If you want to create a diabolical character, read this post. We look at The Dark Tetrad, which includes the four qualities the worst villains possess.
In a post on Psychology Today, Romeo Vitelli talks about villains often possessing traits from the ‘Dark Triad’ of narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. He says that researchers have proposed a fourth trait, Sadism, which would create a ‘Dark Tetrad’.
What Is The Dark Tetrad?
These four traits make up The Dark Tetrad:
- Narcissism: This is pathological self-absorption. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica: ‘Narcissism is characterised by an inflated self-image and addiction to fantasy, by an unusual coolness and composure shaken only when the narcissistic confidence is threatened, and by the tendency to take others for granted or to exploit them. The disorder is named for the mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection.’
- Psychopathy: According to Merriam-Webster: ‘A mental disorder especially when marked by egocentric and antisocial activity, a lack of remorse for one’s actions, an absence of empathy for others, and often criminal tendencies.’
- Machiavellianism: This is detached, calculating, manipulative behaviour where somebody is so focused on their own welfare that they will deceive and exploit others to achieve their goals. According to Wikipedia: ‘This is a psychological trait centred on interpersonal manipulation, unemotional coldness, and indifference to morality.’
- Sadism: Named for the Marquis de Sade, sadism means deriving pleasure from other people’s suffering. Sadists enjoy hurting others. According to Merriam Webster, sadism is: ‘1. the derivation of sexual gratification from the infliction of physical pain or humiliation on another person. 2a: delight in cruelty. 2b: excessive cruelty.’
Imagine creating antagonists with these four dark qualities?
Imagine somebody who meets all four criteria. You could call this person evil. You would have to create a formidable protagonist to counter this creature.
In Psychology Today, Travis Langley says: ‘Not every abuser, bomber, mass murderer, or other human monster will meet all four criteria, but when all four are present, persistent, and pervasive, their victims tend to suffer the worst. That, we name evil.’
If you are creating an antagonist, you may want to use all four, or some of these in their make-up. You could even include them in a protagonist, especially if you are creating an anti-hero. (Read The The Antihero in Popular Culture: A Life History Theory of the Dark Triad)
Examples Of Characters With Dark Triad / Dark Tetrad Qualities
- Hannibal Lecter
- Alex in A Clockwork Orange
- James Bond
- Ebenezer Scrooge
- Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men
- Mr Burns in The Simpsons
- Dexter Morgan in the Dexter series of novels
- Sherlock Holmes
- Patrick Bateman in American Psycho
Please add your suggestions with characters who have these traits in the comments section below.
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by Amanda Patterson
© Amanda Patterson
More Posts On Antagonists:
- The Antagonist As A Literary Device
- Use These 7 Gaslighting Phrases To Make Your Antagonist More Manipulative
- Use The 7 Deadly Sins To Strengthen Your Antagonist’s Motives
- The Least You Should Know About Your Protagonist And Antagonist
- Use Your Antagonist To Define Your Story Goal
- 7 Deadly Rules For Creating A Villain
- 10 Ways To Create Dangerously Nuanced Antagonists
- 10 Essential Tips for Writing Antagonists
- Why You Need An Antagonist In Your Story
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