Sorry, I couldn’t resist. And it does have something to do with this post, which is about characterisation.
Over at Mad Genius Club they were talking about Evil Overlords. How can we understand them? How can we write them in a believable way. Hence Darth Kitty, here.
I came across an interesting article on Scientific Blogging (I know that is like admitting I read New Scientist for fun. Which I do). Andrea Kuszewkei blogged about the link between the sociopathic personality and the extreme altruistic personality. Addicted to being Good?
She says, ‘Personality has consistently shown to be extremely heritable. However, the same genetic material arranged and weighted in a slightly different way, may at times express as vastly different phenotypes: the “extremely good” and the “extremely bad” individual. How is this possible?’
A sociopath is willing to break rules. But then so is an extremely altruistic person. They are convinced they are right, or must do the right thing, even if it is against the rules.
As a writer I found this really interesting. I can see how tendencies pushed a little too far one way do become obsessions. Mal in Firefly said ‘A hero is some guy who got a lot of people killed.’ (That’s quoted off the top of my head). He was talking about war, but it does make you wonder. What convinces someone that they are right, so right that they can send other people to their deaths? Bonaparte marched into Russia with 500,000 men and between the fighting and cold he returned with 20,000. How could a normal person live with that?
As a writer of fantasy books I often create ‘hero’ characters. To help me with this, I researched great military leaders (Bonaparte included). Iwanted to understand why people followed them and I came to the conclusion that most people are followers.
My favourite hero would have to be Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorksigan. My favourite character in Terry Pratchett’s books would have to be Vimes. Neither of them are villains. Conversely, have you read any really believable villains or heroes?