Guest Author Stacy Green on Creating a Sociopathic Character

Jordan Dane

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Swiss psychologist Carl Yung believed our conscious minds possessed four major archetypes: the self, the shadow, the anima, and the persona. Naturally, as a thriller author, the shadow interests me the most.

The shadow holds our repressed ideas and desires, our weaknesses and the darker side of our psyche. Some people it is this shadow side that comes into play when seemingly good people go bad.

But what about the sociopath? I’m not talking about the serial killers we’ve all studied (I refer to those as psychopaths), but those individuals who walk among us every day with their own agenda, no remorse, and a frightening ability to manipulate everyone they come in contact with. Are these people simply more controlled by their shadow side? More importantly, what’s my shadow side like?

In creating my character, Lucy Kendall, I studied sociopaths. Lucy doesn’t believe she’s a bad person and she doesn’t even consider herself a killer. After all, her targets are repeat pedophiles who keep being turned out by the justice system. She’s in the right, and she’s doing society a favor.

Of course, anyone who believes that has to have some kind of sociopathic traits, right? In research for and creating Lucy, I started thinking about my own shadow side and exactly how close I was to the dark side of life.

According to the ICD 10, the following are considered sociopathic traits. Presence of three or more qualifies for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, aka as sociopathy.

1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.

2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, and obligations.

3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them.

4. Very low tolerance to frustration, a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.

5. Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment.

6. Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalization for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.

The DSM IV is another diagnostic tool and defines sociopathic traits as:

1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest

2. Deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure

3. Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead

4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults

5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others

6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations

7. Lack of remorse as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another

A) The individual is at least age 18 years.

B) There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.

C) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode. SOURCE

So here’s the thing: I don’t fit that list, thankfully. But I’ve certainly had my moments when I realize I’m incredibly callous and most people would consider me a terrible person if they knew what I was really thinking.

Example: my daughter is a competitive swimmer, and she is able to practice in a very new and nice facility our tax dollars paid for. And every practice, when I see swim lesson kids taking up lanes in the pool, I get angry. I see these kids as space fillers who crowd the pool for team kids who need room to move. And I have little compassion for the parents who equally crowd the window space and get excited when little Johnny splashes a few feet and doesn’t drown. It outright annoys me. And even worse, I’m sure most people within my vicinity know I’m irritated because I certainly don’t look friendly.

What a jerk, right? How could I be so unfeeling toward these people who are excited for their kids and have just as much of a right to be there as I do? Thankfully it’s a feeling that subsides as the hour goes on.

Perhaps that’s my shadow side seeping through. The side that’s easily irritated with people and doesn’t have the patience to keep its mouth shut at certain times. The side that has no problem glaring daggers at a strange kid misbehaving in public. The side my husband affectionately refers to as Pissy Stacy. I don’t have the answer, but I bet if you take a moment to look deep inside, you can find something of yourself on this list.

Perhaps we should be afraid of our own shadows after all.

For discussion: Have you ever battled your darker shadow side?

ALL GOOD DEEDS (LUCY KENDALL #1) is now available at Amazon HERE or through more purchase links HERE.

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About the author
Born in Indiana and raised in Iowa, Stacy Green earned degrees in journalism and sociology from Drake University. After a successful advertising career, Stacy became a proud stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. Now a full-time author, Stacy juggles her time between her demanding characters and supportive family. She loves reading, cooking, and the occasional gardening excursion. Stacy lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband Rob, their daughter Grace, and the family’s three obnoxious but lovable canine children.

Amazon Author Page
Facebook Stacy Green, Author
Twitter @StacyGreen26

23 thoughts on “Guest Author Stacy Green on Creating a Sociopathic Character

  1. Whew. I think I’m all right. Mabel, on the other hand, needs professional help.

    But that’s okay because Mabel is a fictional character. Or is she my shadow? Interesting thought for the day.

    Informative and thought-provoking post, thanks Stacy.

  2. Interesting post, Stacy. I immediately thought of my distaste for grocery shopping. I have been shopping for my family for years and have long since grown bored of it. Now I just want to get in and out as quickly as possible. Other people, however, seem to enjoy it and want to linger. I try to be patient, but I get pretty annoyed. Older couples are the worst! On the one hand, it’s nice that they are spending time together. One the other hand, why is the man there at all? He doesn’t do anything useful. All he does is clog up the aisles. The least he can do is walk behind or in front of the woman! I mean, get out my way, for Pete’s sake!

    Whoops. There I go again.

    • Lol at your example. I loathe grocery shopping and am known to be very impatient with anyone who gets in my way. And you are so right! It is sweet but clogs my path 🙂

    • That’s funny Eric, my pet peeve too. People who amble along as if enjoying the scenery in the grocery aisles. Moving like mindless bovine beasts munching on grass.

      …moving like …. prey….

    • Dude, the guy is there out of a sense of duty. “The lettuce look nice,” she asks. “Uh, yeah. It’s great,” they guy answers. All the while, he’s checking out the yunno-what pushing the cart over there on isle two.

      You want to see isles clogged up with old folks plodding along, reading the label on a jar of mayo for twenty minutes? Check out Trader Joe’s in Long Beach.

      However, not to put too fine a point on it there, Eric, but you’re looking at your future standing there, mouth agape. Have a goodin.

    • Good point Jim. What gets me isn’t the old ones, it is the people who leave their cart on one side of the aisle while they peruse the shelves on the other side, thereby blocking the whole thing in their oblivion.

      When it comes to the future, I plan to be a cranky, slow moving, gassy version of prey in my own days to come. Farting every tenth step just to make sure the young ones stay far enough back, then moving out quick enough that the BenGay/Last Night’s Beans odor lingers long enough that I can watch as the next young buck that steps into the cloud gets blamed. It’ll be my entertainment.

  3. I love this topic. Welcome to TKZ, Stacy! I think if we’re worried about being a sociopath, we’re probably not a sociopath. They don’t tend to be self-analytical. I’ve always been uncomfortably aware of a difference between the way people perceive me, and the reality. I’m often regarded as being “such a nice person,” when the reality is quite different. From an early age while negotiating a difficult emotional environment, I learned to use “niceness” as a coping strategy. I think sociopaths are probably like that, only more so. They use charm and glibness to accomplish self-interested goals, and don’t worry whether their actions are harmful to others.

    • Uh-oh, I just re-read #6: “Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior.” Is that like when I put off writing my blog post until 3 a.m., like I did this week? 🙂

    • LOL! At least you are blogging regularly. I need to get back into that. Working on it. And thanks so much for the welcome.

      I’m happy you like the post. I love what you said about being uncomfortable with the way people see you vs. the reality. I have a similar issue: a lot of people think I’m so sweet, etc., and then they get to know me and find out I have opinions and will gladly share them, lol.

  4. I often wonder why slipping into the mind of serial killers and other criminals is relatively easy for authors. Could that mean something more than “empathy”?

    I’m not pointing fingers to anyone here at TKZ…or looking in a mirror.

  5. Thanks so much for the welcome, Jordan! Good point about us being able to slip into the minds of those types of characters. I think part of it is an insatiable curiosity for figuring out what makes people tick. As writers, we are always seeking answers:)

  6. I started worrying when I was writing my first couple books and seeing through the eyes of a CIA hitman, with a propensity for extra violence, I felt that he was completely justified in the manner of his executions…and the smile on his face after a job well done.

    But since I didn’t hit more than three of the points above, I must be okay. Excellent!

  7. Thanks for a great posting, Stacy. And welcome to TKZ, too. Check out Stacy’s links everybody!! She’s got a FREE BOOK on Amazon, along with a tempting one for $0.99. I got so excited I pushed the BUY ME button.

    Hey! The Shadow Knows! HAHAHAH! I loved that radio show. But, yeah, all this darkside business can get a little tricky. The “Boys in the Basement” and the “Boys in the Woodshop” like it fine. I hear them calling right now.

    Maybe we all need a little Lithium, an element that has been in the news lately. Apparently, there’s a noticeably shortage of it out there in the cosmos, which has put the entire Big Bang theory on rocky shores. But I digress. Basil, help me out here.

    • Thanks for commenting, Jim. And thanks for the buys, I really appreciate it. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was fun to write, but then again I always love getting into the dark side of things, lol.

    • Jim,

      This is Berthold, the Leprechaun. Basil is busy with day job stuff, so I figured it best to fill in for him before my brother Fillii comes in and says something less than wise. I understand your dilemma. Digression is a serious issue which must be dealt with as if it were of the utmost importance. The roots of the word are of Di (an abbreviated form of Die) and -gression (as in aggression). So in its very base form the word can be taken to mean “To Die of Agression”, or extrapolated further in the words of the great Leprechaun Philosopher G’Houle the Foul, “To Die of Agression within One’s Soul, that has boiled over and made one a social pariah because nobody likes blood on the carpets after a nice party with good wine and soft jazz music”.

      Therefore while lithium may indeed be a salve on a cosmic basis, a nice hard oak stick to the back of the head before too many guests have been “Died of Agression” might have more lasting results.

      Berthold, Leprechaun and Junior Philosopher.

  8. Pithy, insightful, and quite helpful to me. Thank you! I’ve been struggling with a character who is emerging as the villainess. She can quite easily be made into the kind of sociopath who is not immediately identifiable. Events will unfold, however, and she will display most of the characteristics you discuss and, in the process, create the necessary cliff-hanger. I think she must die.

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