Detective Story: Creating my villain

I was reading Sue Grafton’s book T is for Trespass and noticed similarities between the villain in her story and the one I created for mine.

I suppose that I really should not have been too surprised. When I started to create my villain, I didn’t want to base it on anyone I knew. None of them was villainous enough. Instead, I drew on some of the characteristics identified in the Psychopathy Checklist.

This list is comes from a test psychologists use to identify psychopaths. In particular, I used three traits from the list.

  • Grandiose sense of self-worth,
  • Cunning/manipulative, and
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

My villain is entirely convinced of his own superiority. This leads to him over estimating what he can do, and under estimating what others can do. Most normal people do get upset when they make mistakes. Sometimes this is fear of others labelling them a failure. In this villain’s case, exposure of a mistake strikes much deeper, since his whole sense of self worth comes from his view that he is never wrong.

In order to cover for his mistakes, my villain relies on his skills at manipulating others to avoid. One of the reasons he is so skilled, is that his hubris over the years has often resulting in situations where he had to be manipulative to escape.

His need to maintain his sense of self worth leads to his refusal to accept responsibility for his own actions. Rather than admit that he has made a mistake, he finds ways to blame his failings on others. In the story the link to the person he blames is very irrational, but in his need, he overlooks this minor detail.

Taken together, these traits make my villain a dangerous person to deal with. Especially since few people would be able to spot those traits. On the other hand, though, they also make him vulnerable, since his is not omnipotent. He makes mistakes. He underestimates others.

I know I wouldn’t want to meet this guy in the real world.

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