Whenever you are doing any type of creative writing, there is a protagonist and an antagonist in the story. In some forms, such as novel and short story writing, both of these characters are part of the work itself. Songwriters and poets may or may not mention the antagonist, but in many cases, they are an unseen character. In the lyrics of every breakup or unrequited love song, the antagonist is the person who left or rejected the song’s narrator. If your poem is about the despair you feel over a national issue, you are writing a “person vs. society” conflict, and the antagonist can be thought of as anyone in society who causes the problem.
One of the fastest ways to create an antagonist, or to turn a character into an antagonist, is to give them a trait from the “dark triad” of Machiavellianism, psychopathy, or narcissism. Narcissism in particular creates a striking antagonist, because narcissistic people are both seductive and dangerous at the same time.
Narcissists feel entitled to special treatment.
Everyone feels like there are certain things they should have. Even the least materialistic among us would feel distress and resentment if we did not have basic shelter, food, and access to things like indoor plumbing and clothing and bedding. And we all want some form of acknowledgement for the work we do, and to be treated like decent human beings. Very few people would be okay with it if human resources or our boss or client just forgot to pay us or if we were shunned from society.
Narcissists do not just feel entitled to basic necessities and humane treatment, they feel entitled to special treatment. A narcissist feels entitled to any material possessions they want, endless admiration and praise, and favors and exceptions any time these things suit them.
They have an inflated sense of their own importance or impact on the world.
As with the belief that there are certain things we should have, this trait appears as an amplification of perfectly healthy thoughts and attitudes. We all believe that at least something we do is important in some way. None of us would keep working on our art if we thought it did absolutely nothing. Healthy acknowledgement of our calling in life devolves into narcissism when the person’s sense of their own importance grows far greater than the impact it actually has, or ever will have.
A typical local musician, for example, probably goes onstage thinking they are going to entertain the crowd tonight. Maybe they believe they are giving everyone something to think about, or helping to form good memories of a fun night out. A narcissist would believe that simply hearing their music or being in their presence is going to transform the lives of everyone in the room.
Bragging and reacting in anger when not constantly complimented by everyone is a common personality trait.
The narcissist is typically the first person to compliment themselves. They are a great singer, writer, actor, dancer, or musician, and if you do not tell them so, they will tell you. Everything they say is funny, brilliant, insightful, and correct, and if you don’t hurry and tell them this, they will be sure to tell you.
The narcissist is that person everyone rushes to praise and compliment on social media….because they will throw an absolute fit, accusing everyone of ignoring them, trying to ruin them, or…in modern fad language…”being negative” or “bringing negativity” if those people fail to do so, or worse, suggest that everything about them is not amazing.
Narcissists can feel empathy, but they struggle with it, and it is far from their dominant trait.
A complete lack of empathy is the distinguishing trait of a psychopath. Narcissists who are not also psychopaths do have the ability to feel empathy. It is just not typically their first reaction to a situation. It is also not their strongest trait.
In a January 4, 2020 article on the website of Psychology Today, Dr. Mary Lamla explains that narcissists are able to empathize with others, they are just often unwilling to do so. They can feel love and compassion. It can pain them to see others suffering. Most of the time, they are simply too focused on themselves to register that something is causing serious pain or harm to somebody else. And when they do, it is often difficult for them to accept it that this situation might be more serious or more important than their own.
They gather people around them easily, and are skilled at manipulating others.
Narcissists certainly sound awful when their key traits are broken down and discussed, but on the surface they are usually charismatic and popular. Their inflated sense of their own importance lends itself well to excellent storytelling ability, making them interesting to be around. Their sense of entitlement extends to being entitled to an entourage, and they are often willing to love bomb their targets with everything from gifts to excessive flattery and attention to favors in order to build one.
Dismissing people when they no longer serve them is a common narcissistic trait.
There is a trend in our culture to label everybody “positive” or “negative,” embracing people we declare to be ‘bringing positivity” and shunning those who “bring negativity.” These terms have their roots in new age philosophy, which teaches that a person’s energy can emanate from their bodies and impact others. It is also a cornerstone of a narcissistic personality. Others are “good” or “positive” or “a friend” or “loved” as long as they are propping up the narcissist’s own view of themselves. As soon as someone tires of listening to their grandiose tales, hearing them brag, or demonizing anyone who does not treat them as special, that person is declared some form of “bad” and removed from the narcissist’s life, or at least relegated to the background.
Narcissistic characters are often engaging, amusing, or infuriating. They are often the one we “love to hate” in realistic movies and television shows.
-Author’s note: This information is intended to serve as a creative writing prompt only, and is not to be used to diagnose or treat any psychiatric or other health issue. The information provided here was taken from past interviews the author did for feature articles on mental health as a reporter and internet research for my own creative writing and the article itself. If you believe you are being targeted or in any way harmed psychologically by a real-life narcissist, please reach out to a licensed, practicing mental health professional.
by Jess Szabo'
originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com