Serial Killers: Are You Murdering Your Stories?

Okay, you’ve written your first, or maybe your thirty-first, shoot-’em-up, cut-’em-up serial killer novel. You’re proud of the book and of all your hard work. After all, your sister’s husband’s best friend’s mother’s uncle who used to be a security guard at the mall says the bad guy in your latest book is so realistic that he makes Gacy and Bundy look like Cub Scouts. Now that’s an expert opinion!

But, did you do your homework? Are you sure you’ve written the character properly? Or, did you get your information from Dexter reruns?

Maybe we should take a moment to see how well you did by having a quick look at our mini serial killer checklist.

Number One – All serial killers absolutely LOVE Jodie Foster…

Oops, wrong list.

Hang on a second…it’s…here, somewhere. I saw it just a moment ago…

Ah, yes. Here we go…

Serial Killer Fact Checker

1. For the most part, serial killers are NOT loners. They don’t hang out in dark alleys hoping a potential victim will soon pass by. In fact, serial killers normally live everyday lives, working steady jobs and hanging out with everyday people.

2. Sex is NOT the only motivator behind serial killings. Greed, anger, money, the thrill of the kill, and wanting attention could all be considered as motivation for serial killings.

3. Serial killers are generally NOT wanderers who travel the highways and byways searching for their victims. Instead, they normally choose to stay within a comfortable region that’s relatively close to the center of their world (home, work, etc.).

4. Serial killers are generally NOT the super-smart geniuses we sometimes see on TV and in film. They’re also NOT normally insane as defined by law. Sure, they’re usually psychopathic, but not fruitcake crazy.

5. Serial killers can and often do stop killing. There’s no serial killer handbook rule stating they must find and kill a new victim every day for the rest of their lives.

6. Not all serial killers are white males.

7. Serial killers, as a rule, do NOT want to get caught. Instead, they become complacent and careless, making it easier to be caught by police.

8. Not all serial killers are alike. There is no standard. Each serial killer has his/her own motivation and personality.

9. Serial killers are NOT limited to any specific race, age group, or gender.

10. Serial killers may have multiple motivations.

Finally, to help with your research…

“A serial killer murders at least two people in distinctly separate incidents, with a psychological rest period between, which could be considered a time of predatory preparation. He, she, or they also choose the murder activity, such as stabbing, strangulation, shooting, or bombing, and may move around to different places or lure successive victims to a single locale. They view victims as objects needed for their ultimate goals, and manifest as addictive quality to their behavior, so that choosing murder is a satisfying act rather than merely a reaction or instrumental goal.”  Dr. Katherine Ramsland

8 thoughts on “Serial Killers: Are You Murdering Your Stories?

  • GunDiva

    Serial killers are just like humans? With all of the same faults and differences? The same loves and similarities? We can’t just pick them out via phrenology?

    That’s just crazy talk! :)

  • Robert

    I agree – serial killers aren’t all that smart. Garcia on Criminal Minds can find them all by herself in 15 minutes or 300 keystrokes, whichever comes first. Sadly for her, she never gets to fly in the jet and pad her expense account.

  • Diana Hockley

    From the number of books featuring serial killers, the world is full of them, especially the USA – one under every bush :) We haven’t had too many here in Australia unless we’re looking under the wrong shrubs.

    Thank you for an interesting blog, Lee.

    Happy Easter!


  • Sandy Parks

    Am still chuckling at Diana H comment. A good one. Enjoyed the post. Thanks.

  • Gerrie Ferris Finger

    Thanks, Lee, for your always informative and entertaining posts.

    Happy Easter.

  • Joseph Terrell

    Yes, another good and useful–and entertaining–post.

  • Sheila Lowe

    I did an informal research project a long time ago, analyzing the handwritings of a number of serial killers to see if there were common identifying characteristics. Not surprisingly, there weren’t. Oh, there were definitely red flags for some nasty pathological behavior, but their handwritings didn’t look as much like criminals as many incarcerated people’s do. That’s how they’re able to live and work among “us” as Lee pointed out.

  • Sally Carpenter

    What about the serial 3YK killer on “Castle”? Is he realistic in any way? Seems odd to me that he’d actually leave people (Castle, Ryan) alive after they’ve identified them. Do serial killers “toy” with the police or drop hints/clues?

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