By Amber McCuen
I’ve had the question of how to write insanity on my mind the past couple of months, and recently I had a breakthrough. Walking to class, I found myself behind what I assumed to be two freshman business majors, and they were talking about their friend. One of them said that “crazy” for him was going 70 on the freeway. They laughed as the other one pretended to be him going 66 in a 65 and freaking out, and an epiphany struck me with distant sympathies for their friend in the back of my mind.
What if someone’s “normal” was going 140 miles per hour on the freeway? What if their normal was in the extreme and their view of what is acceptable was beyond most people’s reality? It’d make them a loose cannon and it’d make them dangerous, which just so happens to be exactly the place I’ve been wondering how to reach.
I realized that the thing about crazy is that you can't be vague. You can’t just say that they’re crazy and shove them completely off of their respective rocker, because no one will ever believe that that character is real. And secondly, if you aren’t specific, that gives you the ability to make them do absolutely anything and have it be within the realm of possibility—and I personally think that’s lazy writing.
You have to tell me how they’re insane. In the case I presented of speeding on the freeway, their main flaw would most likely be extreme impulsivity. What are other possible flaws? Are they extremely callous? Do they love destroying things and can’t seem to stop themselves? Are they intensely paranoid? Whatever it is, mangle their perspective or their desires in a glaring, specific way and let that freely affect how they behave. Craziness will follow as a natural result.