Thursday, July 26, 2012

Criminal Behavior

            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
                tools used?
            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
                           Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters in Crime
                    Writers on the Move


Margaret Fieland said...

Faye, good post. I especially like your point about the criminal believing that their wishes are all-important.

Not all antagonists are criminals, however, or even truly bad guys -- sometimes they simply have opposing believes (as in political candidates) --
but if I were writing it, I'd probably write one of them as less than completely ethical, just for some plot complications ...

Faye Tollison said...

Thanks, Margaret, for you comment. Good point! But, of course, I was talking about the criminal. Some stories can have more than one antagonist and not all of them are criminals. As a general rule, though, most antagonist in a suspense or mystery (especially a murder mystery) are criminals. And I do so love to write about murder! :)


Karen Cioffi said...

Great post, Faye. These tips and questions to ask will certainly help writers who have criminals as antagonists.

And, even for us writers who don't necessarily add criminals, we do add some unsavory characteristics to our antagonists for more conflict.

albina N muro said...

The term crime does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally .... A normative definition views crime as deviant behavior that violates. florida criminal public records

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