Finding the Mind of a Villain

Recently, a computer guru, otherwise known as my husband, replaced my hard-drive with a solid-state drive. Arriving the following evening at the local coffee shop to write, I realized all my files had been transferred to our computer network, leaving me without my manuscript.

“So now what,” I asked myself, taking a sip of my coffee.

It took a few minutes to decide what would be the best use of my time. I decided research stemming from my blog post titled Fear, appearing on June 10, 2014, sounded interesting. I wanted to delve into the psychology of a Villain. Why is he the way he is? I tapped Wikipedia for basic information, and found some good resources to read, regarding Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Frederick Irving Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory (A theory to improve job satisfaction, oddly enough).

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, combined with Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, made for an interesting dichotomy of how I could create sanity and insanity in a character, based on my interpretation of the theories. Look at Maslow’s theory of needs that include, self-actualization, esteem, love and belonging, safety, and finally physiological needs, and combine this thinking with Herzberg’s theory, using it as a life satisfaction theory instead of a job satisfaction theory. It makes things a little clearer as to what a villain’s motivation will be and where his life diverted from happy and content to one that dips into insanity.

With the list of human needs that Maslow speaks of, each of us makes the decision to be happy or not, but what if that choice is taken away from us by outside forces. Looking back to my blog Fear, the child seeing friendly ghosts is now a teenager. The boy would have turned out sane and well balanced if left alone, but instead is locked away in a mental facility by his evil stepmother. Drugged by the doctors on a regular basis, per the stepmother’s wishes, and mentally bombarded by evil entities like the one I described toward the end of Fear, it is easy to see why the entities follow him into adulthood. He has no shields against them. The evil shadow creatures have free reign to whisper their vile thoughts and twist the teenagers mind.

Based on Maslow’s list, what does the character lose? One, I can assume the character loses self-actualization because he is drugged. Two, previous friend’s label him crazy when they find out he’s in an institution, losing his respectability causing his self-esteem to plummet. Does he find love and belonging sitting in an 8×8 white room in a drugged out haze? No. This turns love and belonging into hate. The people that were supposed to protect him threw him away. He’s no longer safe. The entities voices slither into his thoughts, his drugged state causing him to lose independent thought. Top everything off with his physiology, he’s now skinny and white in pallor, because the doctors don’t let him get out for exercise, and the character has become something entirely different.

These two theories combined create a catalyst to the characters motivation. While he’s trapped in the mental facility, ideas spin, evil overwhelms. All he can think about is revenge.

Now a man, he escapes.

Whom does he go after? You guessed it, the family that threw him away. Only the stepmother is dead and the only one left is the daughter, his only focus. To make it more interesting, the evil entities tag along with our villain, attacking the heroin in the dark alley, which I described in my blog titled Fear.

It’s amazing how an hour of research, that wasn’t planned, is now motivation to develop a story based around a couple paragraphs from a blog post. How do you think a story might flourish once you do a little research?

Happy writing!

Here are some other subjects I researched regarding psychology of the human mind.







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    • Claire Murray on August 4, 2014 at 4:21 pm
    • Reply

    You never know where you’re going to find a good idea for a story.

    • Yibbity on July 12, 2014 at 5:16 pm
    • Reply

    Interesting and scary and sad because this does happen.

      • Wendi on July 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks Mom.

  1. Learned a lot in this piece, thanks for sharing.

      • Wendi on July 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you, Phil.

    • Sue Remisiewicz on July 10, 2014 at 9:36 pm
    • Reply

    What a fascinating deconstruction of a criminal mind! Thanks for a unique perspective on building a character. I’m sure to reference this again.

      • Wendi on July 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm
      • Reply

      Thanks, Sue. It was a unique experience.

  2. I often refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for positive culture building in classrooms. Your use of it for character development is innovative. Love the example along the way. This could be turned into a structured writing exercise. Thanks.

      • Wendi on July 10, 2014 at 1:22 pm
      • Reply

      I’m glad I could point you in a different direction for creative writing ideas. It’s an interesting exercise regarding the effects of random research and what can transpire from it. I’m definitely doing it again.

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