Narcissism: extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
The term comes from the story of Narcissus, a Greek mythological god who disdained those who loved him and fell in love with his own reflection. (Which, by the way, led him to his death. Let’s not use him as a role model, okay?)
I’m writing this today because I recently found myself writing a narcissistic character in a novel I’m working on. (Also, because I’ve been watching a lot of Marvel movies lately – including Age of Ultron – and, let’s face it, Tony Stark is my perfect example for this post.)
So what’s the big deal about narcissism? And why should I be using it in my novel/movie/short story? And how am I supposed to write a narcissist?
1 – How to write a narcissist
It’s a lot easier than you would think.
Narcissists are completely self-centered. They can take ANYTHING and bring it back around to be about them. You say you’re tired, they talk about how tired they are. You say you ate some Ramen noodles, they tell the story about the time they almost choked on Ramen. Everything is about them and what they like.
I’ll give you one thing: this sounds like it could get really annoying to write. And maybe it can. I don’t know yet, as I actually kind of like my narcissist. (Weird.)
You can use their narcissism to your advantage too. My character works as a Personal Protection Specialist (not something I’d recommend a narcissist for), and it works because he likes the attention he gets when he does his job right. Play with their narcissism. Readers/watchers will love you for it.
2 – Why You Should Put a Narcissist in Your Story
Because it’s funny.
Anyone who has watched a movie in which Iron Man/Tony Stark appears knows that narcissism is entertaining. Mix it with a little bit of sarcasm, and it becomes an unforgettable character. Technically, no one should like a narcissist, but it can be done. Stark is a prime example of this.
They’re annoying to the other characters.
And everyone knows that annoyance creates conflict between your characters. Conflict is good. Conflict keeps people reading. Can you imagine trying to tell a narcissist something important? For the most part, they’re horrible listeners, and often very impetuous.
“We need a plan of attack.”
“I have a plan. Attack.”
Point. And. Case.
This can be used for the perfect “Divide and Conquer” scene. Use the narcissist to tear your characters apart (but only for a few scenes. We want people to like him, remember?)
They are an automatic candidate for change by the end of the story.
Example: Iron Man
He starts out as a complete narcissist that doesn’t care how business is done. He’s in it for himself, and collateral damage is just that: collateral damage.
But then he changes.
He starts to see what his weapons are doing to other people, and a funny thing happens. He starts to care. He starts to look beyond himself and see that his actions affect everyone around him. And he changes to help those people out. He tries to break out the scientist that helped him build the first suit, and he stops to go back for him when he’s injured.
This doesn’t fit classic narcissism. And it shouldn’t. This is compassion, and everyone is capable of it. Even your narcissist.
Narcissists are fun, but remember they are people too. Despite their outward demeanor, they feel things deeply. And they ARE capable of change. Everyone is. They’ll probably end up being your tearjerker character. Use wisely.
So, two things this week. 1) Do you love Iron Man as much as I do? And 2) Have you used a narcissist before, and if not will you do so in the future? Why?
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