by Annette Young
I’ve long been a fan of crime novels enjoying the cat and mouse game of murderer versus crime solving sleuth but as a writer, there are important steps to take if you wish to create a killer with more than a dash of evil. When I write, I strip back the layers of characterisation and then replace them but emphasise those darker, alternate aspects so that my character is capable of committing my chosen crime. So instead of the character having reason, logic and empathy, there may only be a deeply rooted need to murder someone whether for pleasure or for some perverted sense of justice. I create a clinical sense of logic and reason – relative only to this character’s goals.
So when creating a killer, you add or detract characteristics, mixing them together in a large creative bowl blending until you reach the right level of murderous intent that suits your needs.
But what motivates your killer? This will make a huge difference as to the blend of evil potential. After all, some people kill out of rage or out of deep emotional pain. In real life, murder victims often know their killers, so there is a tangible link between them. Other murders may be more sinister, the one who stalks the victim, hunting them down for prey – whether for sexual purposes or to merely revel in the game of life and death, these are the characters who send shivers down the spines of the readers.
When I wrote my own murder mystery, I had to decide whether to give the killer free rein. Was the character going to be the star of the book or a shady character lurking in the shadows? Would there be more suspense and intrigue than a cold, calculating desire to take a life? Would the readers share empathy for the killer’s purpose? At the very least, I wanted to make my readers understand why.
The killer must have a reason, even if they own only a distorted logic. Your role as a writer is to create and fine-tune that logic so it becomes a tangible reason to create acts that we all fear in real life.
When you step inside the mind of a killer, you must expect the unexpected and discover the sense of darkness that invades the soul of one who could so easily extinguish a life. When you do so, you create a character so terrible that the reader is hooked to the final page.