You’re a writer. There are a million words and a gazillion ways to put them together to make murder happen. You’ve got a character who dies soon, and now it’s time to bring your best words together to commit your special kind of crime.
You’re creative which means you’re observant. The world intrigues you. When it comes to death and reasons for people to die, you can reach into your wealth of personal experiences for ideas. Knowing some assholes helps — a desire for justice fixes the rest. In writing, you get your opportunity to bring those worlds together in any way you like. Justice and assholes. Suddenly, someone familiar to you falls down a flight of stairs and you feel a deep grin develop on your face. But you’re an author, not a killer. There isn’t a body. Everyone is safe.
Justice is a sweet muse, isn’t it?
Fiction is a great way to right wrongs. Creating murder text is truly cathartic. It’s heaven deciding how and when someone will die. Think about it. That guy who cut you off in traffic; the bitch who slept with your man; a domineering mother-in-law who won’t leave your family the hell alone — think of the power you have to fix people your way! Offenders learn valuable lessons while you get to wallow in glory. This is your world, your people, living, breathing and dying your way. It’s eutopia for the dark fiction author.
Revenge writing might be the path to literary inspiration but will it lead to writing bestsellers?
As comforting as it might be for authors to write these kinds of stories, it may be of no interest to readers to read them. Authors must tread carefully. Rides don’t come free here.
The stories must be highly entertaining. That’s when readers will continue to follow good writers down their unique rabbit holes, no matter how dark they become. And those stories have got to feel plausible. No reader likes to be taken for granted. Senseless killing reads cheaply. Readers need to know more — who, how, when, where and why a murder happened and the story must sound sensible for them to continue. Mindless kills waste my time.
Psychological thrillers often gravitate towards the shadowy worlds of psychopaths. They are a perfect match. With the right type of reader, the union allows those who know little of psychopaths to take a peek inside their minds. Convinced that the story feels plausible, a loyal reader will tag along to see where a psychopath’s journey goes.
Who commits a murder?
Me. You. Him. That guy.
That tattooed gent in the torn leather jacket is an obvious candidate. “That’s the killer you’re looking for officer! Cuff ‘im! He owns a goddam baseball bat! Go check his car!”
That’s called a cliché. They are nasty things. It’s a stereotype that gives off a putrid stench. We must avoid stepping into them.
Here’s Granny Maye. She was also present at the time of the killing. Oh, but she couldn’t have done it. She bakes cookies for the homeless — and is a devout Christian. There’s no way this God-fearing senior could’ve sent someone packing with a baseball bat. Go back to that tattoed guy. Yes, he’s the one. I can feel that hot, stinky mess squishing between my toes right now.
Let me tell you, Christian grannies are great villains because no one expects them. Granny could’ve walked in, slit everyone’s throat, and left with an armful of blood-soaked knives and no one would’ve batted an eyelid. As long as the tattooed guy was around, granny gets off scot-free.
I want to see Granny Maye, the secret cookie-baking monster be brought to life. I want to know why we didn’t see the psychopath coming. I want to find out what happened to her that caused her to become a killer. Did Christ do her wrong?
Tilting fiction away from the predictable is my style. Clichés are nice if an author wants to accelerate a storyline and make it easy for readers — but where’s the challenge in that? Where’s the challenge for the reader who likes challenging stories? Outwardly good people can be inherently bad. It’s true. Granny Maye could be one of them. She’ll appear to be kind but harbour a festering torment deep behind those eyes. Some readers may want to know more about her. They’ll want to understand her better. They’ll want to know why everyone chose to look the other way while she committed the most heinous crimes of all.
Back to the guy and his dead ex-girlfriend.
What? Huh? Did we change channels? No. There was a murder. Remember? It included a baseball bat and a suspicious-looking guy in a torn leather jacket. Her head was smashed into bits by a stick of willow. Blood and bone fragments went everywhere. The news reports used words like ‘vicious’ and ‘cold-blooded’ in their headlines. Every wall and floor in her home was covered in fluids. Smears of red created a timeline along the hallway that started in the living room and ended in the bedroom. It appears she got up from the initial clubbing and then ran from her attacker.
It was a bloody mess.
The details of his arrest were cut and dry. He said he’d never been inside her house and that wasn’t true. The fingerprint on her dining room’s light switch was a clear match to his. He lied. Our leather-clad ex-boyfriend soon had a label attached to him. It was called ‘lying bastard’. Jail is the happy-ever-after for ‘lying bastards‘, right?
Isn’t that edging another cliché?
The police arrested that ‘lying bastard’ without hesitation and the people rejoiced. That gave the public their happy ending cliché and the police became heroes for what they did. The city slept at night but something wasn’t quite right. He didn’t do it. He couldn’t have. He was somewhere else when the murder was being committed. It turned out that the police moved fast and invented a story to fit the crime. A murderer remained on the loose while an innocent young man was held by the judicial system for eighteen months. Eventually, he was acquitted and released. The prosecution proved that he had left a fingerprint on a light switch but not when it was deposited there. The remaining evidence wasn’t compelling enough to convict. Police couldn’t prove how he got all the way to her place to commit the brutal murder and then back home without his jealous girlfriend knowing about it or getting single a drop of blood on his skin, hair, clothes, car, or bat.
Few people in the community knew about his acquittal. He’d gone from making headline news to appearing in a small text-only insert on page four of the newspaper. When he was released, no one was interested. They’d even forgotten about the crime. A young tattooed man dressed in a torn leather jacket was finally able to walk out of prison but he did so alone. While he was locked away, he’d lost his job, his girlfriend, his credibility and a good portion of his life. The event ruined him.
Although it sounds like poorly written fiction, this particular story is extremely real. It happened this way in someone’s real life. In short, it came down to that fingerprint and a dumb lie he told the police. He lied for a good reason — and a stupid one — 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!”
She hated that bitch with a passion because the two of them had made a child together. If it were up to her, she would’ve stopped child visitations altogether, but doing that would’ve turned her into 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 what daddy’s new girlfriend wants him to do. And what would a childless woman know about getting children ready for access weekends anyway? It’s surprising only one fingerprint was found inside the victim’s home! When the police questioned him on the day after the murder, they did so in front of his jealous lover. What a mistake. What a terrible mistake.
Acquittal doesn’t equal freedom. There’s no going backwards for an innocent person once they’ve passed through the sausage machine.
Who commits a murder? Anyone can commit murder, just like anyone can become sausage meat.
But crime stories must turn this narrative around to produce a happy outcome. It must include a villain and find some jail time for them. The real bad guy must get caught so everyone can live happily ever after. Someone should learn a valuable life lesson from these stories. Stories are not supposed to go: A Killer Was Never Caught. Evil Wins The Day.
As a writer, it’s tempting to expose real-life stories like these by providing those who are interested in them with an accurate, updated version of what actually happened. 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 major crime investigations. Alas, I’m not that kind of writer. I’m not here to fix Law’s little boo-boos.
Life isn’t perfect.
Sure, it has some warm and fuzzy, clichéd moments that satisfy our romantic sides, but evil’s anarchy exists too. That’s where I like to go when I take a long stroll inside fiction. Good doesn’t always save the day. Killers don’t always get caught. When writing SEETHINGS, I looked at our strange attraction to happy-ever-afters and seeking the moral high ground at THE END. I then skewed their perspectives to get a better story — and it feels totally plausible to readers.
You’ll soon see why it feels as real as it does.
You see, once upon a time, the police caught someone who had tattoos and wore a torn leather jacket. He was said to have bludgeoned his ex-girlfriend to death with a baseball bat. He was taken into custody so the community could feel safe and secure. That was the third time someone like him went through that process — and I know exactly what happened in each case. I was the one who did them. But it’s not luck that keeps me from being discovered. I work hard at shifting the guilt by thoroughly researching my victims before doing what I do. I then rely on the predictability of humans to encourage happy-ever-afters via clichés to find a suitable villain fast. It’s then up to the sausage machine — the community, Law, social media, and the news cycle, to get things horribly wrong for him and wonderfully right for me.
You could say that this process leads to my happy-ever-after.
Find out why I do what I do inside the pages of SEETHINGS.