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Lunatique
08-20-2011, 12:30 PM
I've been studying sociopaths/psychopaths lately for various reasons (my writing, suspecting I know a few of them in my life), and I had this strange thought:

Since they are incapable of real empathy, can they still be good fiction writers? They have the ability to blend in by faking emotions, but is that enough for writing--especially if a large range of emotional responses and motivations are be to read as being natural and believable? Would a sociopath/psychopath make mistakes on the page by guessing too much at how characters would respond to specific situations?

I guess more importantly, would a sociopath/psychopath even enjoy writing fiction? They are incapable of empathy, and that means they can't really live vicariously through their writing, and any deep meaning is lost to them because they are incapable of emotions beyond the most shallow and negative ones like anger.

CACTUSWENDY
08-20-2011, 03:23 PM
The several that I have known of in my past did not even like to read.

:Shrug:

VeryVerity
08-20-2011, 03:33 PM
I knew one once, if a brief analysis of a prison psychatrist can be relied on (dubious). He was an avid reader. He read books so fast I have no idea if he took it all in or not.

He never expressed any interest in creative writing. He was great at making things up and making even the most improbable sound feasible.

Scary.

Ari Meermans
08-20-2011, 05:49 PM
I don't see why they wouldn't make good fiction writers—maybe even great fiction writers; they are, after all, the keenest of all observers of human nature. They can size up a potential 'victim' and almost instantly assess that person's value to them in the fulfillment of their desires. Knowing what makes someone else tick makes them fine manipulators; they are charming, intelligent and, most of all, facile mimics of the emotions necessary to gain them their desired outcomes. It's not necessary to feel those emotions themselves, it just requires the ability to create or instill them in others. So, since we writers choose our words carefully to achieve similar results in our readers, I don't see why not.

Bracken
08-20-2011, 05:56 PM
The several that I have known of in my past did not even like to read.

:Shrug:


I knew one who read incessantly (perhaps trying to figure out how regular people feel and act, so he could better emulate them).

VeryVerity
08-20-2011, 05:59 PM
I knew one who read incessantly (perhaps trying to figure out how regular people feel and act, so he could better emulate them).

I believe that's exactly what my one did. Research, research, research.

veinglory
08-20-2011, 06:02 PM
It is worth noting that most people who could b easily categorized as sociopaths live completely normal lives. Most of us know people who are cognitively ethical and/or follow social norms because it is the easiest option. And i am sure plenty of writers fall into this personality type.

Barbara R.
08-20-2011, 06:13 PM
That's a really interesting question. I too have been reading up on psychopaths, and for the same reasons.

My guess is that it would be hard for a psychopath to write a novel, because that requires empathy and, I suspect, a more nuanced grasp of human nature than they have.

But I could be wrong. Maybe it depends on the type of novel. I do know that psychopaths can be publishers, though, having met one or two.

Lunatique
08-20-2011, 06:14 PM
I don't see why they wouldn't make good fiction writers—maybe even great fiction writers; they are, after all, the keenest of all observers of human nature.

While I agree, the problem is that they have no real motivation for writing. What would they be writing for? They don't feel emotional gratification the way normal people do, and they can't feel love, warmth, and other human connections that exist in most stories. They also don't "get" the profound meanings that most human beings treasure, because they lack the emotional sensitivity to understand the poignancy of it all.

I could maybe see sociopath writers writing about very intellectual subjects, non-fiction, or experimental fiction that don't necessarily depend on the writer being able to feel most human emotions (again, they can pretend, but if they can't feel it, there's no motivation to write about it). For example, a great number of corporate leaders are psychopaths, as well as some politicians and special forces operators, and I could see them writing about excelling in a specific field, or books that teach you how to win over people and control people, but I can't see them writing the kind of fiction we think of when we talk about fiction in general.

veinglory
08-20-2011, 06:43 PM
A sociopath has emotions. They can want money and fame as much as anyone. What is missing is not emotion, it is attachment. People always think of sociopaths as some kind of robot killer but a failure to attach can just be a personality type, the result of abuse or trauma etc.

VeryVerity
08-20-2011, 06:45 PM
Veinglory makes a good point.

Also, what about Autism? I believe there is a degree of lack-of-empathy in that (forgive me if I've got that wrong). Many Autistic people are talented creatives.

Ari Meermans
08-20-2011, 06:52 PM
That's true, Lunatique, but you seem to be making the assumption that a need for emotional gratification, self-expression or love of the craft is the primary motivator for writing fiction. While that is true of most of us, I don't think it's true for all and definitely wouldn't be true of writers with these disorders. A desire for the things that fame and fortune could bring would be motivation enough for some and, remember, sociopaths and psychopaths are single-minded in their determination to achieve their own desires. As Veinglory mentioned, they also pursue the easy option or path: Writing fiction could be seen as a faster way of doing this than bilking lonely widows and widowers one at a time.

I agree that it's more likely for most of them to write nonfiction, but I don't think we can completely rule out fiction.

But, that's just my opinion based on anecdotal evidence from observing someone very close to me who is highly intelligent and either a narcissist or a psychopath—it's unknown which, at this time—and on my own 'sometime' empathetic shortcomings.

Ari Meermans
08-20-2011, 06:56 PM
A sociopath has emotions. They can want money and fame as much as anyone. What is missing is not emotion, it is attachment. People always thing of sociopaths as some kind of robot killer but a failure to attach can just be a personality type, the result of abuse or trauma etc.

That's very true. They do feel emotions relative to self they just don't experience empathy for others. Narcissism is a component of both disorders.

CACTUSWENDY
08-20-2011, 06:56 PM
You all might be right. The two I knew were not of a very high educational level and did not find reading to be their cup of tea.

I agree with the ones that say they read for 'research'. They make great con-artists.

Lunatique
08-20-2011, 07:00 PM
@veinglory - Sociopaths don't have empathy, and that's extremely important for fiction writers. They have negative emotions like anger and jealousy and greed, but they can't feel love, remorse, sympathy, trust...etc.

And considering that all writers understand how incredibly unlikely it is that a writer can attain money and fame through writing, it's almost a given that writers write for a sense of fulfillment first and foremost, and I suppose not writing anything that contains the warm emotions that humans have can still be fulfilling (such as the examples I mentioned previously).

@VeryVerity - Being creative and having empathy are two very different things. You don't need empathy to compose a sonata or paint a painting, but to write good fiction, it's almost a requirement I think.

Remember guys, the original question was whether sociopaths can be GOOD fiction writers, not whether they can be creative or write. I think we all have similar idea of what good fiction is (entertaining, profound, and stimulating emotionally and intellectually).

VeryVerity
08-20-2011, 07:48 PM
Lunatique, I see your point. However, what genre of fiction? From the POV of the bad guy, in theory a sociopath would be able to write very well if he was creative minded. They would possibly suck at writing romance, but might do very well at horror, or crime; as Cactuswendy says, they make good conmen. It's a fascinating thing to observe.

I don't necessarily think empathy would be needed for some genres, depending on the POV of the story. It could be excellent writing. Whether it could be publishable or not is an entirely different question...!

Al Stevens
08-20-2011, 07:52 PM
Doesn't Glenn Beck write fiction?

Bracken
08-20-2011, 07:56 PM
Lunatique, I see your point. However, what genre of fiction? From the POV of the bad guy, in theory a sociopath would be able to write very well if he was creative minded. They would possibly suck at writing romance, but might do very well at horror, or crime; as Cactuswendy says, they make good conmen. It's a fascinating thing to observe.

I don't necessarily think empathy would be needed for some genres, depending on the POV of the story. It could be excellent writing. Whether it could be publishable or not is an entirely different question...!


True; anyway, just think how many non-sociopaths aren't capable of being good fiction writers.
In the end, it's about talent and imagination and command of language, not empathy.
Can a non-parent, say a childless man, write convincingly from the point of view of a mother?
Yes, if he's a good fiction writer. Not because he has an overabundance of "empathy" (which many people have, but which doesn't make them great writers), but because he's got an excellent imagination.

backslashbaby
08-20-2011, 08:11 PM
I know a psychopath/sociopath who is a really good writer. She's highly intelligent, likes sex and the romantic chase a lot, and she's always been a voracious reader. I think she just recycles what she's read for a lot of the emotional part. Certainly she's never been in real love! She's probably read every romance out there, though ;)

Lunatique
08-20-2011, 09:31 PM
@Bracken - A childless man can write from a mother's point of view because he still understands what love and compassion and selflessness feels like. A sociopath cannot understand or feel any of that. Empathy is incredibly important for writers. Even a young teenage girl who's never been in love before, will be able to write romance because at least she understand what it feels like to have other kinds of love, such as family and friends and pets, while a sociopath could not feel love of any kind at all, because even in their relationships, they only are in it to dominate, manipulate, and use others. They have no idea what selfless sacrifice feels like, even though they can mimic the actions.

@backslashbaby - I have to wonder if what she writes is ever beyond just the superficial physical attraction and the thrill of the chase. To me, that's a cheap imitation of love and romance. But then again, I suppose a lot of "normal" romance writers are pretty shallow in that respect, essentially writing soft porn and gimmicky sentimentality instead of the kind of love that truly touches the soul.

GailD
08-20-2011, 09:39 PM
I have been frantically trying to remember the name of the western European serial rapist who was allowed out of prison because it was thought that his poetry showed that he was a 'reformed' person. His books were published and he became something of a celebrity - until it was discovered that he was up to his old tricks again and was killing his victims to avoid identification. He was then re-jailed for life.

I saw a fascinating documentary on him some time back and wish I could remember the name. (Difficult to google without it.) Belgian, Dutch, Danish? Darn! And I can see his face from the tv show. Is this perhaps jogging anyone else's memory?

Either way, the guy was undoubtedly a sociopath. He revelled in the attention he got from the media and from the 'intelligencia' at the time (circa 1960) who thought his mindless ramblings were utterly brilliant.

AVS
08-20-2011, 09:56 PM
I'm a homicidal psychopath. I have no KILL KILL KILL problems writing at all I'LL SMASH YOU ALL WITH A HAMMER. People can't tell I'm not normal. Problem is, neither can I. My therapist, in his last painful moments told me I WILL EAT YOUR EYES I would say, do and write things I just couldn't see. But what does he know... now? Nothing.

GailD
08-21-2011, 12:32 AM
I'm a homicidal psychopath. I have no KILL KILL KILL problems writing at all I'LL SMASH YOU ALL WITH A HAMMER. People can't tell I'm not normal. Problem is, neither can I. My therapist, in his last painful moments told me I WILL EAT YOUR EYES I would say, do and write things I just couldn't see. But what does he know... now? Nothing.

Interesting. How do you feel about that?

veinglory
08-21-2011, 02:14 AM
@veinglory - Sociopaths don't have empathy, and that's extremely important for fiction writers. They have negative emotions like anger and jealousy and greed, but they can't feel love, remorse, sympathy, trust...etc.

Empathy may be important to you as a writer but plenty of non-fiction, literature etc is not empathy based.

And sociopaths absolutely can feel possible emotions like appreciation of beauty or admiration/respect. Socially-engaged people feel most of their emotion via relationships, but not having deep relationships is absolutely not the same as being devoid of emotion, negative and positive.

Most viscous predators are sociopaths, but most sociopaths are normal citizens, often highly achieving ones who haven't done harm to anyone because they want the rewards of lawfulness. Sociopaths may very much want to be respected and recognized for their abilities. Thus a lot of driven professionals in many fields are of this type, which is often disproportionately present at executive levels.

Cliff Face
08-21-2011, 02:37 AM
I'm going to have to side with veinglory on this one.

In my opinion, a sociopath lacks connections - not emotions. These 2 things are linked, so quite probably a sociopath will feel only very weak emotions for most of their life.

And in any event, if you read enough novels, you can emulate creatively the emotional spectrum you see in those novels. Like, "Jane Doe in Book X was dumped, and she felt sorrow," becomes, "I'll have a character who is fired from work, because that's kind of like being dumped in a strictly utilitarian sense, and she will feel something that is akin to sorrow - remorse perhaps."

I would even posit that, with a certain level of detachment combined with being a keen observer of human nature (not just for victimising people, but also for improving their own lot such as getting a job promotion) the kind of "emotional equation" of thinking about what others have written, what is similar in situational life, and then creating something original enough - that would happen very quickly and easily.

Just my thoughts on the subject.

Also keep in mind the following:

How many times have you heard someone say, "I know I should feel sad about X, but I'm kind of relieved."

To me, what this says is that the human brain will assess situations and results, and tell the body what it should be feeling. So what's to stop a sociopath from unlocking that part of their subconscious, and going, "X happened to me from person Y, I should feel Z." They could create a catalogue of what is expected - which they probably do, at least the ones that are good at being con artists and the like.

And with that catalogue in mind, what's to stop them from being able to write just as well as any other writer?

(And I also agree with veinglory on one other point. Being a sociopath doesn't mean you're going to do bad things.)

Cliff Face
08-21-2011, 02:49 AM
I also have another theory that is relevant here.

People have been talking about positive and negative emotions. But all you need to have an emotion at all is the sensations of your body. For example, your body will do different things depending on which emotion you are feeling - like a flutter of the heart, involuntary and unexplained heavy breathing, etc.

So my theory is that if you can feel your body, ie. it's not numb/paralysed/etc., then you will always be feeling one thing within the emotional spectrum.

Now, that requires a clarification. Let's suppose positive and negative emotions, the ones that have been documented, are like paintings of light and dark.

If you get a picture you can recognise, you will feel a documented emotion to a greater or lesser extent.

But all those moments of your day when you're not feeling any emotion in particular, your biorhythms are creating different types of paintings - ones that aren't clear images, or ones that are perhaps more gray than they are black and white.

Now, coming back to sociopaths. Perhaps being disconnected from relationships means that they are feeling the gray, wishy-washy images for most of their lives. These will usually fall to one side of an emotion, but will feel weaker. But if the sociopath has felt only these weak emotions their entire life, then surely they will have been able to decide which grays were related to which "real" emotions - living as normal a life as they desire through their "fake" emotions, the gray ones.

But it's all still a physical reaction, and it's enough to give stability.

At this point, all the sociopath really needs to learn to be a good writer (aside from grammar, spelling, a certain level of creativity) is how important emotions are to people, for each different emotion.

I mean, if they only feel a weak "gray" one, then they will have no way of knowing how important that emotion is to non-sociopaths.

But that is just one thing to observe in literature and movies and real life, compared to trying to fake everything. So this is much simpler.

In conclusion, I think that sociopaths can perform any role in society that "normal" people do, if the desire is there. They might seem a little off, and their teething problems might be more severe, but if the desire's there, they can do anything.

Also - not all murderers are sociopaths.

Lunatique
08-21-2011, 07:56 AM
I understand all the details regarding sociopaths--like I said, I've been researching the topic. The websites dedicated to sociopaths are especially revealing (where sociopaths congregate anonymously and discuss what's it's like to live life as sociopaths). So, no, I don't think all sociopaths are bad or are prone to criminal behavior. Most live normal lives because they prefer not to suffer the consequences of breaking the law.

And I already stated that I believe sociopaths can write certain kinds of fiction and non-fiction quite well, so there's no argument about that either.

What I'm not wavering on (at the moment), is whether they can write the kind of fiction that has powerfully profound emotional and intellectual resonance that most of us tend to hold in the highest esteem in the literary world. I think the keywords here are "profound" and "emotional resonance."

Although sociopaths can reference what they have heard or seen about the kind of emotions they cannot feel or understand, that is a lot like a deaf person (since birth) writing about the love for music, or a blind person (since birth) writing about the beauty of a woman or an epic sunset by the beach. They can only fake it by piecing together what others have expressed about these topics, and while that can fool some people, I think it'll lack the honesty and sincerity, as well as the poignancy that really good writing has--something that came from the heart and soul.

I guess in a way, writers--especially genre writers--often "fake" it when they write about things they don't feel themselves, such as how much a villain loves the taste of human heart--the chewy texture, the intoxicating metallic taste, the way it still pulsates before it finally becomes still. Perhaps that kind of associative imagination can work for sociopaths too, when they are writing about emotions they cannot feel or understand?

Anyway, it's really just a random curious thing I was thinking about, not a subject for serious debate (at least not for me).

gingerwoman
08-21-2011, 01:02 PM
Empathy may be important to you as a writer but plenty of non-fiction, literature etc is not empathy based.

And sociopaths absolutely can feel possible emotions like appreciation of beauty or admiration/respect. Socially-engaged people feel most of their emotion via relationships, but not having deep relationships is absolutely not the same as being devoid of emotion, negative and positive.

Most viscous predators are sociopaths, but most sociopaths are normal citizens, often highly achieving ones who haven't done harm to anyone because they want the rewards of lawfulness. Sociopaths may very much want to be respected and recognized for their abilities. Thus a lot of driven professionals in many fields are of this type, which is often disproportionately present at executive levels.
I think I know one who is a poet. He self publishes. He definitely wants the rewards of lawfulness but he does very wrong things online as an internet bully and a stalker of anyone who offends him online in any small way.
The poems are full of angst. Very self focused, but not completely without merit because his emotions are expressed so intensely that some people find them oddly compelling.He also writes a kind of shocking, gross out, comedic horror that had a small cult following on a certain website.

Mr Flibble
08-21-2011, 01:18 PM
I suppose a lot of "normal" romance writers are pretty shallow in that respect, essentially writing soft porn and gimmicky sentimentality instead of the kind of love that truly touches the soul.


Um, exsqueeze me? *stern frowny face* You may wish to rephrase that to be a tad less insulting. Really.

Anyway, I suspect psychopaths/sociopaths are as varied as everyone else, so some could, some couldn't. There's plenty of fiction on the shelves that is light on the empathic, heavy on the clever plot. Or as I think someone else said, they could fake the empathy. Or maybe they just feel things differently rather than not at all?

Barbara R.
08-21-2011, 04:55 PM
@veinglory -
And considering that all writers understand how incredibly unlikely it is that a writer can attain money and fame through writing, it's almost a given that writers write for a sense of fulfillment first and foremost.

Not really. As someone who teaches writing, I meet a lot of people who actually do look at writing as a quick and easy way to pick up big bucks. They look at Grisham or whoever and think "Hell, I can do this."

Of course, most people would earn more investing the same time they put into writing by selling girl scout cookies door-to-door. Eventually there's an awakening.

Barbara R.
08-21-2011, 04:57 PM
The websites dedicated to sociopaths are especially revealing (where sociopaths congregate anonymously and discuss what's it's like to live life as sociopaths).

That sounds interesting. Could you share those websites?

Bracken
08-21-2011, 05:24 PM
The websites dedicated to sociopaths are especially revealing (where sociopaths congregate anonymously and discuss what's it's like to live life as sociopaths).

That sounds interesting. Could you share those websites?



http://www.somethingawful.com/


Haha, just kidding. :tongue

Cathy C
08-21-2011, 07:25 PM
Can sociopaths/psychopaths be good fiction writers?

Yes, I think so. At least I like to believe I'm a good fiction writer. I was diagnosed as a borderline clinical sociopath as a child. Does that make me a bad/unfeeling person? Not bad. In fact, I follow my own level of lawfulness, which is much more strict than what most people do on a daily basis. For example, if you're at a stop sign in the middle of nowhere, do you ACTUALLY (honestly!) put on your turn signal to change direction, every single time? I do. It's the law. I obey the law. I have a higher standard of ethics than most people I know. :Shrug: It makes me kind of weird, but there you go.

My mother was the one to first notice. Someone important in my life had died and I didn't really feel anything. It was just another day, but one without that person in it. My mom was kind and suggested I not hold in the pain. But I wasn't. There was no pain. She got a startled look and said, "Oh, you're like my brother Joe. We'll have to work on that." I don't know if it's heredity. Maybe so. But she went on to explain that society, as a whole, EXPECTS a certain reaction in people to certain stimuli. I should show emotional pain or emotional joy to the world. Flat worries people, whether or not it is a real problem.

Am I unfeeling? Hmm... yeah, sort of. Is it a problem? No, not to anyone I know. I still do nice stuff because it's the right thing to do. I love my DH, as much as I can. (Yeah, he knows.) I probably donate more to charity and do more good works for people and animals than a lot of people. It's right and ethical, whether or not it means anything to ME. It means stuff to others, so I do it.


@veinglory - Sociopaths don't have empathy, and that's extremely important for fiction writers. They have negative emotions like anger and jealousy and greed, but they can't feel love, remorse, sympathy, trust...Remember guys, the original question was whether sociopaths can be GOOD fiction writers, not whether they can be creative or write. I think we all have similar idea of what good fiction is (entertaining, profound, and stimulating emotionally and intellectually).

Um, so wrong. Good fiction is what makes people keep reading. I'm a really good observer. I watch people all the time. I watch them interact. I don't have to FEEL what they feel in order to portray it on the page. And no, I don't have only negative emotions. There are levels.



That's a really interesting question. I too have been reading up on psychopaths, and for the same reasons.

My guess is that it would be hard for a psychopath to write a novel, because that requires empathy and, I suspect, a more nuanced grasp of human nature than they have.

But I could be wrong. Maybe it depends on the type of novel. I do know that psychopaths can be publishers, though, having met one or two.

Perhaps psychopaths, but even then, empathy really isn't required to put words on a page that will make other people emote. Nuances are all about observation and reality shows have made it waaaay easy to write emotion.


I don't think it's true for all and definitely wouldn't be true of writers with these disorders.

This.


I also have another theory that is relevant here.

Now, coming back to sociopaths. Perhaps being disconnected from relationships means that they are feeling the gray, wishy-washy images for most of their lives.
At this point, all the sociopath really needs to learn to be a good writer (aside from grammar, spelling, a certain level of creativity) is how important emotions are to people, for each different emotion.

I mean, if they only feel a weak "gray" one, then they will have no way of knowing how important that emotion is to non-sociopaths.

This too. And interesting you should phrase it the way you do, Cliff Face. I've long said I'm a watercolor living in an oil painting world. 9/11 totally confused me. I tried to show emotion. I did. But I just didn't "get it." Still don't. But I understand how incredibly devastating it was for other people. I can portray it on page, but not ever feel the rich clear texture of it.

But I can still write fiction and write it well. I just watch, listen and learn. :)

Lunatique
08-21-2011, 09:26 PM
Um, exsqueeze me? *stern frowny face* You may wish to rephrase that to be a tad less insulting. Really.


No offense intended. Other genres have their clichés too--from mystery/thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, erotic, to whatever. We can find something to make fun of in just about everything in existence--it's just a matter of attitude. :) I can laugh at the stuff I'm passionate about too--no problem there.


The websites dedicated to sociopaths are especially revealing (where sociopaths congregate anonymously and discuss what's it's like to live life as sociopaths).

That sounds interesting. Could you share those websites?


http://www.sociopathworld.com

Lot's of very interesting confessional comments on that site. What's surprising is that some sociopaths are very lonely and jealous of normal people, because they want to be able to feel love and empathy, but they are incapable. Of course, there are the really smug and arrogant ones who see normal people as inferior sentimental idiots to be manipulated for fun. And then there are the ones who simply try to blend in as much as possible.

Cathy C - For me personally, when I write, I can't help but be affected by what I'm writing. If I'm writing a sweet and heart-warming scene, I will smile as I'm writing because that's how the scene makes me feel. If I'm writing something heartbreaking, it's the same--my heart is heavy with emotions as I write such scenes. To me, that's part of what makes writing so intoxicating, because you are in a way living vicariously through your characters, and it's that empathy that makes the writing experience emotionally involving and soul-wrenching at times. There are even times when what I'm writing is so heartbreaking that I can't take it and must stop for a while and calm down--that's what putting your heart and soul into your writing means to me.

I would assume that your feelings about writing is quite different from mine, and I'm curious about your relationship with your writing--what you love about it or hate about it, and the kind of emotions you feel when you write--especially when you have to write about emotions and relationships that while normal to most people, is hard for you to relate to because you don't feel those things.

veinglory
08-21-2011, 10:18 PM
As Cathy was brave enough to go first I will add that I also test well down the callous-unemotive end of the spectrum. There is a huge difference between having a personality type and being Hannibal the Cannibal. And whether I can write or not, I leave that to my readers to decide.

Ari Meermans
08-21-2011, 11:38 PM
Lunatique, you've been assured several times in this thread that your assumption that the lack (or low levels) of empathy equals lack of emotion is erroneous in its generality. Yet you persist, and while doing so you continue to insult those who have tried to explain this to you, all the while intimating your superiority by holding yourself up as an example of what you call 'normal'. Is that caring or empathetic? No, of course not. It's also untrue.

Bracken
08-22-2011, 12:08 AM
9/11 totally confused me. I tried to show emotion. I did. But I just didn't "get it." Still don't. But I understand how incredibly devastating it was for other people. I can portray it on page, but not ever feel the rich clear texture of it.That's okay; I'm not a sociopath but it totally confused me too.
I was young at the time- mid 20s.
I didn't know anything about global politics; I didn't know who the "terrorists" were, what country they were from, anything.
At work, we were instructed to wear red, white and blue all week. All around me, there was all this patriotic talk about how great the US was and how the bad guys did what they did because they hate us for our freedoms and how we were now going to go kick their Islamic butts.

Even at the time, as ignorant as I was, it rang hollow.
I knew there was a reason they targeted us, and I knew it wasn't because we were a paragon of virtue and they hated us for our freedoms.
I knew it might not be a good reason, or a valid justification, but there was a reason, and it wasn't the stupid one that everyone kept parroting.
I knew we had done something to them, and the whole "nationalist pride" trend in the days and weeks following 9/11 just made me feel weird.

So, yeah. One doesn't have to be a sociopath to feel confused by that situation.
I was mostly just grateful my son was too young to have to fight in the war that I could sense looming on the horizon (although it turned out I was wrong about that; the war dragged on so long that he did grow up to join the army and fight, although not for long; he was discharged pretty quickly).

Mr Flibble
08-22-2011, 01:57 AM
No offense intended. Other genres have their clichés too--from mystery/thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, erotic, to whatever.

Yeah but i note you're not calling them shallow because they write it. Is you don't like a genre fine, no need to insult the writers. Make fun of the genre, sure. Not the people. RYFW.




I think that there are probably as many socio/psychopath writers as any other sort of writer. It's our differences that give us a voice, neh? Not every style of writing needs tons of emotion/empathy. We all go with what we're given. Writing/reading a less emotional story is just a matter of the style you're reading. Sometimes it's great, other times not. *shrug* I'm sure they'd bring something to the table. It's not a bar to being a good writer.

Lunatique
08-22-2011, 08:05 AM
As Cathy was brave enough to go first I will add that I also test well down the callous-unemotive end of the spectrum. There is a huge difference between having a personality type and being Hannibal the Cannibal. And whether I can write or not, I leave that to my readers to decide.

I never painted sociopaths as monsters, serial killers, or something hideous. I have repeatedly stated that I know some blend in and don't make trouble and aren't malicious, and they follow the society's notion of right and wrong just like anyone else, even if they don't have what we refer to as a conscience (this is the clinical definition of a sociopath--not a subjective judgment).


Lunatique, you've been assured several times in this thread that your assumption that the lack (or low levels) of empathy equals lack of emotion is erroneous in its generality. Yet you persist, and while doing so you continue to insult those who have tried to explain this to you, all the while intimating your superiority by holding yourself up as an example of what you call 'normal'. Is that caring or empathetic? No, of course not. It's also untrue.

I continued the conversation because I'm still trying to figure out how a sociopath actually "feels" about writing--specifically, when they have to write the spectrum of emotions that they can't feel. I'm really just voicing my curiosity out loud, and I even tried to relate to how their approach is likely similar to other writers who have to write about experiences they never had.

I'm not expressing any kind of superiority--merely differences. When I say that I write with my heart and soul, I'm not stating it as being superior--that's just how "I" feel about writing. Sociopaths might write more with their intellect and imagination--is that any inferior? And if they can write emotions they can't feel and still be totally convincing, then what difference does it make to the readers if all of it reads genuine?

I never wanted to offend anyone, even accidentally. I'm sorry if I come off as being insensitive. Perhaps my curiosity got the better of me.


That's okay; I'm not a sociopath but it totally confused me too.
I was young at the time- mid 20s.
I didn't know anything about global politics; I didn't know who the "terrorists" were, what country they were from, anything.
At work, we were instructed to wear red, white and blue all week. All around me, there was all this patriotic talk about how great the US was and how the bad guys did what they did because they hate us for our freedoms and how we were now going to go kick their Islamic butts.

Even at the time, as ignorant as I was, it rang hollow.
I knew there was a reason they targeted us, and I knew it wasn't because we were a paragon of virtue and they hated us for our freedoms.
I knew it might not be a good reason, or a valid justification, but there was a reason, and it wasn't the stupid one that everyone kept parroting.
I knew we had done something to them, and the whole "nationalist pride" trend in the days and weeks following 9/11 just made me feel weird.

So, yeah. One doesn't have to be a sociopath to feel confused by that situation.
I was mostly just grateful my son was too young to have to fight in the war that I could sense looming on the horizon (although it turned out I was wrong about that; the war dragged on so long that he did grow up to join the army and fight, although not for long; he was discharged pretty quickly).

Putting aside all the politics, the devastation and fear people felt was due to the atrocity--the murder of all those innocent people, burning to death, falling to death, and suffocating to death. It's also the shock of having the rug pulled out from under you--an attack that brazen and undeterred.

So even not considering politics, indignation, and patriotism, there's still a lot to feel about the attack of 9/11.


Yeah but i note you're not calling them shallow because they write it. Is you don't like a genre fine, no need to insult the writers. Make fun of the genre, sure. Not the people. RYFW.

I think that there are probably as many socio/psychopath writers as any other sort of writer. It's our differences that give us a voice, neh? Not every style of writing needs tons of emotion/empathy. We all go with what we're given. Writing/reading a less emotional story is just a matter of the style you're reading. Sometimes it's great, other times not. *shrug* I'm sure they'd bring something to the table. It's not a bar to being a good writer.

Just because I didn't write a list of irreverent descriptions poking fun at all the known genres and the stereotypes of their writers, doesn't mean they are all somehow superior to romance. :) Like I said, I have no problem poking fun at even the stuff I love and are passionate about. The ability to laugh at yourself is very healthy, I think. BTW, I have written romance, so yes, I was poking fun at myself too. I apologize if I offended you. I can send you my romance manuscript and you can laugh at it. :)

BTW, You guys have to remember that in order to be clinically tested as a true sociopath, the person would have to fit a specific profile, and there are a lot of people who suspect they are sociopaths, but actually aren't--they might have conditions that share some of the traits with antisocial personality disorder, but not all. To know for sure, you have to be tested by a professional in clinical tests.

There really isn't anything I can say that's not already public knowledge:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociopaths_in_society
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisocial_personality_disorder
http://www.sociopathworld.com/

Anyway, I didn't set out to offend people, and I apologized if I had. It was simply a random thought I had, since I've been researching sociopaths and have dealt with a few in my life, and currently also writing about one in my book.

I try hard to be objective and fair and kind in my life, and if I had failed to do so in this thread, it means I'm not quite the person I aspire to be yet, and I have to continue to work on it.

Cliff Face
08-22-2011, 03:26 PM
You've said a few times that, in your opinion, the value of fiction is whether or not it rings true, emotionally and profoundly. Right?

But have you considered that everyone is different, especially on an emotional level? So one story might ring true for you, but it might not for me or Joe Blow down the street, and then Jane Jimmyjimmynanana might think it's half-and-half.

Just a thought.

(And frankly, the idea that fiction's worth is whether it rings true emotionally and has a profound effect on me kind of doesn't fit with my own world view. For me, fiction should be entertaining. If I want profundity, I'll listen to music or, better yet, play guitar or keyboard myself. If I want it to ring true emotionally, I'll have to settle for something that rings true for me which, chances are, will mean writing it myself.)

But back on topic - I see no reason why sociopaths and pyschopaths can't be good writers, in any regard. Individuality is what makes a compelling story for me. If 5 people have written a similar plot with the same impetus behind it, chances are I'll just rank them, choose my favourite, and not touch the other ones again.

It needs uniqueness for me to consider it money well spent.

But that's just me. I'm not telling you that you should feel this way too - it's great that you want emotionally-true and profound novels. Because I don't, and we all deserve some individuality.

Bracken
08-22-2011, 03:38 PM
Putting aside all the politics, the devastation and fear people felt was due to the atrocity--the murder of all those innocent people, burning to death, falling to death, and suffocating to death. It's also the shock of having the rug pulled out from under you--an attack that brazen and undeterred.

So even not considering politics, indignation, and patriotism, there's still a lot to feel about the attack of 9/11.I felt the same about it as I did about Katrina, or the tsunami, or any other tragedy where a lot of strangers died far away.
I felt bad for them and their families... but I didn't take it personally.
It confused me that others did, in this instance. And only in this instance.
There may have been "a lot to feel", but I didn't feel a lot.
And a lot of what others around me seemed to feel- rage, prejudice against Muslims, fear that another attack was imminent, sudden extreme patriotism, a desire for revenge- seemed undesirable to me; not anything I wished to be involved in.


But have you considered that everyone is different, especially on an emotional level? So one story might ring true for you, but it might not for me or Joe Blow down the street, and then Jane Jimmyjimmynanana might think it's half-and-half.

Just a thought.

Excellent point. Novels have been ruined for me because the MC seems overly emotional, or is driven by some emotion (such as pointless guilt) which I'm not very familiar with and which seems dumb to me, as far as motivators go.

RobJ
08-22-2011, 03:43 PM
I've been studying sociopaths/psychopaths lately for various reasons (my writing, suspecting I know a few of them in my life), and I had this strange thought:

Since they are incapable of real empathy, can they still be good fiction writers?
There are no limits. Anyone can be a good 'fiction writer'.

(Apart from celebrities, of course, as everyone knows.)

Barbara R.
08-22-2011, 04:03 PM
For me personally, when I write, I can't help but be affected by what I'm writing. If I'm writing a sweet and heart-warming scene, I will smile as I'm writing because that's how the scene makes me feel. If I'm writing something heartbreaking, it's the same--my heart is heavy with emotions as I write such scenes. .

Some writer, whose name I forgot, once said, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."

Barbara

Barbara R.
08-22-2011, 04:16 PM
I give you a lot of credit, Cathy C., for "outing" yourself. Psychopath and sociopath are such extremely perjorative terms that not many people would claim them, I think. I looked at your website, which does seem to answer the OP's question. You and your partner are certainly industrious--that's a lot of books in a short period.

Barbara R.
08-22-2011, 04:36 PM
Thanks for that site. Fascinating!

backslashbaby
08-22-2011, 06:00 PM
When I talk about the psychopath I knew, I mean the really awful kind who enjoys severe manipulation, criminal things, etc.

Someone just low on the empathy scale seems very different than this girl! There should be different terms for all that if there aren't.

veinglory
08-22-2011, 06:39 PM
I think it is entirely possibly to write emotions you have not personally felt, just as with any experience you have not personally had. Research and imagination, FTW.

kayleamay
08-22-2011, 08:28 PM
My sister was a sociopath and she could weave a rather intricate tale, pathos and all. She was very callous but only those really close to her knew that. To outsiders, she was very normal. She could even turn on the waterworks if she chose to. She had a very high IQ which I think made her better at manipulation, particularly in emotional situations. And really, writing is all about manipulation. You're trying to get the readers to believe something that isn't true and part of getting them to believe is leading them to a certain feeling. So regarding the OP, yes, I think it's very possible for a sociopath or psychopath to be a good writer.

Being a sociopath also helped her out in other aspects of her life. She was a rather successful DEA agent. It turns out that going undercover is easy when lying comes naturally.

shelleyo
08-22-2011, 09:07 PM
I have been frantically trying to remember the name of the western European serial rapist who was allowed out of prison because it was thought that his poetry showed that he was a 'reformed' person. His books were published and he became something of a celebrity - until it was discovered that he was up to his old tricks again and was killing his victims to avoid identification. He was then re-jailed for life.


I hope someone remembers the name because I'd love to know more about it.

Also, for people with no personal experience dealing with things like sociopathy, psycopathy, narcissism, etc. it's important to understand that in many ways these kinds of diagnoses are not one-size-fits-all.

I think mental health and the mental state is much like sexuality. There's a big scale, not just a few categories that everything fits into neatly. I don't suppose you're going to find any two sociopaths who can list the exact same things that define their condition, in the same way that my OCD, panic attacks, metabolism, immune system, ______, aren't going to be just likely anyone else's.

So all the definitions and articles online are really just guidelines, IMO. Anything that says "Sociopaths will be this way" should probably say "Sociopaths MAY be this way." And that goes for just about anything that can't be precisely measured.

Shelley

Fruitbat
08-22-2011, 09:09 PM
My sister was a sociopath and she could weave a rather intricate tale, pathos and all. She was very callous but only those really close to her knew that. To outsiders, she was very normal. She could even turn on the waterworks if she chose to. She had a very high IQ which I think made her better at manipulation, particularly in emotional situations. And really, writing is all about manipulation. You're trying to get the readers to believe something that isn't true and part of getting them to believe is leading them to a certain feeling. So regarding the OP, yes, I think it's very possible for a sociopath or psychopath to be a good writer.

Being a sociopath also helped her out in other aspects of her life. She was a rather successful DEA agent. It turns out that going undercover is easy when lying comes naturally.

Wow, she sounds kind of scary! Just if you feel like sharing, do you have any idea why she was that way?

Torgo
08-22-2011, 09:40 PM
Two points on the Hare checklist: proneness to boredom and lack of realistic long-term goals. I would think those traits, rather than anything to do with empathy, would militate against a lot of fiction writing. Writing is hard, often boring work that takes a long time - not something that your typical Hare psychopath is likely to be in to.

Cathy C
08-22-2011, 10:56 PM
My sister was a sociopath and she could weave a rather intricate tale, pathos and all.

Mine too. I'm the most "normal" of the three of us. Of course, maybe I only believe that, and they're really the normal ones... :ROFL: At the very least, I'm the most law abiding.


lack of realistic long-term goals

But, but. . . you mean being a #1 NYT bestseller isn't a realistic goal? :e2cry:

kayleamay
08-23-2011, 12:38 AM
Wow, she sounds kind of scary! Just if you feel like sharing, do you have any idea why she was that way?


She was scary sometimes. When I was about eight she pistol-whipped a neighbor for calling me a twat. Then she made me Spaghetti-Os and carried on like nothing unusual had happened. I can only speculate as to why she was the way she was. The other five of us are fairly "normal". *twitches* I've historically attributed it to childhood trauma. When she was five her clothes caught fire and she was burned so badly that they said the fact that she lived (and didn't go into shock at any point) was miraculous. She was one solid scar from her neck to her knees and even her ribs were singed. I kind of wonder if she would have been different had she not been burned, but my mom said she was different than the rest of us since infancy. I have many bizarre, you-wouldn't-believe-it-unless-you-saw-it-for-yourself stories about her.

Weirdest thing: She died about five years ago. Or, so I think. One of my brothers is a private investigator. He got plowed at a wedding last year and told me he doesn't think she's really dead. He thinks she faked it and is in hiding somewhere. You see, there was never a funeral and no one ever saw a body (per her written instructions). She was supposedly creamated. It got my brother thinking (because she'd done a lot of really freaky stuff before), so he checked. No death certificate.

I tend to believe that she's dead, but with her it's hard to rule out anything. If she wants to be dead I'm not going to go looking for her. I'm sure she has her reasons.

Silver King
08-23-2011, 03:58 AM
...I never wanted to offend anyone, even accidentally. I'm sorry if I come off as being insensitive.

...I try hard to be objective and fair and kind in my life, and if I had failed to do so in this thread, it means I'm not quite the person I aspire to be yet, and I have to continue to work on it.
No matter what you say, and however carefully you craft your responses, you're going to offend someone around here at some point. But you shouldn't worry about it too much or be too hard on yourself when it happens unintentionally.

Your argument is flawed, yet your sincerity in seeking answers is genuine and compelling and, as far as I can tell, designed not to cause deliberate offense to anyone.

Bracken
08-23-2011, 03:59 PM
No matter what you say, and however carefully you craft your responses, you're going to offend someone around here at some point. But you shouldn't worry about it too much or be too hard on yourself when it happens unintentionally.

Your argument is flawed, yet your sincerity in seeking answers is genuine and compelling and, as far as I can tell, designed not to cause deliberate offense to anyone.


Agreed. Never take anything on the internet personally.
There are people whose sole purpose in life seems to be finding things to take offense at.
As long as you know who you are and what your intentions are, don't let other people interfere with that.

backslashbaby
08-23-2011, 05:40 PM
My awful psychopath (who hurt me terribly, btw) grew up in a really nice and loving family. I was her best friend for years, and I took vacations with them, etc, so I feel confident that no bad secrets lurked that she wouldn't have told me.

Her real father, who left when she was an infant, is rumored to be a horrible guy, though. I've met his mother, and she is very sad about how he turned out.

So I think my example is a case of genetics? It's fascinating how awful this girl is with her sweet mom and stepdad. She had them conned beyond belief, of course. They would have been heartbroken if they knew what kinds of things she was up to.