Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Narcissism: Is Your Villain in Love With Himself? Info for Writers

Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Narcissism exists in every human being along a continuum.

At the far end of this spectrum is a DSM V (the psych bible for diagnosis) mental health disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Having this full-blown personality disorder is rare. 

Video Quick Study (5:58) Narcissism on a spectrum                 normal v. pathological
Video Quick Study (2:14) Good quick over-view.

Narcissistic Traits include:

  • Grandiosity - exaggerates achievements and talents and expects others to see them as superior
  • Fantasies of unlimited success - power, brilliant intellect, beauty...
  • Belief that they are very special snowflakes and should only associate with people of their ilk
  • Requires excessive admiration - hyper-sensitive to criticism
  • Lacks empathy
  • Arrogance, haughtiness
  • Envy - of others and a belief that others envy them
  • Sense of entitlement - people should do what they asked, just because they asked/want it to be so. 
  • Takes advantage of others to achieve their personal goals. 

  • They can't be generous - strings are always attached
  • They get angry when they are criticized or disputed
  • Often artificially charming
  • Often pathological liars
  • THE KEY COMPONENT is self-absorption

Video Quick Study (3:22) Narcissist in action
Video Quick Study (11:18) Body language - excellent for
                              character development 

LOE3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Narcissistic Defense

  • Narcissism is a defense. Narcissism is a defense. Narcissism is a defense.
  • All of the components in the list above are example of ways that the narcissistic personality protects  itself. 
  • You are dealing with a weak villain   trying to gain strength. 
  • They are perceived as strong - too strong - but they are not; they are emotionally weak.
  • It's okay for your heroine to support  their defenses and  not challenge them. She just needs to be aware that she is bolstering   someone who is weak and not buying into the delusions herself.
  • Projection - They believe that the heroine is the problem not them.
  • Isolation - Narcissists isolate people and do not like   individuals to interact with one another

Video Quick Study (0:55) Narcissism in action

Narcissism in a Relationship

  • Hopefully, our heroine is not in a relationship with a narcissist; she learned the signs and ran for the woods when the narcissist    started ringing her doorbell. 
    Video Quick Study (6:27) Red flags that would clue your heroine

  • No? She got sucked in? She read the insightful magazine article just a little too late? She can try to stay grounded and true to herself while in the relationship by: 
    • identifying and admitting that there is a problem.
    • not challenging the other person's delusions - which is a waste of time.
    • surrounding herself with healthy relationships who remind her about what the truth is
    • She can seek therapy, journal, do yoga, exercise, eat healthfully etc. things that keep her centered
  • Set boundaries
  • Sometimes holding one's ground - being one's truth if you will - can cause rage and abusiveness in a narcissist. This is when your heroine should SERIOUSLY consider extricating herself from the relationship. Here abuse can be physical but is more likely emotional abuse.
  • Remember that a narcissist has an agenda - your heroine cannot make them better - not through compassion, not through sacrifice, no way, no how, nothing she can do or say will make this better.
  • In order for your heroine to get her needs met when she's in a relationship with a narcissist she should never state her needs. 

She should always frame her requests in ego-stroking ways. Instead of saying I'd like for us to go to the beach with my friends, she would instead say something like, "My friends really like you and enjoy spending time with you. We want to go to the beach and it just won't be the same unless you are there with us."

  • Your heroine's vulnerability will set the narcissist off - will make them emotionally attack.
  • Narcissists need the heroine's pain to feel good themselves
  • Really the best thing for your heroine to do once she realizes that the love of her life is in the severe range of narcissism is run.
   Run far. Run fast. And make a no-contact rule. - Remember we
   ALL have narcissistic tendencies  - we are talking about severe
   cases here.

Video Quick Study (5:36) Breaking away from a narcissist
                                (emotions, thoughts)
Video Quick Study (9:11) How to break up with a narcissist. 
                                (physical behavior)

What kinds of character might have stronger narcissistic traits?

Al Murray as (left to right) Roger Dennis, Hor...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Actors
  • Performers
  • Politicians
  • People who put themselves out in the public eye.

Why did he turn out this way?

Groopman and Cooper (2006) listed the following factors identified by various researchers as possibilities:[Groopman, Leonard C. M.D.; Cooper, Arnold M. M.D. (2006). "Narcissistic Personality Disorder". Personality Disorders – Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Armenian Medical Network. Retrieved 2007-02-14
  • An oversensitiveness temperament (personality traits) at birth.
  • Excessive admiration that is never balanced with realistic feedback.
  • Excessive praise for good behaviors or excessive criticism for bad behaviors in childhood.
  • Overindulgence and overvaluation by parents, other family members, or peers.
  • Being praised for perceived exceptional looks or abilities by adults.
  • Severe emotional abuse in childhood.
  • Unpredictable or unreliable caregiving from parents.
  • Learning manipulative behaviors from parents.
  • Valued by parents as a means to regulate their own self-esteem.

See how this article influenced my plot lines in my novella MINE and my novel CHAOS IS COME AGAIN.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


  1. The book I wrote for Nano 2013 has a narcissist taking in the MC as a foster child. Scary situation!

  2. I'm going through a divorce, we lived together 4 and a half years. 2013 was the best year of my life, dream house etc.. We got Married Nov 9 2013 - "he had me, then". He immediately changed. Now, June 2014 we are going through a divorce because of all of the above. This truly describes my real life situation right now. Very difficult to understand a narcissist, heart breaking, toxic, draining, disappointment, lies, cheating, manipulation... I'm glad to be away. I'm sad I'm starting my life all over again.

  3. Great post Fiona, very helpful when creating characters!