Thursday, 14 April 2011

And the British have Harold Shipman.

I started Blue Star summer of 2010. There were a few things I had to research to get started.

First and foremost, serial killers, America’s most romanticized sociopaths. I needed to know as much as I possibly could until my attention span ran out. Now, I’m a big fan of murder mysteries—have been for years—so I at least had an idea of what I was getting into writing one. And I knew it was going to be gruesome. (I’m a big fan of Wire in the Blood and Criminal Minds and that sort of thing. Crime dramas are fun!) How gruesome? Gruesome. Serial killers, baby.

So I went to Google. Hey man, don’t judge me. It led me to many websites on serial killers, but the one I remember was the FBI’s website. Yeah, they’ve got one, and it was actually highly informative.
Naturally, I checked out Wikipedia as well. They put things very succinctly, and often have links you can bounce to for further information.
Things blur a little here. I think once I verified I was going to be making a serial killer, I needed to get down to the nitty-gritty and start emulating the masters.

Yes, good ole Wikipedia. Don’t look at me like that, I’m not doing this for school, it doesn’t have to be cited or anything. Anyway, Wiki is concise and for the most part accurate.
First, I went here, to the list of unidentified serial killers. You know them—Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac Killer, the Original Night Stalker. Well, even the more obscure ones are on here. This is what I needed. These were the guys that got away…how did they do it?

As it turns out, for the most part, they got away because technology was shit and procedures were shit. Look them over. My memory isn’t great, but if I recall correctly a lot of them were working in the times before the computer, our greatest technological boom of recent years. Before the internet, and databases, and INSTANT INSTANT INSTANT. Communication was a little harder back then and information didn’t get around as quickly, and forensics weren’t the same back then either.

Okay, how about the ones that didn’t get away with it? I’m talking big bad guys here: Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer, Berkowitz. Pretty looking bunch of guys, aren’t they? (Well, Bundy, yeah, okay.) There were others I poked at, but I can’t remember them right now except for the Unabomber and Ed Gein. What was I looking for? Everything. Methodology, motives, cooldown periods. These were some bad, fucked up people, and I was going to read all about them. Had to get into the mind of the killer, right?

It was sometime around reading what Dahlmer did to his victims that the weight of their actions suddenly came crashing down. Holy shit. This was disgusting. This was disturbing. This was all kinds of wrong, and the fact that these people had ever done this was wrong, and the fact that people out there would do this was wrong. It was terrible and horrific. (Seriously, go read the articles, and try to imagine plumbing full of rotting human flesh.)

This was grim stuff, and it put me in exactly the kind of mindset I needed.

(As an amusing note, I found a book last year at Barnes and Noble about serial killers, in alphabetical order. Can’t deny I was tempted to buy it.)


  1. You should have got the book. XD Sounds like a good read that would have helped with your research.

    As I read this the attic door in the creepy 100-year-old office building creaked open...I was a more than a bit scared that a killer was going to jump out, eat my face and boil the rest of my body in a pot on the stove.

    People that write from the POV of these serial killers or ones created after them freak me out a lot. Some of the stories after very good, but gosh, makes me hope their mental state is okay haha

  2. Hey, if they have a sketchy mental state and choose to use that to write scary terrifying novels, cool. As long as they dont use them as guidelines. Or a biography or something.

    Its interesting to hear how much research went into killers on this - it's not something the reader is actively thinking about (if youre doing it right, which you are!) Its the part I love and hate for my own writing... Sometimes, it would be nice to just KNOW instead of having to look up some obscure fact and spend time trying to track down a source that sounds reliable and also works for your story...

    P.S.-I started my journal. I haven't posted anything interesting yet. Baby steps.

  3. Congratulations on starting a blog, Kuma. I'll agree, sometimes you do need to step back and consider the minds that dreamed our favorite fictional villains. Definitely wouldn't vote for George Lucas if he ran for public office.

  4. I love your comment about technology - so true. Writing about crime in a future setting would be far more challenging than in a past or less technologically advanced setting. With serial killers, I bet it's the fact that they commit so many crimes of the same type that makes technology so useful in catching them. Lots of people still get away with crimes, even murder, despite our improved technology, but more murders equals more clues. If those clues are being put together in the same database, they're easier to figure out. Go go future robot law enforcement! ;)