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Wacko Wednesdays: Narcissism

This week:  Narcissism

It’s been a long day.  After carting the kids around town on errands, you hope to do a quick return at the department store.  You are about to pull into a prime parking space when you are cut off by a man in a Mercedes. You finally get into the store and are standing in line for 15 minutes when the same man cuts in front of you in line.  This is Mr. N.  You protest to Mr. N, firmly, but he ignores you.  Trailing behind Mr. N is a frazzled store clerk, pleading with him that he is going in the wrong direction.  Mr. N loudly insists that the customer service return desk is where he needs to be.   Mr. N acts like his is the King of the Store.  In fact, he is so utterly rude that you wonder if he isn’t a regional manager of some sort.  Upon listening to his totally random and unrelated request, you realize Mr. N is not a manager of anything.  In fact, he’s just a self-centered jerk.  You have no choice but to sit and wait for Mr. N to leave.

Mr. N has what Sigmund Freud termed “Narcissism.”  Based on the mythology character Narcissus who was said to fall in love with his own reflection, Freud characterized narcissism by extreme conceit and self-centered behavior.  Narcissists also relentlessly seek admiration and are prone to a dramatics.

If you are creating a narcissistic character, make sure to add those qualities.  They can be very evident, or they can subtly leak in over time.  Here are some examples.

Write a picnic scene:  Mr. N will put a chair in the center of the blanket and expect to be handed food.

Write a boardroom scene:  Mr. N will be late and will enter the room already speaking loudly.

Write a marriage:  Mr. N will constantly be asking his wife if he is handsome when he already knows he is.

Write a conversation: Mr. N will steer the subject toward himself, in all matters.  Talking about feminine-specific issues?  Mr. N will one-up you with grand stories of how well he takes care of his mother when she is feeling crampy (at first Mr. N will seem sweet, but if you write in these situations consistently, your readers will recognize the self-centered behavior).

You may have come across Mr. or Ms. N in your non-fiction life.  Ms. N would be the friend that leaves you drained of energy and you can’t exactly put your finger on why.  Mr. N is the one who routinely cancels at the last minute, citing a sick pet or simply a changed mood.  You may have labeled Mr. or Ms. N with the popular term “Toxic Friend.”  Everyone knows the type.  Narcissism is a great ‘bad guy’ quality and will help your antagonist sear her or his overblown ego into the memories of your readers.

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  • Rick Wolff 27 May 2008, 11:38 pm

    My wife works as an LPN in the neurology department of a central Westchester medical center. She gets patients from all around, from a variety of socio-economic levels. Your narcissist describes the folks from Chappaqua (yes, Clinton Country). Appointments mean nearly nothing to these (usually) bored housewives. And if their controlled substance won’t get them through a three-day weekend, an exception in state law must be made for them and my wife must call in the prescription. With their position goes an assumption of some kind of personal power; if they make enough noise, they think they’ll be served — even though nothing in their experience with the center has borne that out. This is what my wife tells me about when I ask, “So, how was your day?”