One of the most surreal experiences of a writer is allowing yourself to become somebody else. Your job is to convince the reader that this particular character is real and sometimes that means convincing the reader that your creation can commit the most unspeakable acts.
In our day to day lives we are held in control by the regulations placed upon us by society. We pay heed to the law and we treat our colleagues, friends and family with respect but what if your character doesn’t? What if your character has so little compassion for their fellow man that they would think nothing of murder. What is their motive? Money? Lust? Jealously? Greed?
Giving them a motive is just the beginning. Take yourself out of your own head for a moment and into the creation that has been made. Where did it go wrong for this person? Are they a person at all? You can be there at that precious moment where something inside the mind of this character clicks and their murderous urges come racing to the surface. What is the selection process for their victims if any?
A lot of readers of my novel ‘Red Snow’ have commented on how large a body count there is, even in the genre of ‘Horror Fiction’. Without any spoilers I will explain my process. There are a lot of characters within ‘Red Snow’ who think nothing of murder. In fact an entire kingdom of people have been created who hold little value on life. How was I able to do this? Being the upstanding citizen that I am it seems far fetched that so much blood shed would occur as a result of a certain characters urges and whims. However. in order to write that you have to delve into the mind of a serial killer.
WHERE TO START…
Of course there is lots of information out there on the motives and techniques of well known serial killers such as Ted Bundy. Most serial killers follow the same general pattern. Childhood Trauma – Teen angst – not so well adjusted adult. Your character has had their own experiences. Childhood is always a good place to start. It is likely that their parents were one of two kinds; overbearing or emotionally unavailable. Both can be just as poignant in creating a serial killer. In the case of ‘Red Snow’ a particular character was hailed as something of a Goddess. Growing with the belief that she was above others and had the right to decide fate over them took away any emotional attachment to the people around her.
It’s not enough to say that a character had a terrible upbringing. There is always an option to say your character is mentally unstable but there is no originality in that. By them committing serial murder mentally unstable is suggested. Perhaps your character is a fantastical creature that needs to feed on the flesh of others. In ‘Red Snow’ that is partially true but she does gain a certain satisfaction from watching life escape others. Lust is always a popular choice but again that had to stem from somewhere. Financial gain is also likely but sometimes rather than just making a character greedy it gives the character more dimensions if there is an event causing them to need money or even something in their circumstances that is drawing the greed from them.
THE FIRST KILL…
This is an important moment in any character willing to kill. Their initial victim will set the tone for any further. Many people don’t realise it but the difference between a character who has killed in self defence and one who has been calculating can completely change the plot.
A helpless victim who managed to fight their way out of a sticky situation with blood on their hands may become an ambassador for many like them. Their prey being those who wrong others. However, a character who has been cold blooded is very unlikely to be a champion of the helpless.
How the reader feels about the first victim also sets the mood for how the character is portrayed. If their first victim is one who is antagonistic and downright unlikeable the reader may root for the killer (even though their knowledge of how a society operates would tell them otherwise). Whereas if the victim was something or someone with the reader sympathises with (children, animals, pleasant people) the killer will never be able to redeem themselves in the readers opinion.
Now that the killer has made their journey and left a trail of horror behind them it is time to decide how they are to exit the story.
Pulling all the building blocks you have used to bring your monster to life their conclusion will be the last remaining impression left on by the reader.
Do they get caught? Do they face justice? Do they escape?
Each of these will offer a different feeling to the reader and your choice will depend on how you want the reader to feel when the story has ended – angry, shocked, pleased, happy.
Each story is different as is each writer so the best advice I can give for writing a perfect ending is to steer the reader down the path which offers the biggest reaction.
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