07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Friday, September 30, 2011

Amazon Best-Seller Delle Jacobs - Your Villain: Apple or Onion?

Delle the Apple

When I was a social worker, I attended a psychiatric seminar on Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD in my lingo), where I learned an interesting analogy explaining the differences between neurosis and personality disorder. Later, as an author, I found it helpful in creating villains, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Apples represent normal and neurotic people, and Onions represent people with ASPD. The therapist (or author), knows he must dig deep into the personality to reach the core issues, so with the client, he painstakingly works past peel and pulp until they reach the core. It works fine with Apples. Seeds and all, the core is the essence of the true self, with potential for growth.

Delle the Onion
The Onion (ASPD), however, presenting as charming, complex, with intriguing problems, often leads the helping professional to believe he alone can help the poor, mistreated fellow.  Major fallacy there: Onion is doing what he does best, engaging Helper's sympathy by playing to Helper's professional ego. Helper jumps in, certain he alone can peel away the layers and reach the truth, the real person.

Empathy engaged, he works through the challenging complexities, peeling away each layer, thinking he'll find the truth beneath it. But there's always another layer. If ASPD has done his job well, Helper doesn't notice he's doing all the work, yet nothing is changing. Then finally at the last layer, ready for triumph, he discovers–NOTHING'S THERE. There is no core.

 A true Sociopath (ASPD) wears personality like a mask.  He lacks empathy. His social interactions are manipulation tools. He sees no faults in himself, and other people are to blame for all his problems. He'll lie about anything, sometimes just for amusement. He loves to set people against each other, then watch the fight. Instead of building and fixing something real, he'll pour enormous energy into making things SEEM like something they're not. It's all about him, but if it furthers his cause, he'll happily make you think it's all about you. He's all surface, no depth.

In a nutshell, Onion makes a perfect villain. But you have to work hard because you have to capture both the real self and the phony he presents to the world. Never forget his motivation: always his own personal gain or pleasure.

Apple, with his more genuine personality, can also be a great villain. Apple wallows in guilt, which Onion disdains. Apple's personality flaws and insecurity bring him pain, but Onion thinks he's perfect as is, with the universe revolving around him. Apple is truly complex, where Onion looks complex but is really superficial. While Onion might emulate Apple to gain something, secretly, he sneers.

Give this Apple good intentions, a cause he'd sacrifice anything for, and you will have an emotionally captivating villain. But be careful. He can become so intriguing, he'll take over your story. He's far more work, but done right, he can give your story great depth and power. 

-Posted by Delle Jacobs


Vonnie Alto said...

It seems that apples are the true villains while onions are a virus. I think I prefer apples to onions because the apple villain can be redeemed and even become the hero of his own book. Henceforth, I'll never think of apples and onions as merely fruit and vegetable. This roughage has personality and motivation!

Sarah Raplee said...

I agree with Vonnie. I much prefer Apples, as they are easier to relate to. I dislike serial killer books because so many of the villains are one-dimensional. 'He's crazy' lets the author off the hook too easily and isn't very satisfying for me as a reader.

Judith Ashley said...

Great post, Delle. I think crafting a story with an Onion as the villain takes more skill because you do have to show both sides to give the character the depth that can be missing. Sarah is right - 'He's crazy' isn't very satisfying but to see the complexity of the character (I'm reminded of Jeffrey Dallman) and how from that point of view even being a serial killer makes sense is even more chilling.

Karen Duvall said...

LOL, Vonnie! Brilliant metaphors. Ha!

Delle, I love your descriptions of the 2 villain types. I also prefer Apples to Onions, and they're more fun to write, too.

POV can make the distinction between the 2 types difficult to discern, and that's an additional challenge for an author. When writing a book from a first person viewpoint (as I do), an author doesn't have the luxury of getting inside the villain's head. The information conveyed is through observation by the viewpoint character, so what that character extrapolates from her experience with the villain will be all there is. The MC needs to be a reliable narrator in order to get a complete picture of who the villain is deep down.

Vonnie Alto said...

My villain metaphor is with me always because I published an article on it titled, "Villain or Virus: Unmasking Your Antagonist." Once my website debuts, it will be on there for everyone to read.

I like Delle's post on villains because she goes into the psychology of their mind and it can be chilling.

Diana Mcc. said...

Me too! I'll take an Apple over an Onion any day. Like Sarah said, they are/or can, sometimes be redeemed. Interesting metaphors, really enjoyed reading your post.

Delle Jacobs said...

Darn, I lost my long comment and have to start over!

We've arrived in Maui but couldn't register at the condo till 4 pm. This connection is difficult- have to sit almost on top of the router, but that means I'm in a bad place to type.

Vonnie, I agree, great metaphors. Karen, I think one way to get great depth in a socipoathic villain is by carefully showing him and revealing his appalling lack of depth. That's really a delicate job sometimes. Showing in tiny ways his lack of empathy for others, ways he doesn't 'get' normal social behavior but is instead imitating it. Little slip-ups.They're such good cons, though, a person has to be really paying attention to catch things.

And I agree, the character who kills or does other unexplainable things who the author simply says is "crazy" is not realistic. /schizophrenics are rational people, but rational in tgheir own way. Their thinking usually isn't utterly chaotic or whimsical. They may have really skewed reasoning but it has its rules which they often follow very rigidly. The trouble is, they are often very fragmented in how they explain themselves to other people. When they speak in "word salads", they sound utterly chaotic, but they're often frustrated by this themselves, as they apparently can't control the way the words come out. Jared Lee Laughner, who tried to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, appears to me to be a classic schizophrenic, and at that stage it doesn't matter a lot how he got that way. His logic was very rigid, fixed, according to his own rules. And he totally believed it. So if you choose to write a truly crazy villain, you have an extremely hard job ahead of you. In many ways that's the most sympathetic villain of them all because he is such a lost soul.

Marion Spicher said...

Thank you Delle, I can use this for my apple villain. Great analogies.

Tam Linsey said...

I tend to think of villains as "the protagonists of their own story." I love the core analogy! And peeling down the onion to reveal ... nothing. Brilliant. I'm going to use this at a critique meeting soon!