1. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    Psychopathology and Perfectionism

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mendelevium, May 4, 2012.

    I'm in the process of drafting a world and characters for that world, and I've run into a fairly big landmine here.

    There is one character. He's physically attractive. He's highly intelligent. He's a member of a pseudo-military force, but he's also an exceptional scholar, a witty orator, and one of the youngest magical folk in written history to have acquired a highly prestigious position and award. He's soft-spoken and seems wise. He's a competent but not excellent musician, and he has a lovely singing voice.

    The only drawback to this perfect character is that he's manipulative, he lacks basic empathy, and he's naturally predisposed to auditory hallucinations. He's absolutely inhuman inside, and he hides it fairly well, but people find out. When people find out, he tends to shut them up. He doesn't brood about this, he doesn't regret it, and if you ask him he'll either shut you up or tell you with a straight face that yes, he did all that. He doesn't care about his family, colleagues, or friends, and he isn't in the least concerned about anyone under his care, although he'll put up a decent act of it. He's working towards one goal he neither knows completely nor cares about, although he may come across as a well-intentioned extremist. And yes, he is held accountable for his crimes, and in the end quite a lot of people either dislike or despise him, and he doesn't have a happy ending.

    So, villain or Mary Sue?
     
  2. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are a few inconsistencies, but personality characteristics you described sound basically like Antisocial Personality Disorder, or typical psychopathy/sociopathy. Although, what is most obviously inconsistent is that he admits to his actions. If he is going to have other traits you described, including manipulativeness, then he's more than likely to be a pathological liar.
    In any case, sounds like a villain or an antagonist to me
     
  3. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    That should be easy to remedy, seeing as his character is still so malleable.

    Would it be more realistic for him to be aware of his auditory hallucinations? Or have a laundry list of things that could get him in trouble?
     
  4. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    The auditory hallucinations would be a completely separate, unrelated condition from his psychopathic traits. Does he have to have hallucinations? If not, I'd scrap them - it could reinforce the stereotype that crazy and violent automatically go together. But if you have a good in-story reason for him to hallucinate, that's fine. Psychopaths are just as likely as anyone else to hallucinate.

    Now, there are many conditions that can cause auditory hallucinations. What kind of hallucinations does he have? If they're just random noise, could be tinnitus or seizures. Tinnitus is an inner ear problem and has no impact on cognition or behavior, except inasmuch as constantly hearing a certain noise might affect anyone (it can be an unpleasant condition to have). Seizures that cause auditory hallucinations would probably be temporal lobe seizures, which can also cause temporary inability to speak and/or understand speech and sudden unprovoked strong emotions. There's also some suggestion that temporal lobe epilepsy results in compulsive writing and/or drawing, and many artistic people, such as Vincent Van Gogh, have been suggested to have temporal lobe epilepsy.

    If it's more complex sounds like voices, that's most likely a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia, or else a mood disorder. Mood-concordant hallucinations (such as insulting voices when depressed) are occasionally seen in extreme mood states, either mania or depression. These conditions cause other effects besides hallucinations - mood disorders obviously cause an extreme moods, either unipolar depression or bipolar (unipolar mania has never been described); schizophrenia causes delusions and often a certain degree of generalized cognitive impairment (it used to be called dementia praecox, after all).

    Or you could have some cause for his auditory hallucinations that doesn't occur in real life, such as something supernatural. In that case, make up whatever you like.
     
  5. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not quite sure what you mean, so if my comment is not quite what you were asking, let me know and I'll try again :)
    I assumed auditory hallucinations were part of his magic. But if they are a psychiatric symptom, then their existence would be consistent with a psychotic illness of some kind. Depends on the type, but you can have anything from derrogatory commentary between two or more voices, he would hear them as if they are coming from somewhere external, like behind his back or on one shoulder. This is a typical picture in schizophrenic type illness. These hallucinations are typically very distressing and usually either berrate the sufferer, or order him to do things, usually to hurt or kill someone (command hallucinations).

    There are other types which are a lot more benign. Sometimes, the voice is still external but it is friendly and more of a companion. Person is usually aware that it is a hallucination, not really an invisible person/microchip/alien/FBI talking to them. In that case, it is not very distressing at all, and is more consistent either with well-controlled chronic psychosis, or a different illness such as schizotypal personality disorder.

    Milder still is when the voice is percieved to come from inside the head. That can happen in people who are quite obsessive or depressed, even in severe anxiety disorders. It represents a break from reality, but insight is sintact, which means they are aware to a large degree that it's their own thoughts they are hearing. This is the least common type, unless it happens episodically, in times of great stress or something like that, which is more common. Such as ruminations in a severely depressed person, when they can't silence an internal critic telling them how much life sucks, what they've done wrong etc. They know it's their thoughts but can't shut them off, so the thoughts get the distressing quality of hallucinations.

    People who have auditory hallucinations are always aware of them, but whether or not they believe it's their own thoughts, or a symptom of psychological disturbance or a completely independent and external agency causing it, depends on the clinical picture.

    Antisocial PD might have any of these, but they would represent a separate psychopathology from their personality disorder. It would be a co-morbid condition, where hallucinatory illness is the primary issue. Typical psychopaths don't tend to suffer with these though.
     
  6. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    I've been playing around a bit with psychotic disorders/seizures, and they both seem to suit the character, although I'm having trouble with justifying his need for prescription meds. Or the side effects of those meds. :p

    Would it make sense for him to understand, intellectually, his misdeeds?
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, if he has psychotic symptoms he'd possibly be prescribed antipsychotics plus minus sedatives (less likely because antipsychotics are very sedating; this is also why he probably wouldn't be up to doing much, unless he goes off his meds, psychosis returns etc, but organisational abilities would be greatly affected, most likely).

    Seizures, he'd be prescribed any number of anticonvulsant medication, it would be temporal lobe epilepsy but in that case, he'd be only capable of "automatic" behaviour during the seizure and possibly have no or very poor recollection of the seizure event. These meds are not sedating, but this picture isn't really consistent with ongoing auditory hallucinations.

    It's possible for anyone of intelligence above say 70 or 80 to intellectually understand their deeds. Deep psychosis will mess with person's ability to correctly understand the meaning and implications. For example, they might believe, due to delusions, that their neighbour is a KGB spy or an alien who is following him and his family, with aim to kill them. So he ambushes the neighbour and shoots him, in what he thinks is a pre-emptive, self-defence gesture. In that sense, he won't accept that what he believes is delusional, or that his neighbour is innocent, but he'll know he killed him.
    Some very disorganised psychoses might go even deeper, where he wouldn't know he killed a person, he'd believe (and see due to visual hallucinations) that, for example, he liberated an angel from his body, as God ordered him to. But these are extremely rare, deeply disorganised states, and he would appear mad to others (self-neglecting, talking to himself, not responding appropriately and his speech would probably be totally bizarre) so it doesn't go with what you want to do.

    If you simply have a psychopath of reasonably average or high intelligence, who is not deeply psychotic, then yes, he'd be able to understand his misdeeds. He might be in denial about his motivations, but that's going in the direction of a slightly "mad" villain, like when a mad scientist releases a deadly virus to help world overpopulation.
    Otherwise, he'd simply be lacking any remorse, and not care how it affected others.
     
  8. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    So, in other words, now is a handy time for a deus ex machina or magical intervention. Wonderbar.

    On another note, if this character had been portrayed as, say, a mentor to the protagonist or the protagonist himself and not a villain, would you diagnose him as a Mary Sue, or is that entirely dependent on having some sense of morality concordant with the author's, no matter how insane this individual might seem to the rest of us?
     
  9. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    That's a very compassionate and avant garde way of looking at this condition. Thank you. To most of the world, I'm insane. (And trust me, I use it to my advantage ducking idiots. I give them a glass flat non-blinking stare and tilt my head slightly, and they speed away fast, making some lame excuse that they need an emergency molar flossing.)

    I'm OCD, have a narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar and I was a pathological liar in my thirties.

    However, at my worst you'd find me sitting quietly or taking long naps. No ranting, no spraying myself with glitter and dancing naked in the street, no speaking in tongues. In fact, I always held a job and did excellent work.

    As counter intuitive as that might sound, the traditional idea of thrashing around in a straight jacket is a Hollywood myth. I was the life of the party. On a mania I could beat you at any card game you could imagine by just observing it for a few minutes. I love to play bridge and whist. During one particularly bad episode you could find me doing volunteer work at a local vets' hospital.

    In fact, I think most guys like me are usually spoken of as being "Type-T personalities." We're always up for a good time--in fact we're always up, period. Call us at zero-dark-thirty and we catch the phone on the first ring. We're loyal, we're generous, and all of those demons you think you know so much about are silently the issue of self-torture.

    Now, I've seen a schiz. Several months ago one confronted my wife and I at a coffee bar and accused us of stalking him as part of the "great red car conspiracy." He went off because he saw us park my wife's red Ford truck. I stood between him and my wife until I saw him melt down. He was just a patient, off his meds, and more frightened of my wife's truck than anything you could do to him.

    If you're looking to write about a crazed killer or a malevolent take-no-prisoners entity, write about a tax and spend liberal who's just been told to trim his grandiose budget. By himself he's nuttier than the entire complement of patients sitting in my shrink's waiting room.
     
  10. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    I don't know much about that, really. Seeing as every single character I've cranked out thus far is dysfunctional, should be in an asylum, or fundamentally abnormal in comparison to what we'd consider to be statistically average, I try my best to make sympathetic but still believable characters -- otherwise everyone in my various multiverses, universes, and splinter worlds would be running around waving a cleaver.

    Not to say that I don't have crazed characters or murderers in my repertoire; it's just that those traits don't always coincide. This character isn't the usual amoral person I invent, but he's a far cry from a wild-eyed, knife-waving nut or an evil...er...lovechild with nothing to lose. He's just that: he's amoral, there are people who would trust him with their lives, and there are people who wouldn't.
     
  11. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    That is a "malignant narcissist," and doesn't really swim in my end of the gene pool. Think of the character 'House.' They appear bizarre, often brilliant, and their pathology delves far beyond just a favorable self-interest.

    My people could care less. We are the guys who like a little action, games of chance, loud engines and shiny things. Taking candy from a baby or world domination is just flatly too much work.

    Except for scouring every single dust bunny out from under the refrigerator. For that, we'll spend +72 hours building a specialized tool for a job taking seven minutes. And we'll flirt with your wife, successfully I might add. We're also skirt-chasers.
     
  12. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    Hmm...tell me, are you naturally predisposed to violence, impulsiveness, or tactlessness?

    In addition, if the character I have described is in the part of the protagonist, would you bill him as a 'Mary Sue', an antihero, or someone you would hate?
     
  13. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you can have great fun with writing a mentor with these qualities. The thing is, even though clinically, these illnesses/syndromes/symptoms/dysfunctions are logical and predictable, easily categorised and easily recognisable, that's only a part of the picture. People, regardless of their mental state and predispositions, fluctuate and change over time, they flip back and forth into some old habits but ultimately are unique human beings, with unique stories, unique histories and personalities, hopes and fears etc.

    So yeah, you can decide on some character traits but there's nothing stopping you from making that character a paradox. Like a psychopath who becomes a hero, or a hero who destroys the world. Villain or a hero, it's matter of a perspective. It is the goal that makes someone into one or the other.

    But I think the trick in making original and unpredictable, and more than anything, believable villains (because to me, any character who is not believable is a Mary Sue/Gary Stu) lies in keeping them consistent to a point, but then letting your intuition and imagination run free and see what you get :)
     
  14. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I was, and for many years I was rewarded for that type of behavior.

    But like I always quote from Asian sources, "When you only have a hammer the entire world looks like nails."

    Back to the OP's story, I think he's studying the wrong pathology. My people aren't conniving villains, we're the guys who ruminate for days over the smallest social slight, while we polish our shoes for the second time that day.

    If your hero drives a car you research the right model. If your villain has mental problems you research the right disorder.
     
  15. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    Oh no, I think we're going down the wrong path here. My questions to you aren't for my character, but rather out of intellectual curiosity. Say what you will, but the descriptions in my psychology texts are no replacement for the real thing.

    However, I do have other characters...

    EDIT: Are you referring to Maslow's hammer there?
     
  16. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Oh, I'm not offended. It was many years ago, and it dovetails into the OP's character development issues.

    Now, my "template" would make a great enforcer or 'mechanic' for the OP's story. The template is fastidious on detail, an asset for disposing of evidence. Loyalty is a trait. Self-sacrifice for a valued cause. And finally the cold, dispassionate ability to "take out the trash."

    But the template is not a mastermind. Too unstable, too scattered far too often. Too fixated on minutiae if not properly directed. And if loyalties change...

    You need a cold, calculating, malignant narcissist, psychopath. You need the template for my cousin Bobbie.
     
  17. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    There are no heroes.

    I think that's the point you've all been missing. Maybe I shouldn't have used the terms 'protagonist' or 'villain' in this context, but the only function they serve is as perspectives of interest. You don't have a good side or a bad side -- the man who's trying to destroy the world may well be trying as hard to save (or damn) you all as the man who's fighting him, and the 'protagonists' may be people, but they're not going to throw themselves into extraordinary situations without as good a pondering as any sane individual. If they had existed in the Marvel universe, they would be one of the citizens running screaming from the villain du jour.

    So, one of the original points of this thread was to evaluate the realism of my character, and in that respect you've all given me very good food for thought. The other point is, would you consider this character to be a Mary Sue?
     
  18. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    You describe him as smart, pretty, a spec-ops background and possibly a candidate for a PTSD diagnosis. He's not just another Mary Sue, he's the quintessential, archetype, cookie cutter Mary Sue.
     
  19. CrimsonReaper
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    "He's physically attractive. He's highly intelligent."
    Let's ignore the fact that beauty is subjective. Is he really intelligent, or does he simply overestimate his abilities like sociopaths typically do? A realistic portrayal of a narcissict/psychopath (underestimates others while overestimating themselves) is NOT a Villain Sue or Mary Sue. Seeing themselves as the paragon of humanity and/or evilness is what bites them in the ass.

    "He's a member of a pseudo-military force,"
    So he can't stomach the discipline required of a REAL military where you follow the orders of your superiors REGARDLESS of what you think of them (Unless it is clearly an illegal order). Sociopaths/psychopaths typically make very poor soldiers. I for example, am not allowed to serve in the United States military despite my grades in school and physical fitness. Apparently I failed the psyche profile. Did that at a job once too, but managed to talk them into hiring me anyway (old friends of one of the managers; real friendships and techinal skill do pay off). Couldn't get hired by the police either. Maybe I'll try the fire department one day. My ultimate point being that a sociopath's/psychopath's ability to disregard empathy for others does not make up for the lack of discipline and comradeship required of a military unit.

    "but he's also an exceptional scholar,"
    As in he reads a lot like a dilletante or he has actual degrees from colleges? The former is a Mary Sue. The latter has a diploma and the years of work and respect of peers it represents. Those are not just little slips of paper.

    " a witty orator, "
    Hitler could give one hell of a speech, but that does not mean he was a rocket scientist. Some people excel at public speaking naturally, while others train themselves to overcome stage fright and crowds. I did the latter, and can often talk circles around "natural" speakers because I had to learn tricks and face fears they never thought about. If you want him to have this, then he SHOULD EARN IT.

    "and one of the youngest magical folk in written history to have acquired a highly prestigious position and award. "
    I know nothing of how magic works in this setting. If it's an innate gift, then you are heading towards Mary Sue territory. If he actually studied so he could lord over his peers and be the best, then he something backing up his arrogance.

    "He's soft-spoken and seems wise. "
    Or manipulative. A common tactic of those in power is to speak softly so that NO ONE ELSE IN THE ROOM can speak and get a word in edgewise without looking like they are trying to drown you out (considered rude in many cultures). Also people are forced to crowd around/lean in so they better hear. The man screaming his head off is not always the one working the crowd.

    "He's a competent but not excellent musician, "
    Same as public speaking. DID HE EARN THIS? If he actually practiced then yes and he is not a Mary Sue. Maybe even tie skill in music into skill wiht magic (once again I do not know how magic works).

    "and he has a lovely singing voice. "
    Clarify. As in perfect pitch, a trait that is something you are born with and other people must work VERY HARD to emulate if they were not so lucky. If so, Mary Sue. If he actually sings to calm his nerves (or maybe as a trick to learn to get over public speaking) then he earned it.

    "The only drawback to this perfect character is that he's manipulative, he lacks basic empathy, and he's naturally predisposed to auditory hallucinations. "
    That's two drawbacks, not counting being manipulative. I manipulate people. So what. Doesn't make me a monster. The lack of empathy is his major problem. Many people (including my family) consider me mildly sociopathic. This has BITTEN ME IN THE ASS more times than I can count. Particularly when it comes to the strange creatures known as women, who do not operate off of anything resembling logic or reason. Yet I have many female friends, who feel some need to "share" there relationship issues with me. Don't know. Maybe I have a "gay friend" or "big brother" vibe or something. But I digress. My point being that not understanding how other people think tends not to lead to world domination, but to you not being invited to parties. As for the hallucinations, make them guilt-induced or drop them. He suppreses his emotions and empathy (as opposed to not having them) and suffers for it.

    "He's absolutely inhuman inside, "
    Boring. Cosmic Probe Alpha Zero One is inhuman inside. Also not something most people want to read about.

    "and he hides it fairly well, but people find out. "
    No, people notice. They just don't confront him about it. Especially women. That's how people used to deal with me. Tearing down the facade a sociopath/psychopath builds up around themself is extremely dangerous. Most people know better.

    "When people find out, he tends to shut them up. He doesn't brood about this, he doesn't regret it, and if you ask him he'll either shut you up or tell you with a straight face that yes, he did all that. "
    Or get his butt handed to him. Though it is refreshing to see a character TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR ACTIONS. Though as others mentioned a hardcore sociopath/psychopath is unlikely to do so. It is OTHER people's fault, not his.

    "He doesn't care about his family, colleagues, or friends, and he isn't in the least concerned about anyone under his care, although he'll put up a decent act of it. "
    This part is believable. Plenty of people like this in real life. Most of them are losers.

    "He's working towards one goal he neither knows completely nor cares about, although he may come across as a well-intentioned extremist. "
    WHY??? What does he gain by this. Not caring about the Dark Church of Ultimate Evil (trademarked) is fine and dandy. He's just using it for his own ends. Know what those are, even if it as simple as his own amusement.

    "And yes, he is held accountable for his crimes, and in the end quite a lot of people either dislike or despise him, and he doesn't have a happy ending. "
    But he lives. Sounds like a sequel hook to me. Best to completely shatter his view of himself in the world, reducing him to the waste of skin he probably is. Maybe he kills himself. Contrary to what many think, a narcissict could do so. They are too good for this earth. Denying others the joy of killing him is his final laugh. Me, I could never off myself. If I am not here to view the world, does it really exist?
     
  20. Mendelevium
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    Thank you for evaluating this critically. I'll do my best to answer your queries, but he's a half-formed character at best, so I expect contradictions to crop up.

    I've had characters comment on his attractiveness, so to some degree he is considered attractive, although I have no real idea of it myself. I do know he is intelligent and probably scores between 115 and 125 on the WAIS -- his society makes a good try at meritocracy, and his degree of education is tantamount to having a PhD in biomedical engineering. That said, he probably doesn't think of his peers as merit-worthy at all, and it shows.

    They're essentially independent contractors. Heavily integrated into the government, yes, but private contractors all the same. I was thinking nepotism, as his family happens to be extremely invested in that particular business.

    As noted before, he has formal education up to the equivalent of a PhD. His post-secondary education spans ten to twelve years, with a minimum of three years working on original research.

    Oh, yes, he's a 'natural' speaker; he's obviously been instructed in formal debating styles, but he has never received any additional education on that particular skill besides what's mentioned below. This isn't a valid point: I can talk circles around everyone I've met, and I've never been formally trained, either.

    I'm thinking of an overall Vancian system, but it's still in the works. 'Innate' gifts, though, tend to result in big booms and very little in the way of the delicacy required for magic in academia. As for the latter part, please refer to information provided above.

    I plead guilty, your Honor.

    Like most parents these days, his mother got him and his siblings tutors. Loads and loads of them. While he may not have broken the ten-thousand-hour ceiling supposedly required for true expertise, he should have gotten a good seven to nine years of regular practice on a musical instrument/with a vocal instructor in his childhood, and intermittent practice afterwards. Consider the hours with the vocal instructor an exercise he was able to utilize later in life.

    This may be the result of a) my leaning too much towards what's considered good and moral by my 'peers', b) you being mildly sociopathic, or c) my lack of understanding with regards to current morality. Seeing as I'm too young to be accused of being a sociopath (aside from the usual musings of idiot children and progressively more idiotic school psychologists), make of it what you will.

    The hallucinations have a solid cause and are a plot point which has nothing to do with suppression. I'll agree that no one can be entirely emotionless or entirely lack empathy, but apparent lack of empathy does not translate to suppression of empathy, just as apparent lack of guilt is, to a large degree, lack of guilt, whether through general thoughtlessness or apathy. So no, they will not be guilt-induced, and they will not be dropped.

    Depending on his role and importance (I almost certainly won't be writing anything from his perspective), there's an entire continuum to choose from in this case.

    Seems like my experience with people is a bit flawed, then, or maybe people just aren't as afraid of a young woman. I don't know. The point is that very few people would try to confront him.

    I'm weighing the odds. This is actually based on just one scene, and I can't get an accurate measure of exactly how arrogant he is, mostly because I can't see him having grandiose delusions. Arrogance, certainly. Narcissism, very likely, considering his level of personal grooming. Lack of empathy, yes. Grandiose beliefs, maybe. I don't know.

    Application? Idle speculation?

    I don't know. Death knell, I suppose, but it is true. I'm trawling around, but I suppose I'll hit upon it at some point.

    It's difficult to determine whether I'm going to kill him off or not, mostly because I don't know the direction of the plot's tone just yet. Death by any means a possibility, just not a certainty. Maybe he'll off himself in a bloody and spectacular way. That would be fun. :)

    I hope I've answered some questions. Here is my question: were you vehement at any point during this criticism?
     
  21. Mendelevium
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    First off: sorry for the double post. Needed a delineation somewhere, doubted pagebreak would have cut it, so...I give you postbreak!

    Not debating your Mary Sue diagnosis (I'll be going off in a minute to dip him in Uncanny Valley) but PTSD? Where did you get that?
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    There's a decided undertone of being brilliant yet conflicted. It's a rubberstamp of every trite individiual with superior fighting skills, a black ops back story, and a haunting mental disability. He's right out of central casting for every Ramboesque hero since the late 1970s.

    I worked with several Vietnam vets during my adult job. I worked with one for about two years before I learned of his service. He was neat, clean, he dressed well and he was upbeat. How about a back story where a guy with previous service did not allow what he did to survive become a mold for whom he sought to be in life? In other words, a guy who represents the vast majority? Only make him a happy-go-lucky veteran of a motor pool.

    The story opens with your hero being called up in the middle of the night to do a lube job on a General's HUMV. He is told to use the finest molybdenum disulfide grease in inventory. He takes one look at the black moly, and then a gaze at his clean hands and remarks in his best Teutonic accent, "I'll be black."

    He has nightmares about lubricants for years. Then your story begins...
     
  23. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, it depends on what you consider a "hero". I refer to "heroes" and "villains" and "mentors" and "shapeshifters" as essential archetypes in stories. What is the role this character is playing? "Hero" is not necessarily a brave firefighter who rescues someone from the burning building. Hero simply is a person who the story is about, a character who attains their goal, in one way or another. The easiest way to deduce the hero is to see who is the most important person in the climax of the story, who actively influences the outcome the most. This is why "deus ex machina" is bad plot solution, because we are focusing on the hero but all of a sudden, his garrison storms in and saves everyone - doesn't work. We wanted to see him save the day somehow, even if it's by sacrificing his own life.

    That's why, for discussion purposes, an evil character in the story, if he is the main character (like Norman Bates in "Psycho") is the anti-hero type of a hero. A person who we learn to empathise with, but he fails to achieve his goal due to his own flaws. Still, he is the main protagonist. Villain, the same thing - main opponent to the hero. You can blur the line between good and evil all you want, but roles in the story are there to be cast, and someone gets to play the hero. Sometimes it's not even clear who the hero really is, and lit classes get to debate that for years after the book is published. But there's always someone a book is about.

    As far as your character being a Gary Stu (male version of MS), it is impossible to tell from any description. You can set out to write the most annoyingly cliched person on purpose, and write them in such a way that there's no eye rolling whatsoever, the reader get totally emotionally involved, hence, no GS. And you can come up with the biggest anti-hero in the history of literature, but write him in such a way that people roll their eyes and chuck the book away, because he is so unbelievable and annoying, it's unbearable.
    Characters are vehicles for telling a story. Make them to suit the role they are playing, and the proof will be in the pudding ;)
     
  24. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Boy, you got that right! Supposedly we're in the writing world, and yet I do not think I have as yet read the word "protagonist."

    And by the way, out of respect for Audie Murphy, a guy who steps on a landmine because he's not paying attention is not a 'hero.' He's an unfortunate Darwin student. You water down any concept and you're not elevating the status of the mundane, you're denigrating the authentic participants.

    Your lead can do heroic things, but most times a real guy accomplishes that by being painted into a corner.
     
  25. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tourist, I am sorry, I really have no idea what you are trying to say :confused:
     

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