I have a character who seems nice and kind but eventually he ends having a rage attack. The problem is that all together it seems incoherent. Do you know any tips to like connect it all and make it plausible?? Maybe he fits in the sociopath category or something
Hey there my buddy my pal before we slither on down the road towards considering the label of ‘sociopath’ (which I, personally, think is wildly overused in fiction), let’s consider some reasons why a character who seems chill might one day dramatically lose their chill.
A few possibilities:
- Your character has been nice and kind, but finally their patience wears out, and they are unable to contain their frustration at the other characters/the situation/etc. In this situation, they are a kind person– but everybody has a line that they shouldn’t be pushed past. The narrative found their line, and they have had enough.
People who are :
- sleep deprived
- under severe stress
- very hungry
- in extreme pain
- afraid for their life or their important people
Can all be pushed to behave in a way that seems deeply out of character compared to how they act when things are relatively calm and good.
- Your character knows that they have a temper, but have been working hard to contain it and use good anger management strategies throughout the narrative prior to their breakdown. Part of what made them seem particularly nice could be the way that they have been not showing anger even when things did upset them, but they didn’t want to escalate the situation. When they do lash out in that case, it would be because something upset them, and they were unable to do what they usually do to keep their temper reined in. A character doing their best.
- Your character has an abusive personality, and is acting like this on purpose. Clever, serial abusers know that if they ‘seem like a perfectly nice guy!’ to outsiders, they can make their target be doubted by outsiders (separating them from help or a support network) and start to doubt their own judgements (a part of gaslighting). In this case, the nice and kind routine is an act. The rage might be partly an act, too, if they are intentionally making someone afraid of them– or it might be the mask slipping.
- Your character has been acting nice and kind in a manipulative way, and when that clearly isn’t going to work, they give up the pretense. I’ve seen this one used a lot before (especially in children’s media, actually). Typically, a character seems very charming, and seems to get along with everyone. However, something is… not quite right. There are small tells, like awkward moments where the character seems like they are about to explode, but then turn back to charm. Usually at least one character ‘has a bad feeling’ about them. Eventually, the characters true colors are revealed, usually somewhere around the climax of the arc. The most successful deployment of characters like this feel off to the audience, in a way that they can’t quite place– up until the reveal, when they are pleased that they knew something was off about that character.
People’s actions can be almost impossible for another person to understand. All of us are trying to use our own experiences and observations (and sometimes direct communication!) to try and understand the people around us. There is a huge margin for error.
If you don’t know a person’s motives or situation, their actions can seem erratic, like they are coming out of the blue. In these situations, it’s easy for some people to dismiss the person as ‘bipolar’ or ‘OCD’ or (my personal favorite) ‘on their period’. Usually, the people saying these things are not aware of the ways that any of those actually present, are judging based on stereotypes, and are effectively dismissing what is actually going on with a person who is acting in a way that they can’t follow.
Your narrative may seem incoherent now, but I’m sure you can work that out! Above all else, your characters actions should make sense, even if they are sudden or unexpected. It’s your job to figure out what lead the character to that point, and also show the readers how the character got there.
For example, the situation where a kind character is pushed too far: Imagine an episode of a show in which the gentle and hardworking ‘mom friend’ character is doing their best, but over the course of the day, the other characters are inconsiderate, take their kindness and hard work for granted, blithely say mean things, and everything that can go wrong does go wrong for this character.
Every time something like this happens, the camera pauses on the mom friend’s face, as they are clearly growing more and more agitated. When they finally do explode at a (relatively small) provocation, the other characters may be shocked– they’ve never seen that person yell! But your audience would have been able to feel it coming, and while it may be surprising to see that character actually get angry, it feels like a logical reaction in light of everything going on.
In Summary: I bet that there is a good way to make your character’s behavior seem to follow a logical progression, and I think that you should look into that before deciding that your character has X or Y disorder. Even if you decide that your character is acting in a disordered way, their actions will follow the patterns of that disorder (which means research time!)
I hope that this will help you get started! Good luck out there.