9 Tips for Writing an Insane Character

This post by Tiana Warner originally appeared on Indies Unlimited on 9/30/14.

Nothing beats a good insane character. They’re unpredictable, obsessive, totally spellbinding … and hard to write. Their arcs and motivations can differ completely from ordinary characters. Saying you’re going to write an insane character, however, is like going to a steakhouse and ordering a beef and a wine. You need to get specific. There are about a million types of crazy.

I spent two years studying some of the best crazy characters in order to understand what works best. I even took a university class on abnormal psychology. (Yeah. I went there.) Through it all, I came up with nine ways to intensify the character. For those of you looking to lose your fictional marbles, let me share what I’ve learned.

1. He is a man-vs-self conflict

This character is his own antagonist. Take everything you know about the relationship between protagonist and antagonist, and apply those rules to the sane and insane parts of the character.

For example, we know the antagonist should share a lot of qualities with the protagonist, except for a key moral difference. What flaw is splintering your character’s sanity? Is it alcohol abuse, as in The Shining? Jack’s descent into madness literally changes his character from protagonist to antagonist.

 

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