Dr Stephanie Carty is a writer, trainer and NHS Consultant Clinical Psychologist living in Gloucestershire. She runs sell-out courses called Psychology of Character and offers character clinics to authors. Her short fiction is widely published and has been shortlisted and placed in competitions including Bristol Short Story Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Award, Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and the Bridport Prize. Her novella-in-flash Three Sisters of Stone won Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards. She is represented by Curtis Brown. Her website is here.
About Inside Fictional Minds, by Dr Stephanie Carty
With a focus on practical application, Inside Fictional Minds provides a summary of psychological approaches to understanding and developing characters. A wide range of topics and tasks aims to help the writer uncover why their characters act as they do and how to take the reader of this journey of discovery.
You can find more details about the book on the publisher's website here.
Below, you can read an extract from the book.
From Inside Fictional Minds
If you have a narcissistic character in your story you may find it useful to consider what lies beneath the apparent self-belief.
A narcissistic character will act as if they are superior to everyone else. They believe they should be revered and get what they want without any effort as they are special. They have superficial relationships that exist only to gain admiration.
However, this can be viewed as a ‘mask’ that the character wears to protect themselves. Underneath, they are fragile with an intense focus on how others view them. They can’t tolerate being a ‘normal’ person who may make mistakes, not be highly regarded by everyone or show any needs. They constantly belittle others and seek praise in order to avoid any painful truths getting through about their lack of ‘special’ status.
If this sounds like your character, then they may have ended up that way through two different paths. One is a spoilt child who was given everything, not taught limits or to follow rules, and lavishly praised by parents despite making no effort. They learnt to expect to be treated as ‘special’ which is not how the real world operates. The other path is those who couldn’t meet the high expectations of their parents and learnt to cover their shame at feeling not good enough by lying, boasting and inventing the mask of being ‘special.’
- If you have a character with narcissistic qualities, does your story show their intense focus on others’ view of them?
- Do you have or could you add key scenes that show a time when the reality of them not being ‘special’ threatens to rise to awareness, so they step up their narcissistic behaviours or use another defence mechanism to avoid this?
- Considering the two pathways above, what was the route to your character developing these traits?