not fit into society. This may be because of inability to behave in an acceptable manner or it may be by choice. By this definition, all criminals are sociopaths. But then so aren't all hermits. And many religious institutes have limited interaction with society, so they would qualify too.

    In common usage, people use the terms psychopath, sociopath, and criminal interchangeably.
     
  15. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo New Member

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    Most people who speak English don't know that "insane" is both a legal and slang term. It's commonly used for someone who is bizarre and heavily disorganized in their thought process.
     
  16. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo New Member

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    Sociopath is a term that's used in psych as is psychopath. They're especially used in Forensic Psych as the subtle differences are needed when writing an analysis of a person. If used correctly, the terms suggest an origin of the behavior. Currently though Antisocial Personality Disorder is the current first use term.

    You can't give this diagnosis to a person unless there's proof that in their youth they had Conduct Disorder which is the kid version of sociopathy.

    Use in a Sentence:

    Bob was diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder as a result of his current charge of robbery and his childhood record.

    Bob has displayed continued sociopathic traits during his prison term as he has been caught gambling on multiple occasions.
     
  17. Kio
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    Kio New Member

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    From what I've been taught, a sociopath is a psychological term for those who are diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. It is one who lacks empathy and charms others for the sake of making his or her own ends meet. Yes, sociopaths don't fit into society, but that is because they cannot connect with others on an emotional basis; it doesn't mean that they are removed from it entirely. And sociopaths do not act in an acceptable manner, but they make sure to cover it up because they know of the consequences. Sociopaths have more symptoms that what's been described.

    The description of a psychopath you just told me fits with the description of those with the antisocial disorder, thus making the psychopath a sociopath. This is what I've learned.
     
  18. kablooblab
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    kablooblab New Member

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    thats the same story as dexter.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dexter_(TV_series)
     
  19. katica
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    katica New Member

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    Besides researching . . . .

    You should make sure to show and not tell. Don't even mention that he has psychological disorders, just have him behave like he does and write about events that occurred because he has those disorders.
     
  20. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo New Member

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    Yeah, the irrational thing about Dexter is that he wants to do good, which violates the "socially sick" aspect of being a Sociopath. I watched the first two seasons and thought it was a witty show, but his motivations are way outside of reality.
     
  21. Ion
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    Ion New Member

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    It depends on the character. Crazy comes in a whole lot of flavors. I wouldn't say you need to write in any specific way to do it.
     
  22. katica
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    katica New Member

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    Actually, no. It was more accurate to reality than most shows. Just because someone lacks the ability to emphathize or feel guilt, it doesn't mean they will actively do bad things. It just means that nothing will get in the way of them trying to benefit themselves. And if they truly believe in their heart that going after murders and killing them will benefit themselves (Dexter used it to handle his desire to kill things because he found it interesting so society would be less like to be angry with him but could still get enjoyment), then they'll do it. And like Dexter, they will just make believe, manipulate, and charm their way through the rest of life so no one figures out the truth about them.
     
  23. psychotick
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    psychotick Member

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    Hi,

    The terms psychopath and sociopath are both now considered largely obsolete and Antisocial Personality Disorder is the technical term that embraces them. For a list of the different features associated with the condition you can look up the DSM iv.

    However, I don't think that's what you want. You want to write crazy, and as many have said crazy comes in a wide variety. However, one thing most crazy people have in common with others, is that they think they're sane.

    Schizophrenics hearing voices etc, really believe they are hearing voices, and their actions are completely logical based on what they believe those voices are telling them. Psychopaths in the old sense of people who lack empathy, really don't understand what empathy is. Therefore they find the actions of others around them confusing, and try to fit in by mimicking it. That's why they can appear normal and yet do sometimes appalling things. Sociopaths in the sense of antisocial people, often don't understand the rules of society and many of their actions can be explained quite well by the fact that they actually don't understand. Its rather like letting loose a driver from one country in another where the road rules are different, and then watching them make all sorts of bizarre mistakes. Things which would seem completely nonsensical, but which make perfect sense if you understand the rules of their old country.

    To write crazy you need to find a logic, it doesn't matter how strange it would seem to you or I, and then map out their actions based on that. Now your guy having suffered a brutal tragedy at an early age and having struck back, my question would be why is he now becomming the same? Surely having killed the assailant originally he would have found some healing in that. I would expect someone who had come through a tragedy like that to be fragile, emotionally shallow and unable to form deep and lasting relationships with others, possibly a loner, and quite likely with a long term phobia problem - someone lurking in every shadow. I wouldn't expect him to start killing himself.

    Therefore you have to find something else, maybe something like Stockholm syndrome where he managed to empathise with the killer, before he killed him. Maybe he has developed schizophrenia and there are voices telling him to do these things. Or an extreme phobia that tells him these other people he's killing are in fact serial killers themselves who have to be stopped before they kill him.

    You can't write him as irrational because unless he's institutionalised and almost at the point of being unable to function, he is rational, its just that his rationality and yours aren't the same.

    Cheers.
     
  24. w176
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    w176 New Member Contributor

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    Thats not true. Unless we are talking about an ongoing psychosis or mania/hypomania, most people are well aware that they are crazy. Depressed people, people with eating disorders, bipolars, borderlines, people with anxiety disorders even schizophrenics except during an ongoing psychosis. As well as antisocial personality disorders, they are aware that they are different mentally from the rest of the population and uses it.

    Even if it can a take a while to accept a diagnosis, you -know- that something is wrong with you mentally if you for example your suffering from panic attacks. Or spend you day binge easting and using laxatives. Or have a severe phobia. Or crazy moodswings. Or hear voices. Or feel so down you can't get out of bed.

    A few, not most, diagnosis have in common during some stages of the diseases that they don't realize that they are sick. It is not even true for antisocial personality disorders. Neither DSM or WHO list it as a common symptom.



    ((Edit: Somehow the quote was originally mixed up, attributing it to the wrong user (Allegro Van Kiddo). I have no idea how that happened.))
     
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  25. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo New Member

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    The logical flaw in Dexter is that he cares about what other killers are doing.

    He's like a rapist raping guys who want to rape women when he's a rapist himself. That doesn't make much sense.

    Dexter isn't a cop who is allowed to "kill" people, he's a "murderer". The definition of murderer takes the restraint and duty out of it all and makes the character an unlikely contrivance. He's like Hannibal Lector a "cool murderer" who you can count on.

    Only in Hollywood.
     

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