You’d do it if you could get away with it, right? That guy who cut you off in traffic last week; that bitch down the road who slept with your man; a mother-in-law who makes your life a living hell — think of the injustices that could be fixed simply by offing each perpetrator who causes you an offence!
As a writer of fiction, inspiration to motivate a character to commit murder can come from anywhere. It can arrive with those mentioned above, or with a simple leaf falling to the earth. It can come by way of a child’s first tear, or simple, unbridled hatred.
A leaf? Get out of here!
When it comes to writing fiction, it’s not impossible to exercise some clever literary acrobatics to link all of these and come up with a compelling, yet sophisticated narrative built around murder. (Think The Butterfly Effect.)
Psychological thrillers often gravitate towards the shadowy emotions of psychopaths, revealing the seedier sides of our lives so others can take a peek into wonderful darkness we rarely get to see or experience. This is where reason and evil meet without resistance.
Who commits a murder?
That tattooed guy in the torn leather jacket is an obvious candidate. Clearly, he’s a villain awaiting jail time. ‘He’s the killer officer! Cuff ‘im! He’s still holding the goddam bat! See?’
Oops! Did we just land in a cliché by tripping over a stereotype? What about Granny Maye? She was also present at the time of the killing and loves baseball. Oh, but she couldn’t have done it. She’s a sweet old lady who bakes cookies for homeless people. She’s a devout Christian. There’s no way this God-fearing senior could’ve sent someone packing.
Let me tell you, Christian cookie grannies are the worst kind of villains. No one expects them of doing anything evil. Granny could’ve walked in, slit everyone’s throat and walked out with an armful of blood-soaked knives and no one would’ve batted an eye at her.
Evil, conniving bitch!
She’s evil for killing. Evil for murdering granny stereotypes.
Tilting fiction away from the predictable is my preferred writing style. Clichés are nice if an author wants to accelerate a storyline and help readers — but where’s the challenge in that?
Outwardly good people can be inherently bad on the inside. It’s true. And some readers may just want to see who those people are, too. They’ll want to understand why they do what they do.
Back to the guy and his dead ex-girlfriend.
Oh, what? Huh? Did we change the channel? No. There was a murder. Remember? It included a baseball bat. Her head was destroyed by a stick of willow. Blood and bits of skull went everywhere. The news reports used words like ‘vicious’ and ‘cold-blooded’. Every wall and floor in her home was covered in human fluids. It was a mess.
It appears she got up from the initial clubbing and ran from the attack. There were signs of it. Smears of red created a timeline along the hallways, from start to finish. The bludgeoning continued until her body couldn’t take it anymore.
The details of his arrest were cut and dry. He said he’d never been inside her house and that wasn’t true. He’d been inside the home, at least once. The fingerprint on her dining room’s light-switch was a clear match. He’d lied and everyone knew it.
Our leather clad tattooed villain now has another cliche attached to him. It’s called Lying Bastard. Jail is the happy-ever-after for Lying Bastards, right? If you agree, it’s time to leave. I don’t write for Disney.
If he isn’t a killer, then this story becomes a lot more intriguing. Who did the job on his ex-girlfriend? Why did he lie?
There’s a mystery at hand. We have a fingerprint in a place where it shouldn’t be, a liar and someone else who knows how to swing a bat. It’s two separate yet entwined stories. One follows a line to the tragedies genre while the other falls into horror.
It was a rush to end the perfect crime fairy tale and the police arrested that Lying Bastard without hesitation. They gave the public the happy ending cliche they wanted and became heroes at once. The city slept better at night but police failed to arrest a murderer. It didn’t matter. The story was a tidy gift. All it needed was a bow.
The young man was held by the system for eighteen months and remained in custody until his trial. He was acquitted for, you guessed it, lack of evidence.
No one but the court and his family knew of his acquittal. The frenzy surrounding his arrest wasn’t there at his release. He had lost his job, his girlfriend, his credibility and a good portion of his future as a result of this botched investigation.
Although it sounds like poorly written fiction, this particular story is real. It really happened this way.
In short, it came down to that fingerprint and a dumb lie. He lied for a good reason – a stupid one considering what it means now — but it saved him from dealing with his jealous new girlfriend.
‘Don’t ever go into that bitch’s house,’ she demanded, ‘or it’s fucking over!’
It infuriated her that his prior relationship to that bitch had produced a child. If it were up to her, she’d stop child visitations altogether — but doing that would’ve made her a bigger bitch than the bitch she despised.
‘Pick him up at the front gate. DON’T go inside, EVER!’
Kids are kids. They don’t care about daddy’s new girlfriend. What would she know about getting children ready for access weekends with a parent? It’s not surprising a fingerprint was found inside the home.
When the police questioned him, they did so in front of his extremely jealous girlfriend. What a mistake. That lie changed his life forever.
Who commits a murder? Anyone can commit murder just like anyone can go to jail.
Happy stories about crime also include jail time.
As a writer, it’s very tempting to expose such errors, right this wrong by providing an alternate, accurate story. It’d be a way to let the police know that they didn’t do their job… and to keep the public informed as to the failures behind some crime investigations.
Alas, I’m not that kind of writer. I’ll leave that for others to rectify. You’re more likely to read evil-meets-evil inside my novels.
Life isn’t perfect. Sure, it has its good, cliched moments, but evil’s anarchy exists too. That’s the path I choose to walk. Good doesn’t always save my kind of day. Killers don’t always get caught.
When writing SEETHINGS, I looked at our strange fascination for the happy-ever-after to do its stuff and making the evils disappear. Rather than quench that thirst, I wrote my own evil fairy tale.
After all, they didn’t get me and my baseball bat. That was my happy ending.
See you in the pages of SEETHINGS.