What Writers Need To Know About Predatory People

This article is for those who want to write the kind of cold, remorseless people who deliberately and knowingly harm others for fun and personal gain - IE, the type of people commonly labeled "psychopaths" and "sociopaths." All of this is based on years of observing actual predators (they aren't really that hard to find), as well as reading and listening to other people's experiences with them. So for those of you who want to know how they work, here you go.

All kinds of people can be predators. It's not uncommon to think of predators as strikingly handsome rich guys or as ugly middle-aged creeps, but the fact is that any kind of person can be a predator. Predators can be any gender, have any income level, and have any job. They can belong to any religion and have any political affiliation. They can look like anything and be any age. Basically, any type of person can be a predator.

Different predators have different hunting methods. We often think of predators as people who physically overpower people or sweep them off their feet with incredible charisma, this is only how some of them hunt. Others snare their victims by framing themselves as helpless and needy, or as the victims of a cold and uncaring society. Sometimes they'll go after jobs that will easily let them to prey on others (EG, therapists, clergy, managers, etc.) There's no end to their methods - as long as they think they can work it in their favor, they'll do it.

Many predators try way too hard. An adult predator trying to look "cute" might attempt to imitate the behavior of a child by pouting, whining, or using a "childish" vocabulary. A predator trying to look like a loving parent might start cooing or babytalking to someone much too old to be spoken to that way. Predators who want to look tough might boast about or show off how strong they are, or carry around weapons where others can easily see them. A predator who wants to seem sexy and alluring might wear an outfit suitable for an intimate date to a casual meetup for coffee. Predators trying to look smart might often bring up their IQs or their degrees (even when it's not particularly relevant or appropriate), or use unnecessarily technical or flowery language, or use outdated writing styles because classic authors wrote like that way back when. And of course, predators trying to seem like wonderful romantic partners might lavish people with no end of praise and gifts, even when the recipients are clearly uninterested in them. When all of their tryhard antics fail, they rarely think to just knock it off and act like normal people. Instead, they're more likely to get mad and blame whomever it's not working on.

For many predators, there are basically five kinds of people. These types of people can be described as alphas, pests, minions, marks, and nobodies. Here's how they work:

Alphas are authority figures (bosses, teachers, admins, etc.) whom the predator believes must be obeyed and kissed up to in order to advance or stay safe. Predators will often show these people the utmost respect and give them no end of praise. Because predators are often on their best behavior in front of alphas, it's easy for alphas to miss how badly the predators treat other people. They might also assume that because the predator is nice to them, means that people who complain about the predator's behavior must be lying or mistaken.

Pests are people who have caught the predator's attention in a negative way, and must now be dominated and/or destroyed in their minds. Pests may have done nothing worse than have a better social life or be more knowledgeable in something than the predator. They may have dared to talk about the subject that the predator doesn't like. They might be more popular with the boss, or they might just take up time and space that the predator feels the pest does not deserve.

Minions are people whom the predator finds useful. They might bolster the predator's ego with praise and admiration, or by sucking up the predator's opinions like chilled Kool-Aid. Minions might do favors for predators, give them emotional support, take their sides in fights, or otherwise protect them from criticism. (They often believe that they're just standing up for a friend or a misunderstood person, since they're usually ignorant or willfully blind to how horrible the predators are to others.) Anyone whom the predator considers a "friend" is probably a minion. Minions who stop aiding and enabling predators will likely become pests.

Marks are those whom the predator has chosen to prey upon for personal gain. A mark might be a young woman perceived as trophy wife material, or an old man with a tempting fortune to steal. A mark might also be someone whom the predator finds sexually desirable, or someone who can teach a skill the predator finds useful. Basically, anyone who has something the predator wants can be a mark. Also, a mark who gets into a relationship with the predator will likely be seen as a pest when the predator finds a reason to dislike the mark (which might be nothing more than the predator growing bored with the mark when the relationship's novelty wears off).

Nobodies are everybody else. They have no impact on the predator's life nor have anything the predator is interested in taking (at least at the moment), so they are largely ignored. Should they ever step up to defend the predator against any perceived bullying, they might become minions. Should they rub the predator the wrong way, they might become pests. And of course, if the predator ever takes an interest in anything they have, they might become marks.

Many predators believe that other people see the world this exact same way. (It's not uncommon to find them accusing perfectly well-intentioned people of being conniving and selfish, as they genuinely believe they're "just exposing the real intentions behind the facade" or somesuch.)

They don't have anything that normal people don't. It's what they lack that makes them different. Normal people are perfectly capable of being cold and ruthless under the right circumstances, but they're also in possession of the ability to feel sympathy and guilt. These help us check and balance emotions and desires that could potentially get an innocent person hurt. (These safeguards are often repressed when we think that a situation is genuinely dire enough to merit truly extreme action.) Regular people often make the mistake of assuming predators can be taught to feel sympathy or guilt, but the fact is that it's just as likely you could learn to sprout a pair of wings.

They also don't get that glow of happiness from giving to others that normal people do. If they give someone a gift, it's because they think it means that the recipient owes them something in return. If they take the time to educate someone, they probably just saw an opportunity to show off their knowledge.

They don't feel any joy over seeing other people succeed, either. The only reason they'll care about someone else's success is if it brings them a profit in some way. For example, a predatory parent might push a child toward a high-paying career so that the child will be able to provide money to the parent, or so the parent can brag about raising a successful child and thereby gain social status.

They also have a limited sense of humor. About the only thing that really amuses them is seeing someone or something they don't care about fail or suffer. On the other hand, if someone makes a joke at the expense of something they actually like, they might throw a fit over this person's "disrespect." (A predator who likes Star Wars, for example, might take great offense at the very existence of Spaceballs.) Likewise, a predator who likes comic books might think the only way to make a "good" movie adaptation is to make a film comprised of non-stop gritty action and no jokes - even if the source material contains plenty of them.

Their lack of guilt and sympathy is why so many of them regularly start drama. Whether they're just bored and want some entertainment, or want to create a conflict they can frame themselves as having the high ground in, or just want to draw attention to themselves, they don't feel remotely bad about sowing discord. For this same reason, they see nothing wrong with bullying and trolling for fun.

Predators love authority - when it benefits them. You may have heard that people like this are disrespectful of authority, and that is often true. However, it's not always the case. Predators often adore rules and systems when they can exploit them for their own gain. They might spend years kissing up to their superiors so they can get promoted and gain power over people. They might memorize all kinds of regulations and rules so they can bring them up whenever someone is doing something they don't like. (Of course, it's not uncommon to see them breaking these very same rules for their own ends. Naturally, they'll always try to minimize or justify it when they do it.) They'll wave around any titles, degrees, social statuses, etc. that they believe establish them as unquestionable authorities. (If they don't actually have anything like that, they might just lie about having it.) They're the type of people who will tell you that you can't criticize their books because you haven't written a best seller yourself, or tell you that your lived experience is worth nothing because you don't have any cred in academia. It's also not uncommon for predatory people to idolize authoritarian power systems such as absolute monarchy, theocracy, or fascism.

They often have explosive tempers. When their ego takes a blow, or their status is threatened, or they otherwise feel like they're losing control, they'll often fly right off the handle. If they become upset around anyone they can't afford to throw a tantrum in front of (such as a boss), they might repress it until they can find someone else to take their rage out on, such as a spouse or child. (Ironically enough, these very same people will often claim that they're intellectually superior and operate on "pure logic.")

Not all predators are physically violent. Physical violence is hard to get away with sometimes and not all predators have the physical strength for it, so they use other tactics to control and hurt people. Gaslighting, guilt tripping, and moral abuse are common tactics. They might make a point of making snide, disparaging comments whenever they have the chance, aiming for a sort of "slow death by a thousand cuts" approach. They might keep track of any little "bad" thing that someone said or did so they can use it for ammo later. They might try to make their monstrously depraved actions seem like no big deal by comparing them to much smaller deeds committed by others. ("How is it bad that I stole a thousand dollars? You just stole a candy bar the other day. You hypocrite!") They might try to make their behaviors seem sympathetic, even virtuous. ("How dare you accuse me of having a bad business ethic! All I did was work hard for the company's best interests!")

They're often good at DARVO. "DARVO" stands for "Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender." When confronted on their awful behavior, they'll try to make it out that they are the real victims and the ones confronting them are the actual bad guys. For example, if someone takes a predator to task for being verbally abusive, the predator might say that this wasn't real abuse because it wasn't physical. Then the predator might break down in tears and accuse the victim of being cruel and heartless for not realizing that the predator is too emotionally fragile not to scream at the victim like that. For another example, a predator whose illegal activities were exposed when someone got suspicious and did a little investigative work might first claim to have been framed, then shriek about privacy violations. And when predators are made aware that resources exist to help people avoid, cope with, and escape from people like them, they'll often throw a fit and claim this information unfairly demonizes them and makes them the real victims.

And they're usually great at projection. As stated before, they often tend to assume that everyone else secretly thinks the same way they do. In addition, when called out on being horrible and selfish, they'll claim it's everyone else who are the truly horrible and selfish people. And they'll also just accuse everyone else of being whatever they themselves don't want to admit they are. (For example, a predator obsessed with sex might often accuse others of having filthy minds or lewd intentions.) And sometimes they'll even project their own habit of projection!

There are no good intentions behind any of their "gifts." Predators never give for the simple, pure sake of giving. They believe that gifts are matters of obligation and debt. They might think they can pay off whatever moral or emotional debts they've incurred toward their partners with jewelry, cars, computers, games, or whatever. If they aren't giving a gift to pay off a debt of their own, there are good odds they're just trying to indebt the recipient to them. They often give gifts on birthdays and Christmas simply because social obligation demands it, nothing more. Gifts given out of social obligation often have no thought or effort put into them whatsoever - they might be as cheap and thoughtless as a package of pens they saw near the checkout stand.

They also seem to frequently make a point of refusing to give people what they genuinely want. They might make a big deal out of asking people what they'd like, only to disregard the answers they get and give them something else entirely. Of course, they'll get offended when the recipients aren't grateful. This might result in anything from pouting and sulking to breaking down in tears to angry shouting.

Sometimes their gifts are meant to be insults or personal jabs - for example, something like deodorant to imply that the recipient has a bad smell, or a book on dealing with unruly children to imply that the recipient is a bad parent or has bad children, or a mop and broom to imply that the recipient is a bad housekeeper.

Some gifts are simply meant to erode and erase someone's individuality and autonomy. For example, a predator might buy someone an entirely new wardrobe of "decent" clothes and insist that the recipient stop wearing "those rags." (Naturally, refusal to comply will result in a tantrum.) Or the predator might buy somebody an expensive piano so that person will learn to play it instead of engaging in whatever hobby the predator doesn't approve of.

And of course, gifts are often part of the love bombing process, where the predator tries to sweep up a mark with a flood of positive attention.

They're control freaks. They hate other people doing things they don't understand or approve of (especially when it could conflict with their own desires), so they try to control them however they can. If, for example, a predator doesn't like the idea of someone painting hobby (as opposed to, say, lavishing the predator with praise, running favors, or having sex with the predator), the predator might destroy that person's equipment, or perhaps "accidentally" destroy the art, or constantly make disparaging comments over how stupid painting is or how only losers do that kind of thing. Sometimes they'll find a way to make a scene or start a fight in order to interrupt what the victim is doing. Sometimes they'll try to frame themselves as "the voice of reason," "just someone trying to provide an alternative point of view," or "just trying to maintain some sanity around here." (For more information, see The Voice of Reason vs. the Control Freak - The Difference.)

Of course, they also simply enjoy making others obey them, so they might impose pointless rules and regulations for that reason alone. (Though they might claim it's all in the name of maintaining order and respect, or for people's own safety, or some similar nonsense.) If they're particularly sadistic, they might make the rules impossible to follow or change them on the fly so they have an excuse to punish someone.

Predatory people pretty much only care about status, sex, and personal comfort. "Status" can entail things like being rich, influential, attractive, wise, intelligent, or physically strong. It can also entail being the biggest martyr, the deepest sufferer, or the most pious devotee. It can also entail belonging to groups or societies they perceive as elite or exclusive. "Sex," of course - well, it's just what it says. "Comfort" entails anything else that makes them feel good, whether it's nice surroundings, food, drugs, or whatever. Just about everything they do connects to obtaining or keeping these things, maintaining an illusion of having them, or fantasizing about them.

Their narrow focus is a huge part of why they have that "superficial charm" that so many people talk about. Predators can sweep people off their feet with the promise of adventure made possible by their money or status (or alleged money or status!), but deep and illuminating conversation isn't going to happen. Instead, the predator will probably spend the whole time doing some combination of boasting, complaining, insulting things and people, preaching at you, kissing up to you, trying to get you to agree with some twisted value of theirs, or trying to get you into the sack. The predator's lack of genuine concern about anything beyond status and sex ultimately makes them very boring and predictable people.

Their craving for status might lead to virtue signaling. They might pick a cause to champion because it makes them look good in front of others (or at least, they think it makes them look good). So you might find a predator making a big ruckus over how terrible it is that there are homeless orphans out there and find said predator posting links to relevant programs and demanding that everyone goes and donates to them. This predator might frequently interrupt and derail conversations to virtue signal, then shame and guilt trip everyone for "not caring" when it's pointed out that this behavior is unnecessary and inappropriate. And finally, predators will sometimes pick extremely bizarre causes to champion. For example, they might decide to defend the image of some criminal convicted of heinous crimes, or aggressively promote a bogus "scientific theory", or stand up for the "right" to do something most people quite rightly consider creepy and inappropriate. Upon being challenged or told to tone it down, predators might throw a huge fit about their rights being trampled, or lob insults and mockery, or accuse everyone of being hypocrites and bigots. They'll frequently compare apples and oranges, too - for example, one might tell you that if you don't think it's wrong to kill in self-defense but think that people who murder others over petty grievances ought to be punished, then you're a hypocrite and that you must either support or condemn both equally.

Also, they'll frequently idolize the words, deeds, and philosophies of people they perceive as highly successful in obtaining sex and/or status. In their minds, anyone who doesn't agree with the people they admire are stupid and inferior.

They are emotionally all take and no give. Predators often expect others to do emotional labor for them, then think they can repay the favor with money, sex, or some other physical gift - if they even bother to trying to pay back at all. Despite often being insecure themselves, they will dismiss and/or mock other people's insecurities. The apologies they give are empty and meaningless (they are masters of the fauxpology), and they often won't apologize at all until they're all but forced to do it.

They'll usually avoid taking responsibility for themselves whenever possible. Predators might blame other people for their problems and mistakes, or make themselves out to be victims of circumstances they have no control over. (Predators with a "poor little me!" schtick will often refuse to do anything to make their lives better. If they did, they wouldn't have anything to bait victims with.) They will pretty much never take responsibility unless they have no other choice or see it as a means to make themselves look respectable. And when they finally do, their words will be meaningless and their gestures empty. For example, a physically abusive predator might make a big showy apology with flowers and a fancy dinner once his wife makes it clear she'll leave him if he doesn't clean up his act, but in a few weeks or so he'll be using physical violence again.

On the other hand, predators often make a big deal about other people needing to take personal responsibility. This is because they don't want to have to do anything to help anyone else if they don't absolutely have to, and because watching other people admit to being flawed and imperfect makes them feel superior or feel like they've just won a conquest.

Predators who can't elevate themselves will try to tear others down. Predators who find themselves unable to gain status or respect in any meaningful way will instead focus on tearing down everyone they consider "better" than them. They might embark on endless campaigns to make anyone who seems happier, more confident, or more successful than they are hate themselves as much (if not moreso) than the predators hate themselves. There are many ways they might do this, including picking on people's appearances, reminding them that they're worthless and insignificant compared to something or somebody else, or devaluing their achievements. They might bring up gloomy topics in the middle of a cheerful conversation. They might try to outright sabotage other people's success through various means, such as by "accidentally" losing important mail, refusing to give critical assistance, or by trying to convince them that aiming for bigger and better things is a bad idea and doomed to fail.

They don't get better. This is a hard reality that victims and bystanders alike often struggle (and many times fail) to accept. Victims may spend years exhausting themselves and putting themselves in physical and emotional danger while trying to "heal" the predators. They often believe that if just they keep trying long enough, they'll eventually be able to reach through to their frozen hearts and thaw them out. In reality, this cannot be done because there is simply no heart to thaw. The ones who finally realize this may find themselves emotionally isolated when friends, family, and even counselors and therapists refuse to accept that the predator cannot be fixed with any amount of care or counseling.

Of course, predators will take full advantage of anyone who'll believe that they just need love and patience to get better. They'll frame themselves as tortured souls who just need a bit more love and care to heal, or agree to therapy once it's clear that they'll be in serious trouble if they don't at least look like they're willing to do something about their behavior. It's all a ruse, of course, as many people have learned the hard way. Those who refuse to believe that some people actually are just monsters who can't be helped are both both perfect victims and perfect enablers.

People who have been around them for long might pick up on their habits. Children, friends, and acquaintances of predatory people can begin to internalize and imitate their horrible behaviors, especially if the predators succeeded in normalizing them and framing them in a positive light. Adopted behaviors like these are sometimes refereed to as "fleas" (as in, "lie down with dogs, get up with fleas"). Fleas can be hard to shake, but with therapy, mindfulness, and patience they can be overcome. But if nothing is done about them, fleas can be passed down for generations and can even become enshrined as values and traditions. This video has a more in-depth explanation.

Also, you might be interested in:

Basic Tips To Write Better Abuse Victims & Abuse Situations
Tips To Create & Write Creepy Characters & Situations
Advice & Tips On Creating & Writing Bullies
Mindsets & Rationales That Lend Well To Villainy
How To Spot Abusive & Manipulative People

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