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My protagonist is a prince who was imprisoned by his uncle after his father died. This should happen at an age when he can vaguely remember his parents and the life he had. He should be extroverted and sociable, but struggle with socialization, because his contact with people was restricted for a long time. He should have some narcisstic tendencies, mainly the need for approval and black-and white thinking. He will genuinely care for other characters, but ultimately the trauma, distrust, fear need for approval will make him focus more and more on getting the throne and the wealth and power that comes with it.

The question is, what conditions of the prison could create a power-hungry narcisstic teen who can hardly relate to other people, but his intellect and social instincts are preserved? How long would the imprisonment "ideally" last and from what age?

Some info that might be relevant: His uncle (the king) killed his father and stole his throne. The prince knows it and hates the king deeply. The king resents ruling. He murdered his brother because he was destroying the country with his incompetence and he saw it as his moral duty to do whatever necessary to save it. They never liked each other, but even though the king wouldn't admit it, the murder weights a lot on his conscience. He hid the prince away because he would likely turn out the same as his father, but adopted his younger sister, who could still be "raised well" and couldn't inherit the throne anyway. The prince escapes/is freed as a teenager, max. 20 years old.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Cyn, Galastel, Lauren Ipsum, Sweet_Cherry, Standback Dec 29 '18 at 16:48

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    A question like this may be better suited in a specialised site such as psychology.stackexchange.com however, even there this question could be closed due to the fact that the answer would be open to a great amount of opinion. – Chris Rogers Dec 29 '18 at 0:46
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    Hi Zuzka, and welcome to Writing.SE! This sounds like it'll make a fascinating story :-) But, we're a site that does Q&A, and we've discovered this sort of brainstorming/plot-suggesting question works really poorly for us. You can read more about what's on- and off-topic for us here: writing.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/875/… I hope you'll find the site helpful for other questions! – Standback Dec 29 '18 at 17:04
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    (BTW, if you're trying to figure out good answers yourself, but you're not managing -- then putting your finger on why you're having trouble making answers to this yourself, might have the makings of an awesome question :-) ) – Standback Dec 29 '18 at 17:06
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Usually childhood trauma doesn't lead to a narcissistic character. Adults who have been abused as children usually have low self-esteem, have difficulties to form trustful intimate relationships, and often suffer from chronic depression and sometimes anger issues.

There are real contemporary cases of childhood imprisonment, usually in cellars and including sexual abuse. The victims are neither extroverted and sociable, nor narcissistic.

Generally speaking, trauma makes people feel helpless and afraid and cause them to withdraw from society.


There is a contradiction in your characterization that makes that character not realistically possible: a narcisst will never "genuinely care for other" people. It is the essence of narcissism that such a person will only ever genuinely care for themselves.


In ancient and medieval times, important prisoners weren't held in dungeons but lived with their captors as guests.

For example, it was very common for a defeated noble to send one or several of his children to live in the household of the victor as a hostage and to be educated there along with the victor's own children and form friendships with them. This is much more effective when you want a nobel to swear fealty to you and his heir to continue as your vassal than traumatizing that heir.


Taking all this into consideration, I'd suggest that you don't traumatize your character but rather have him live with the family of his uncle in the way of a medieval nobel hostage. The uncle will attempt to indoctrinate the child through education. The complex situation of being unfree but treated well, the relationships to the family members of the imprisoning uncle, the values and views of that family and the imagination regarding the values and views of the prisoner's own (lost) family, will lead to a complex personality.

Depending on how you play this you can achieve almost what you want, except for the caring narcissist. I'd simply drop the narcissist aspect, as that isn't very attractive to read about anyway.

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Psychology isn't a simple cause/effect.

As user57423 explained, the "goal" of psychologically abusing a child/partner is not to create a self-empowered narcissist, but to make the abused person dependent and fearful.

Narcissists and psychopaths (people go to med school to recognize the differences so don't expect a sophisticated definition here) are almost certainly born that way.

Sociopathic behavior is different in that it can be "normalized" by an environment that permits it – a prison guard for instance can indulge in sociopathic behavior against prisoners when it is normalized (even encouraged or rewarded), then go home and not be a sociopath at dinner with his family. A moviestar can lash out and expect to be the center of attention because everyone treats him as special, but that doesn't make him a clinical narcissist. Remove the environment and the person will be forced to adjust their behavior.

The general idea is that you can learn (and un-learn) to be a sociopath. You cannot learn to be a narcissist or psychopath – they are wired without empathy. They can fake behavior to fit in, but they do not understand it themselves (and they believe everyone else is "faking it" too).

Cart before the horse

You are trying to make the prince's narcissism be the Uncle's fault. That's not how narcissism works. It isn't "taught" in others, despite Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince which attempted to do exactly that (or was satire against his Medici patron, depending on the analysis).

I think you'll need to work out the Uncle's motives more realistically, rather than just making him the "villain of everything". If Uncle was truly evil he would murder the boy and rightfully take the throne as the next heir. Adopting the niece would be seen as preserving the royal bloodline (assuming he has no children of his own to promote).

The only reason to keep the boy alive is if there is some legal reason the Uncle cannot take the throne himself (ie: he is not the heir) so the boy has to be kept alive but ignorant, wholly devoted, and afraid of "all those assassins" who are plotting to murder the boy which only the Uncle can protect him from.

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