January 26, 2011

Writing about psychopaths

There are not one, but two, psychopaths in one of my books. I figured why not go for two, you know? Just kidding. The plot required them. As a result, I spent a lot of time with these guys.

You've probably seen the news about the woman in New York who found her real mother, and thereby outed as a kidnapper the woman who raised her. Now there's a psychopath. She steals a baby from teenage parents, brings it home and happily goes about her life, raising the baby as her own and probably never thinking of the child's true parents. These folks have no qualms at all. Qualms are for the little people. It's all about them. Everything else is inconsequential.

Hearing about the case reminded me of my very own, homegrown sociopaths. It was strange to write about them because I had to get into their heads. So what is it like to be one of these guys? What I learned is that they are one-dimensional. There is no depth, none at all. There is only what they want, and the act of getting it. Their satisfaction is intense, but fleeting. It's just a quick fix until they see the next thing they want. They're the ultimate consumers, and we are the consumables.

What I learned is that a psychopath is a pathetic thing to be. I came to see them, both my fictional characters and actual psychopaths, as cursed. There is no hope for them, no possibility of change. I found myself pitying them.

What hollow lives they lead, always looking outside for satisfaction because there is nothing inside. I sense that this scares them at times. That's half the reason they want thrills -- to distract them from noticing who and what they are. They are people without souls. What a rank existence.

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