The Allure of Psychopaths
Originally posted 3/3/2017 at The Novel Approach
One doesn’t have to look far to find a famous, fictional psychopath. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Sherlock Holmes from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond from Casino Royale are just a few. And with each of them, we find ourselves intrigued, if not downright attracted to them.
Sure, the fictional world is conducive to this intrigue and attraction; if the characters weren’t interesting then the books and movies that featured them wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they are. I often find the characteristics they frequently share—the same ones that firmly define them as societal outcasts—utterly appealing. These characteristics, according to Psychology Today , include:
* Lack of guilt
* Lack of empathy
* Shallow emotions
* Need for excitement
* Antisocial behavior
As a writer, what more could I creatively ask for? The above short list opened doors of nearly limitless possibilities.
Jeremiah, one of the two main characters of Brothers LaFon, my latest novelette, is unquestionably a psychopath—and he was an utter joy to write.
In this scene excerpt below, Alexander has posed the single question to Jeremiah that he longs for an answer to: Why? Jeremiah responds,
“I know I hurt you—that I intend to hurt you—and it makes me feel good to hear your screams and pleas, to see the blood and scars. But your pain, what it means to you, it has no effect on me; I don’t feel anything about it in regards to you as a person. I don’t feel…empathy, Alexander.”
His tone was serious but honest and nonthreatening. Alex decided to push his luck a bit more.
“B-but, you know it’s w-wrong, what you do to me, right?”
“I know it’s not what other people consider right, yes…but, it does feel right to me.”
Alex gave a jerky nod of understanding but said nothing more.
Damn! Given a character like that—one who feels no regard toward others, and only thinks of his own needs—again, the possibilities were staggeringly endless. Add into the mix that Jeremiah and Alexander are brothers, one gay and one straight, and my creative juices were on overload.
Of course, I had to decide how I was going to present Jeremiah. In the end, I tried to write him as honestly and non-judgmentally as I could. Indeed, I attempted to simply tell his story as it was. Hopefully, if I was successful, the story places the reader in a difficult position. Jeremiah—although undoubtedly heinous—is a person with deep-seated needs. His primary need is Alexander. It’s my hope, that the common need most of us share, to have a connection with a special someone, makes Jeremiah not only relatable, but perhaps on some level, even likable. And for some readers, harboring an attraction to a psychopath can be…conflicting. *wink*
Without question, if you choose to pick up Brothers LaFon, it’s my deepest desire that you find yourself asking an uncomfortable question: “Do I loathe Jeremiah, or do I adore him?”