1. Talespinner
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    Talespinner New Member

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    Is the highly intelligent sosiopathic villain too cliché?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Talespinner, May 18, 2013.

    Okay, so I'm sitting in my writing corner, sketching out the villain for my novel when I suddenly sit back and go: "Hey, wouldn't a genius narcissistic sociopath be a bit overused?" Kinda an interesting question, since it is the villain's narcissism that set the Evil Plot (TM) into motion, which the hero has to stop and thus be heroic. If no narcissism, then no evil plot, which means no heroism, and no hero. Which sucks. :(

    So, what is your opinion on the matter?

    I have attached the as-yet incomplete character sketch, in case anyone would like to glance at it.
     

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  2. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    All villains are sociopaths so you shouldn't think twice about it.
     
  3. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    First off, Ms. Chen sounds like a psychopath, not just a sociopath (just one more rung up the crazy ladder). She sees people as objects and uses them without remorse. Either way, there are very specific warning signs of these conditions that manifest throughout a socio/psychopath's youth (such as killing/mutilating animals). There are also specific life events (such as abuse) that have been found to lend to the creation of a socio/psychopath. If you want to use the terms (and Ms. Chen as you've written her could survive, intact, without them), I highly suggest you do a little research on the conditions. However, there are a number of accurate socio/psychopath traits you've included in her design. Kudos. :)

    There are a lot of character types that are used a lot and yes, the highly intelligent sociopathic villain is one of them. Don't mind that. Ever. Everything's been done. It's all about how you do it. How you dress the archetype. It's only a boring cliché if you dress it like everyone else. I think you've got a fine character design, though I'm curious what the Evil Plot (TM) :)D) is and how her narcissism sparked it.
     
  4. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    there's a very fine line between sociopaths and villains - according to the dictionary, sociopaths are more anti-social than criminal though some do break the law, so can you reverse it and say all villains are anti-social?

    I know plenty of villains/criminals the life and soul of many parties, the last thing you'd call them is anti-social...
     
  5. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    It's used all the time because it works and people love it. No worries :p
     
  6. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Not all sociopaths and psychopaths wind up committing crimes. It's very dependent on the environment and the potential gain. Most sociopaths are highly pragmatic. If they don't feel the reward outweighs the risk from a practical standpoint they won't do it. I don't think it's cliche at all. A lot of people who commit crimes have a serious disconnect from one or more of the following, morals, emotions, empathy, fear of societal consequences, and even fear in general. This article is a really interesting and chilling read that may give you some more insight. Confessions of a Sociopath on Psychology Today
     
  7. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Actually, the genius psychopath is a myth. It doesn't happen. For instance, the smartest serial killer ever caught was Ted Bundy; and he was only high-mid average. Their main gift (if you want to call it that) is their ability to convince others that they are trustworthy, smart, talented...whatever. They're basically a one trick pony--the only thing they are good at is mimicking whatever is in front of them. Whatever they have to become to get what they want is what they do.

    They are master fakers.

    They are not pragmatic...they are cowardly.

    The three early warning signs of psychopathy are:

    Bed wetting (up into mid to late teens--or even, periodicity into adulthood)

    Curtly to animals and smaller children

    And, fire starting.
     
  8. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I was speaking about sociopaths, if this is directed at what I said. I only said not all psychopaths are criminals. After that I specified I was speaking about sociopaths.
     
  9. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Basically sociopaths and psychopathy are the same thing: there are still some who will say they are different but it's a distinction without a difference. And yes most psychopaths do not commit major crimes (and the ones that do are not all serial killers) however, all are completely untrustworthy and cause much strife and ill will wherever you find them. But I was speaking to everyone in this thread not just you.
     
  10. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    Can you have a successful, ignorant, empathic villain? Maybe it is not overdone, but those are necessary inherent traits of a real bad guy*.

    * I hate this expression. I used to be ok with it until the recent threads about gender equality. Every time I hear playing children yell "get the bad guy," I want to halt recess and sit every child down and explain to him/her that using gender specific epithets is wrong and unfair
     
  11. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ever caught... How many serial killing sprees have gone unsolved? How many serial killers haven't been caught? Or at least caught alive to dissect? The whole argument is non-conclusive.
     
  12. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Sociopaths include antisocial people, dissocial people and psychopaths.
     
  13. beltnoire
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    beltnoire Member

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    There's nothing wrong with a sociopath as a villain no matter what you do, your antagonist can be boiled down to a trope or two but that doesn't mean that's all there is to the character. What matters more is what you as a writer do with your characters, the traits and motivations you weave together to develop your story. If the narcissistic mastermind is the catalyst to your plot, find a way to make them interesting.
     
  14. Talespinner
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    Talespinner New Member

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    Thanks - I did do some research, but apparently not enough. :) I was thinking mostly narcissistic personality disorder when I made her, specifically Theodore Millon's 'unprincipled narcissist' subtype (which includes antisocial traits).

    The heroine of the story is the villain's daughter. :D Tearing herself loose and escaping from her mother also cuts off the villain's narcissistic supply. Mommy doesn't like that. No, sir, she doesn't like that at all. It doesn't exactly get any better that said daughter manage to expose how Cassandra Chen callously manipulated some poor guy.

    So mommy wants the heroine back under her wing. Not just to punish her for having hurt her mommy so badly, but to make the heroine see that it was wrong to leave in the first place. To have the heroine voluntary acknowledge her greatness and admit that she is superior. Most of the plot is a battle of smarts between the two, hence the villain as a master-charlatan. Think of her as the Death Star, and the heroine as the intrepid X-Wing trying to hit a weak spot the villain is too nuts to notice. The heroine is further handicapped in that she's unwilling to resort to the kind of methods her mother use without a second thought.
     
  15. Talespinner
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    Talespinner New Member

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    Chilling indeed. And verrrry interesting. Thanks!
     
  16. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Absence of Evidence is not Evidence--it is nonsensical to draw conclusions on evidence not in hand.

    Thousands of serial (or Pattern killers to be precise) have been caught: enough to show this form of fractured personality chooses to limit their interaction with the world in ways that almost always ensures that the truth will at some point come out. Many of the cases that have not been solved have strong suspects that have died before enough evidence could be gathered to make an arrest. Like the Zodiac Killer's lead investigator was convinced his main suspect was getting ready to confess but had died of a massive coronary before he decided to do so. The killer and investigator had an odd relationship of phoning just to shout-the-shit, or to taunt or cajole each other into making some kind of move.

    Pattern Killers (indeed all psychopaths) have a very low threshold of boredom and will from time to time spontaneously say or do things, merely out of boredom, that lead to their arrest. Part of the thrill for them is the getting away with it: but after a while that fades--like every other interest in their lives--so they need to up the ante to keep the thrill alive. Some even get so bored that they simply walk into the police station and give themselves up.
     
  17. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    They aren't the same thing. The difference is literally in the name. A sociopath is someone who has an antisocial personality disorder. A psychopath can have an antisocial personality disorder but is a violent person at heart (or lack of :p). The OP isn't talking about psychopathic villains, he's talking about villains with sociopathy.

    Anyway... a sociopathic villain isn't cliché, they're quite interesting (if you manage to pull it off). I'd say go for it!
     
  18. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't draw any conclusions, nor did I say the absence of evidence was evidence - I said the whole thing was non-conclusive. Non-con-clus-ive.

    You can't say you they're all the same if you only have data on some of them. It's like saying all the planets in the solar system are the same when we only have data on three.

    Like I said, non-conclusive.
     
  19. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Wrong. Most psychopaths are not violent. (although I believe what they do is in fact violence...just not physical). Case in point, con-men. They cheat people out of their life savings thereby condemning them to a life of poverty and the inability to pay for needed medical treatments without any thought for their victim's suffering.

    Right now the psychiatric and law-enforcement communities are in the process of redefining these turms to better fit the new thinking--so us arguing over which term to use for which personality is at the moment useless. One of the new theories is that all the personality disorders are in fact one disorder that has a number of ways it manifests.
     
  20. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    In Jupiter it rains diamonds. It is unfair to compare any other planet to Jupiter.
     
  21. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    And psychopaths view people as mere play things: which is not only a very antisocial thing to do, but is also trespassing onto the sociopath's territory which must irk them immensely ;-P
     
  22. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've know some sociopaths. Some of which weren't very smart. But they were highly manipulative, lied for the sake of lying,
    were always trying to stay one step ahead of you as if every conversation was a chess move, and interaction was based on
    a winner and a loser. They could be violent but more often they weighed it as an option as to whether or not such effort
    was needed.
    They also knew they were different - hence they were always watching to see how others reacted to blend in. They
    would cry without emotion and get angry when you did buy the performance. They never seemed to understand crying
    was a reaction not an action.
     
  23. heal41hp
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    heal41hp Contributing Member

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    Based on the rest of the conversation going on here regarding socio/psychopaths, I'm questioning my own information on that front. Just going with unprincipled narcissism, though, sounds like it'll cover everything necessary. :)

    Nice twist! There's all sorts of fun friction that'll come of this relationship.

    Is the heroine adopted? The outline you provided mentioned she'd never tried sex. Of course that could change and there are a lot of qualities of pregnancy and child-rearing that would feed a narcissist. However, someone obsessed with appearance might not be keen on the changes pregnancy causes.
     
  24. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I can agree with this because I've also known a few. One that stood out in particular was female and highly intelligent. She fits the text book definition of a sociopath word for word.



    Sure thing! :)
     
  25. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's cliche, even though it's certainly misleading: there's nothing to say that just because a character's a sociopath they also have to be intelligent. In fact, none of the sociopaths I have known in real life (and there have been several) have had IQs higher than a soup-plate. Plus it allows laziness in the sense that writers can justify anything their characters do with 'oh, they're insane.' That's not how sociopathy works, and just feels like a cop-out when the entire characterisation of a book's villain depends on it. The current novel I'm writing actually has a villain with sociopathic tendencies, and it depresses me when I see an author handle it poorly. It's not as though real sociopathy limits your character development in any way: in fact, if done right, it can enhance it.
     

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