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Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

Cosmic narcissism is different to a narcissistic personality. It’s less toxic, but still can be problematic in your story.

A narcissistic personality disorder can be very toxic to be around. The narcissist has an over inflated sense of importance. They need constant validation of their worth and identity, and bully people who don’t feed their ego. These traits are not well suited to a Protagonist, and often feature heavily in the Antagonist roles.

However, cosmic narcissism is different. Cosmic narcissism is often found in people with a strong belief in fate or religion. It can be very interesting to explore in your characters.

What Is Cosmic Narcissism?

Cosmic Narcissism, The Table Read Writing Advice
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If your character believes their life is being influenced by fate or an entity, such as a god, they’re a cosmic narcissist. This isn’t necessarily a toxic trait so can easily be suited to a Protagonist.

The belief that in a Universe so huge, so vast and undiscovered, that some huge power would choose to change and shape the world to tell your story is cosmic narcissism. It’s the over inflated sense of self importance that comes with classic narcissism, but without the need for validation or tendency towards bullying. Of course, a cosmic narcissist could also be a toxic narcissist, but not always.

The belief in fate or an influencing deity suggests your life is what is being shaped, for better or worse. Those around you are chess pieces to be moved in and out of your life. Your character essentially sees themselves as worthy of influence, and the people in their lives as props.

For your character to have a blessing in their world, other people must both ensure that they are in place for that blessing to happen, but take no credit for their part. The blessing is the work of fate or the will of the overlord. The people who actually caused that blessing are the pieces being moved, not acting by their own will.

Why Is Cosmic Narcissism Suited To A Protagonist?

When you’re creating your story, you’re building it around a Protagonist. The whole point of the story and the circling characters is to move that one character from the Inciting Incident through to the climax.

Whilst side characters could, and should, have motivation and stories of their own, they exist exclusively because you created them to serve the Protagonist’s story. If they have no role in your Protagonist’s story, they have no reason to exist at all. They are surplus people that will simply distract from the main story, and slow down it’s progress.

Because in the world of your story your Protagonist literally is the centre of the Universe and the reason for all things happening, they can easily be a cosmic narcissist.

Cosmic Narcissism, The Table Read Writing Advice
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Is It A Bad Thing?

Whilst cosmic narcissism isn’t necessarily toxic, it can be unappealing. Cosmic narcissism essentially ignores the will, desires and dreams of everybody else. Their actions are simply the will of fate, rather than the will of the person. If your character assumes all people are acting to move their story along, all events are to impact them, they will be a massive egotist.

As I say, the cosmic narcissist character isn’t necessarily cruel. They can easily be kind and sensitive, grateful for the blessings bestowed upon them by whatever higher force they believe in. They are not actively choosing to harm others, they simply disregard their choices and movements as anything other than the will of the higher power. It’s dehumanising in a subtle way, rather than in an outright cruel way.

How To Avoid Your Character Being A Cosmic Narcissist

Cosmic Narcissism, The Table Read Writing Advice
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When events and actions in your story are clearly only designed to move your character’s story along, you are creating a cosmic narcissist. This will happen when coincidences are prevalent, and the circling characters are flat.

Make sure anything that happens TO your character occurs because of their actions and choices. Whereas anything that happens AROUND your character would happen whether they were there or not.

If everything just lands in your characters lap then they are the centre of the world and their life is controlled from outside. If they are driving their own story forwards by going in pursuit of their goal then they are in control of themselves. Too many coincidences make your story, and your character, weak. They need to be forcing events into place by being motivated enough to get what they want.

Equally so, the characters around your Protagonist and Antagonist need to be fully formed people in their own right. They have their own stories, their own motivations, and are also in pursuit of a goal. If they are only doing things for your main characters story then they are flat and dull. They are a prop from the universe not a real person, and they will read as unreal. Make them drive towards their own climax, even if you aren’t actively following them on that journey.

Cosmic Narcissism, The Table Read Writing Advice
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Using Cosmic Narcissism In A Character Arc

Because cosmic narcissism isn’t actively toxic, in and of itself, your character can have a degree of self awareness. I say this, with a degree of hope, because I am a raging cosmic narcissist in recovery.

If your character starts your story assuming the universe, a god, a force of fate, is controlling their lives you can send them on an arc. Waiting for an outside force to give you what you want takes away personal responsibility. Whether you get what you want is not your doing, it’s theirs. When your character realises that they, and everybody around them, is in control of their own life they can start to take action.

This can happen at a midpoint to make your character start driving their own story. It could also be the inciting incident to make them go into action. But either way, watching a cosmic narcissist start to take personal responsibility and recognise the humanity of those around them is a positive arc. It will increase likeability and make their push for the climax and getting what they want more satisyfing to watch.

Getting Over Cosmic Narcissism

As I say, I often blame the universe for things going wrong. I thank the universe for blessings in my life. Logically I know that I am not as important as that implies. There is no Universal force influencing the behaviours of others to impact my personal journey. I also know that I am personally responsible for how hard I work and for all my choices and mistakes. But still. I am in recovery, not fully recovered. My character arc isn’t yet completed. But I’m trying.

More From JJ Barnes:

I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.

You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk

Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books

Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose

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