Thursday, November 17, 2011

Should I Be Worried?

Please don't stab me
I think my serial killer is keeping secrets from me.

As a serial killer, he is, of course, by his very nature a secretive character, so one would expect him to be a bit reserved...but he won't even let me in. And I'm the writer. It's difficult to write a character who won't tell me what's going on.

He won't tell me what happened.

Maybe nothing did. Maybe he lived a perfectly normal, happy childhood and adolescence.

But the man is a serial killer. He doesn't believe that he is - he thinks he's doing the world a favor by ridding it of demons - but he gets too much joy from blood and death to avoid the sociopath label.

Something had to have made him that way. I keep trying to figure out what, but he keeps deflecting me with horrifying lines about murder being like popping zits, and watching blood soak a cotton ball, or contemplating the murder of inanimate objects, or what inanimate objects make good murder weapons.

He makes me uncomfortable when he talks like that, but also fascinated. It's like he's waving a shiny object in front of me so that I forget the nagging question: why the hell are you a serial killer??

I know that he has scars on his face. I know they enrage him. I suspect demons gave him those scars, but I don't know for sure. It could just have easily been his parents, or his next door neighbor, or the school bully.

What do you do when your character refuses to tell you the truth?

Those of you who don't write or who don't write fiction may think I'm being silly: I made up this character so why can't I easily make up his backstory? To put it a different way: I have tried on several different scenarios as to what trauma might have set off this descent into madness and darkness, but nothing fits. Nothing resonates. Nothing I think of feels right. I haven't found it yet.

This character has a very strong voice - and it's certainly not my normal style - but because of that, I've been letting him reveal bits and pieces of his life at his own pace.

I know eventually it will come to me. He'll blurt it out, like he does with everything. Even when I don't want him to.

But in the meantime, I can't help but feel like he's standing in the shadows behind me with his enchanted dagger clutched in his fist, waiting to slide it between my shoulderblades rather than tell me his story.

I've had a constant tickle between my shoulderblades since November started. I don't entirely trust this guy in my head.


  1. I'm not going to offer a suggestion here, just an observation.

    In the real world, we often never find out what motivated killers to do what they did. Sometimes there is no reason. They just woke up one day and started shooting. That's the frightening thing about humans. We're so damn unpredictable.

  2. I agree with you, and I've actually considered going this route, but I was worried that it might be unsatisfying to the readers. I think I'll play it by ear, see what happens. I won't force it, because that'd be even worse for the readers!

  3. In 'The Dark Knight' the Joker tells three different versions of how he got his scars. Which one was true? Does it matter? Nope. It only reenforced his mental state. It's sort of obvious to go that route given the popularity of that movie, but maybe it'll help to think about it.

    Or not. He could just be a secretive creep.