Transgressive Fiction Characters

Updated: Jan 2

Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (Movie)


In Transgressive fiction, the character is vital and it may be because of the genre’s odd similarity to true crime. In both type of genre (one fiction and other non-fiction), rely on characters with grime, dark, frightening depth. Another reason for the importance of character in Transgressive fiction is the fact that the key factors and themes of this fiction are best expressed through a character’s internal life, mind, and reactions. Themes such as escape, isolation, freedom, amorality, deviancy can best be described by going inside of the human mind.


Transgressive Character


Word Watch — December 1996 from The Atlantic Monthly describes the Transgressive character behavior as "feeling confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways."


Such characters are flawed and can be antiheroes in another type of fiction, but make fascinating protagonists in transgressive stories. Somehow, the flawed-yet-relatable heroes can still provoke empathy and that's the key to create such characters.


It is still believed that protagonists need to be "likable and nice" which gradually turns close to "boring." People may not like spending time with "Patrick Bateman", but I don't think they would like it with a handsome popular high school vampire who saves the innocent virgin teen either, or do they?


As a writer the goal is to create protagonists that are great: It means they are compelling, unique, fascinating but not necessarily nice and agreeable. But what makes characters great is the element of surprise and how they can shock the reader. A character who is multidimensional in personality and not predictable, incapable of maintaining reader interest for long.


The difficulty in creating transgressive characters is when you may create a character who disgust and discourage the reader with some repellant traits such as drug addiction, bad temper, a drinking problem, arrogant self-confidence, unacceptable immorality, or even criminality and rage. However, there are characters with such flaws that are worshiped in the history of literature such as Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train with an obsessive drinking problem or the aimless, depressed, and cynic Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.


How, then, can you create such a character?


The role of hubristic motivation in creating a transgressive character


To explain how can you create a transgressive character, I would like you to understand that every transgressive character needs to be examined deeply through the behavioral psychology of their motivation.


Józef Kozielecki in his research, The role of hubristic motivation in transgressive behavior mentions that "as stipulated by the transgressive model of man, hubristic motivation is a major driving force of transgressive behavior. Hubristic motivation is conceived as a cluster of motives that make people assert and enhance their self-worth (self-importance, self-esteem). By transgressive behavior we mean any behavior whose outcome goes beyond the boundaries of the individual's past accomplishments (e.g., territorial expansion, enhancement of power, broadening of personal freedom, or development of new scientific theories)."


In his paper, he outlines the mechanism of self-worth enhancement and decline in