1. 33percent
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    33percent Member

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    MC with borderline/personality disorder?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by 33percent, Aug 10, 2013.

    Would like your input on characters with mental disorders. I'm almost nearly done with my first draft of my book, and my friend did a read on it. He enjoyed it, pointed out my MC is unpredictable having a personality or borderline disorder? I didn't recognize it until I started briefly reading the parts he showed me. How can you recognize a character having such a disorder in a book? Told me I should continue making his personality even more unbalanced. Would like your opion on MC having mental disorders. It's a sci-fi base, adventure, futuristic war, political turmoil, and etc. I put my MC in tight situations of almost life, and death even questioning if it's morally right thing to do. Thing is majority of book involves of war, and breaking down of my MC mentally/physically.

    My friend pointed out my MC sways emotionally from extreme uncontrollable moments of depression to anger, being very compassionate of humanity to wanting to destroying life. Having a dark twisted sense of humor fighting off his inner daemons. It's just my MC constantly wanting to find his quest who he is or what his purpose in life or who he is/ wanting a death wish. Even putting himself in life threatening situations to just seek a simple thrill out of it. I even have some parts of the book that he's has hallucinations and delusions, talking to imaginary people in moments of solitude that are his loved ones or friends of the past.

    Just want your thoughts on this. There is a purpose for the MC that drives him for the main plot but personally I don't think it's good enough, and it is politically. I don't know if I'm playing with fire here. I don't want the readers to be turning against MC for what he becomes in the end. There is so many cases that the protagonist is always the good guy, and it's almost like it's always a happy ending. In a way I'm sick of it. In life we experience moments that reality of how we wanted or visioned it to be being far opposite of the truth. It's never always a happy ending, but a constant motion of conflict. Thing is my MC is ambitious, but fearing death, and the path he chooses much more of the dark side that he personally believes for the greater good. In the end, I do have the MC achieve what he fights for but at a great cost that is his moral character; consuming the remaining the humanity in him.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that declaring that your character has a personality disorder would "fix" these conflicts. A character needs to have an inner set of motivations, a framework for their thoughts and emotions, even if observers find him thoroughly illogical and irrational. Even if you declare a personality disorder, you'll have to figure out that framework and somehow make it sensible to the reader.

    For example, Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal was deeply insane, but all the same, there was a framework there.

    Edited to add: I just realized that the above could be taken as suggesting that personality disorders and murderously insane people are somehow equivalent. No; I'm just saying that everyone, IMO, has a framework stringing their thoughts together, whether or not others can understand that framework. And if you're creating a character, you as the author need to have some idea of that character's framework.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Readers are going to see many different things in characters, and not always what the author intended or did deliberately. I wouldn't try to intensify the supposed personality disorder - but do look at the character's actions, reactions, motives, etc and see if it's consistent for the character. Then decide if anything is too subtle or too overblown - work on the characterization, not on the supposed disorder.
     
  4. DH Hanni
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    DH Hanni Member

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    If you didn't intend for your character to have a mental disorder but your beta reader is asking if he does, then you might want to reexamine what the character is doing. Are his actions consistent with who he is as a character? People do change under the right circumstances which is one of the aims of a story. If the character is meant to act all over the place for a reason, it doesn't necessarily mean he has mental illness. Too big of a misconception that 'acting odd' = mental illness. The spectrum of behaviors associated with various mental illnesses runs wide.
     
  5. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would either:
    a) re-write the novel so that you give your character a mental condition (bi-polar, borderline personality disorder, etc.)
    b) keep it the way it is and allow readers to see stuff there that you didn't plan -- so what?

    If you already got the psychological plausibility of your character down, if what he does is consistent and according to your plan, it doesn't matter if someone sees there things you didn't intend. However, if your betas point out that here your character acts somewhat out-of-character, you might want to re-evaluate your writing.

    But if you aren't prepared to write a character with a mental illness and don't feel like doing research, it's probably best you don't "try" to make him into something some beta-reader sees him as.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    From what you've indicated in the post, it isn't clear that you necessarily need to do anything as far as the MC's personality and mental condition. I'd be very cautious about specifically giving the MC a particular mental condition and then outright stating that he has it, especially when you initially didn't intend to give hi this condition. It's perfectly fine for a reader to read a story and think, "Gee, it seems like this character has X condition." That happens a lot in real life, too.

    Also, unless your beta reader is some kind of medical/psychiatric professional, or has that condition himself, or a very close loved one with the condition, he isn't necessarily correct in his assessment.
     
  7. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's nothing wrong with MCs with mental disorders. I think virtually all of mine have, ranging from mild OCD to some interesting cocktails of insanity stew. However, I would stress that you should avoid the Hollywood insanity trope, which is just throwing out the label so as to excuse bad characterisation. In Hollywood thinking, if a character does something a little out there that they normally wouldn't, or has one personality trait in extreme (i.e., sadism) then you can just call them insane and avoid all that 'characterisation' that writers bang on about. That doesn't translate so well to books - it sticks out like a sore thumb, and your character turns out dull as dishwater.

    Also, if you're writing a mental illness that's fairly well-known to the public, such as manic depression or psychosis, make sure you do sufficient research so as to portray it accurately. Personal experience helps greatly with this, but if that fails then lingering on forums for people with the disorder for extended periods of time should allow you to soak up all the information you need. Before you jump in to declaring that your main character has a mental illness, you should check for yourself whether you think he does. The only part of your MC that seems explicitly insane is him talking to hallucinations, and that's only if he genuinely believes they're there - other disorders that cause 'imaginary friends' in adults who don't really believe they're there but talk to them anyway don't tend to affect personality as a whole. Psychosis may be something worth looking into.
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like others have pointed out, it might be that your character is inconsistent. Certainly, I couldn't make head or tails of it when I read your description, it isn't really consistent with any one mental disorder, it seems like a hodge-podge. Of course, I haven't read it so can't tell for sure.

    Detailed description of borderline personality disorder is only one Google search away. However, there are cardinal features,without which, it isn't a BPD, so this is where consistency comes in. "Insane" characters that are well written are extremely psychologically consistent (with their illness or condition) and well researched, because only that is recognised by the reader as authentic and meaningful.

    People in real life who have personality challenges display one of the familiar patterns of behaviour, with PD's (personality disorders) it's usually a combination of 2 or 3 types, with one being dominant and others expressing in traits. Such as a 24 year old actress with a combination of borderline PD, histrionic and dependent, or a 52 y.o. surgeon with narcissistic PD and sadistic and paranoid traits etc. Also, males and females differ in their expression of extreme passive aggression (this is what BPD actually is), so really, it would be best if you read up on personality disorders (there are just a few) and see if your character makes sense in that respect.
     
  9. 33percent
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    33percent Member

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    I never intended MC to have a Personality/borderline disorder. My friend is majoring in psychology so that's one reason for his input on MC. I want to keep the reader guessing regarding the plot, and MC. Jazzabel even if MC had a disorder I don't know what I would put him under but after reading BPD I think it might fit best?

    A brief run down about the MC, he wakes up in the far future. I have it where he is torn apart from the past, and adapting to the future. The hallucination he has is mainly of his close ones like his best friend, older brother, and girl he was love with in the past.

    I failed to mention, that he is also a terp; he has constant bombardment of voices/visual thoughts from other people, and because of this he is inheriting other people's traits. That is why his emotions are all over the place. I'm trying to show because he's a terp, reason for uncontrollable impulsive anger, and depression to even attempted suicide. MC either begs God for forgiveness or blames/curses God for his misfortune.

    I have some parts where his telekinesis goes out of control; killing dozen people through rage. He gets a euphoria like a drug high when he does kill then afterwards either having complete guilt trip of taking their lives. A lot of the situations he's trying to save his own life and others. The main battle I have with him being self-rightness, and the loss of everything of his past which triggers his depression, hatred, and anger.
     
  10. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ok, that makes more sense now. He doesn't need to have BPD or any PD if it's just a consequence of his powers.

    BPDs though, have themselves as their own worst enemy. They take their anger out on themselves (eg. through repeated but not serious suicide attempts, self-harm through cutting, severe substance abuse, sometimes bulimia, unprotected sex with high promiscuity etc) and then, they suffer with a very strong sense of abandonment, so even percieved betrayal by a friend or a loved one causes extremely violent reaction. Extreme upset can culminate in a suicide attempt, to 'show up' the person they are upset with. Typically they call for help though. Also, they tend to view people in black and white, one nurse is an angel and the other the worst bitch ever, but that can switch if they feel betrayed, so they get very manipulative as well. All these, if you avoid them, the character won't come across as having BPD, which is I think what you want?

    Just a side thought, true hallucinations are a hallmark of psychosis, and person recognises them as coming from some external agency. These voices are typically two or more, sometimes commanding them to do things they don't want to do, or berating them, they are often described as 'derogatory' and to be coming from somewhere behind them. When a person is hearing voices inside their head, they usually have insight and recognise that the voices are coming from within, they are pseudohallucinations and as such aren't a sign of psychosis. In your universe, if he knows they are premonitions, he needn't have any 'insanity' to him at all.

    Good luck with writing, it sounds interesting :)
     

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