Psychologist Abraham Maslow gave us some rules that govern basic human behavior. These rules have become the foundation to understanding criminal behavior. Human motivation is described in terms of a hierarchy of needs. These are placed ito five categories:
1) Physical - such as food.
2) Security - concerning things like shelter
3) Belongingness and love - the desire for roots and a need to be wanted
4) Esteem - desire to be liked and respected
5) Self-actualizaion - a need to know and understand our world around us,
to invent and create, and to discover joy in solving problems.
Criminals degenerate in behavior, and this is displayed by three basic traits that signify the criminal personality:
1) Weakness - emotional and/or physical which lacks discipline.
2) Immaturity - childish egocentrism
3) Self-deception - a severely narcissistic personality with a distorted
sense of personal reality
Though it is not necessary to go into the details that cause a criminal to become a criminal, a writer must understand the mind of the criminal he/she is writing about. It is just as important to understand what makes your antagonist tick as it is your protagonist. Otherwise how are you going to make your readers understand why the murderer is killing or the robber is stealing? The writer must also develop a feeling of sympathy for the bad guy as well as for the protagonist. It all boils down to a believable story, and the bad guy has a backstory that makes him do the things he does just as the victim does.
There are some questions you can ask that could help you understand your bad guy:
1) What is the victimizer’s psychiatric type, and who are the victims? What
is the victim’s profile?
2) Where did the crime occur? What was there about this environment that
could have facilitated the crime?
3) What time was the crime committed, and what is the relationship of the
time to the crime?
4) What occurred? What types of acts defined as intentional trauma?
5) How did it happen? What was the injuries; what were the weapons and
6) What was the motive for the crime?
There are three characteristics that make up criminal behavior:
1) They have a dominant ego where what they want is all that is important.
2) The criminal exhibits dominant childish etal and emotional qualities.
3) The bad guy has an obsession with sex.
Developing your bad guy is more than just a physical description or a sad narration of his/her childhood. Just as you do with your protagonist, you must get into the mind of your antagonist. But you do not stop there because once you get into his mind you need to understand it and why he/she is the way he/she is.
Reference: Malicious Intent
by Sean MacTire
Published by Writers Digest
Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming book: The Bible Murders
Member of: Sisters in Crime
Writers on the Move