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  1. destinationless
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    destinationless Member

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    Illustrating Deceit

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by destinationless, Oct 31, 2008.

    I'm beginning to formulate a new story, but I'm having a hard time with my main character -who is an antagonist.

    The theme is that looks can be decieving ("What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness." -Leo Tolstoy), so I'm trying to create a positively vile character that charms his victims through his beauty and charisma.

    I have his bio outlined and everything, and know where I want to go with the story, but I'm having a hard time with writing him out.

    It's going to be a short story (for now --I may expand it to a novel, if all goes well); between 1500 and 2000 words, so I need to be very clear in the fact that this is an evil person and this is why...
    However, part of his persona is his superb charasmatic nature, and I really dont want to forego that; in fact, it's necessary. His role is somewhat similar to a leader of a cult, so charisma is a requirement.

    Do you have any tips for constructing an evil character who might come across as caring and even loving, while still illustrating to the audience his absolute wretchedness?

    I'm paging through Shakespeare's Othello for inspiration and tips, but... I could use your advice.

    Thank you, everyone! Every time I post something here, I get such amazing responses. :)

    -D
     
  2. Thagryn-Sylrand
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    Thagryn-Sylrand Senior Member

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    The way that I would do this is when he's around people show his good side but at the same time show his thoughts to the audience. You have to show the reason why he's using his charisma, what is his plan? What does this person mean to him: Is it a pawn for his master plan? Is it someone he finds useless but must show keep his reputation by acting polite or whatever. One thing I just thought of is what kind of things does he keep in his home? Newspaper articles, books. Dunno hope this helped.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Or better than showing his thoughts, show his duplicity in his actions, and have some people react warily to his flattery. Use adjectives like smooth or slick, that have an innocent surface meaning but a connotation of insincerity.

    Show him dropping the act when no one is around, even when he's not actually doing something sneaky.
     
  4. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    Two more things you might want to take a look at;

    American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
    Death Note by Tsugumi Obha

    American psycho deals with a theme that is very similar to yours, and heas some excelent scenes where Bateman "drops the act". Death Note, although a graphic novel (manga) shows the thoughts of someone who is pretty evil while keeping up a good-guy apperance.
     
  5. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    One good technique is to show how he charms most people, yet there are always one or two people who are not only NOT charmed, but treated horrendously by this person. Case in point, the successful businessman who is beloved in the workplace, has all kinds of friends, is well liked in his church and can do no wrong, then goes home and beats and tyrannizes his wife and kids. Whenever the truth about such people comes out, almost everyone around them is shocked--"He was always such a nice man!" Yes--to MOST people.

    The scariest and most convincing kind of deceit is the kind the deceiver believes in themselves. They have even themselves fooled. Most people of the type I mentioned above really see no wrong or duplicity in what they're doing, and that's scary.
     
  6. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I'll follow up on some the great posts above... I like the idea of leaving the good-guy persona for every situation, except the periodic scene when he shows off his monstrous nature. I think you can even throw in a little foreshadowing in your good guy scenes, especially right before he is unveiled for what he is.
     
  7. misaditas
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    misaditas Member

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    another book recommendation - The Picture of Dorian Gray.
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Check out Hitler, and Charlies Manson.

    They can both seem caring, and they are both charismatic, but it is their ideals, their goals that make them evil.
     
  9. Farseer
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    Farseer Member

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    An important thing to remember is that people tend to be idiots. Not everyone is going to understand what happens, and some are going to complain about it. Don't feel obliged to make it obvious so everyone understands.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't agree with this assessment. Don't assume the reader is an idiot because he or she didn't pick up on your subtle cues.

    You, the writer, have an advantage. You know what the cues are supposed to point to. The reader may see the cue, but either not be ablr to narrow down what it sigbifies from several possibilities. or may read it as one of those other possibilies. YOU might be giving an unclear or ambiguous cue!

    Assume your reader is sharper than you are, and can see more ways a cue can lead than you do. Leave more than one bread crumb to mark a trail, and even mark some alternate trails to the same destination.
     
  11. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    I agree with Codge. But it's not so much that your reader is sharp than it is that you might not be giving enough of a picture.

    I think the best remedy for this is to show it to other people and see if they pick up on it. If nobody gets it, it's too subtle. If 90% of the people get it, it's too subtle. One of the most important parts of writing is keeping things clear and concise. There shouldn't be any ambiguity or confusion about what you mean.
     
  12. delhi
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    delhi Member

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    I agree with these last posts. My stories usually aren't understood, and I have to rewrite them... even when I am not trying mystery stories.
    Regarding the evil character, you can always think of a person's multiple reasons to do anything. The most altruist person can be taken as evil, it all depends on the judge. In Death Note (the only sample I knew), the character is smart enough to know all the possible reasons, to say he had a good one, and to counterattack efficiently if he was "misjudged". Now, your evil character HAS to be this smart, so you should know every possible interpretation of his actions. Then you can make him (or someone else) justify his actions one way, and then you see his real goal, with no need of words.
     
  13. El902
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    El902 Member

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    Do you have any tips for constructing an evil character who might come across as caring and even loving, while still illustrating to the audience his absolute wretchedness?

    The term sadist comes to mind. Don't mistake me for a psychologist, but I'm 99% sure that a sadist is a person who has no conscious, who believe they are more important than any other being out there (therefor killing, maiming - and the pain that goes with it - deceiving etc. is unimportant compared to the sheer pleasure they [the sadist] get out of doing it) and who have no regards to anything other than themselves. If this is your bad guy, just keep in mind the fact that he is God. He controls everything around him. A more correct definition from Wiki states that:

    And goes on to quote:
    Hope that helps. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. I am a hardcore, die hard fan of Law and Order SVU and therefor am an expert on the subject ;)

    El
     
  14. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    Heh... if this were real life, wouldn't it strike you a bit odd, continuing a conversation that had ended three weeks ago...? :p
     
  15. El902
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    El902 Member

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    Beh, a good conversation should never end. And any how, when I post "Help Me!" threads I check them weeks after they've gone dead, hoping beyond hope some angelic soul will fill me head with knowledge.

    And I hadn't noticed it was dead :)
     
  16. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    I grow weary of your excuses, young Padawan...
     
  17. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Umm...try reading Shakespeare's Macbeth? It's full of deception.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Actions speak louder than words. Show the reader both the words and the actions that contradict the words.
     
  19. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some of the greatest evil characters in real life history came from religion...in recent decades, people like Jim Jones (Jonestown massacre), David Karesh (burning of the compound in Waco, Texas), Jim Bakker (Praise the Lord Ministry). These guys were masters of deception and hiding their evil side or madness under the cloak of righteousness.

    BTW - all three of these religious leaders had sex-based perversions and/or restrictions that betrayed their underlying character. Your MC could appear completely honorable and charismatic until the reader is given small peeks into their sexual behavior.
     
  20. El902
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    El902 Member

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    Another horrific example of the modern day psychopaths is Jeffery Dahmer.

    Dahmer manipulated the police into believing that Sinthasomphone and himself had gotten into an argument earlier that night, explaining the bruises on his body. This article doesn't state it, but the boy was completely nude, apparently drugged, and the "incoherent ramblings" were obvious pleas for help. A naked boy running around in the streets with bruises all over his body, and Dahmer charmed the police into believing that the fourteen year old boy was there by his free will.

    If you want a psychopath serial killer, I'd look up more articles on this one.

    El
     
  21. JohnNoZ
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    JohnNoZ Member

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    I would have to start with a question. You say this character is evil. Evil is a strong word. What exactly does he do that makes him evil?

    I don't think that your question can be answered without this information.
     

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