1. jazzman
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    jazzman Member

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    female killer motivations

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by jazzman, Dec 3, 2014.

    Hi all, just wondering if anyone has any ideas of the motivations of a female serial killer? Any and all thoughts are welcome
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    From what I see it tends to be the black widow type; marrying rich men then bumping them off for inheritance.

    But that is just from what I see in the media.
     
  3. odolmen
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    odolmen Member

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    I'm not sure the drive to kill depends on gender.
    (Common problem with a bunch of female characters out there: their only personality trait tends to be "she's the girl")
    But then again, I do also remember reading, somewhere in a thread that must've died off, that the thing that turned people into mass murderers was essentially a disfunctional sex drive. And since nowadays the sexualisation of women isn't really the same as that of men, maybe gender does make a difference after all...
    (I'm not much help so far, I know :) )

    What I'm saying is, don't think of your killer as a female. It might unlock a few things here and there (plus, it'll make her harder to catch then, say, if she were to leave huge lipstick marks everywhere and the occasional broken fake nail... ;) )
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with odolmen - don't think of your character as a female serial killer, think of her as a serial killer (who happens to be female).
     
  5. bossfearless
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    bossfearless Active Member

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    Yeah but Chinspinner that's the stereotype, and I think you could have some success by steering clear of that or using it to confound your readers. Remember that the reader will have this predisaposiataion to thinking of the killer asa maleaaaaaaaaaaaaaa nd so you can utilize that to create a surprise when she is revealed ato be woman, either at the end or early on. And it looks like the A key on my laptop is going psycho, lovely. Anyway, try to steer clear of the black widow thing, as it's been done quite a bit.

    I saw an episode of Torchwood that featured this crazya cnnibal family, and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa at the end they trieada to figurea out why they went nuts. Being a scifi show, they kept looking for alien answers or the supernatural, but in the end the leadaer of the family leans in and says "Because it made me happy." Think on that idea, that it just makes her happy. She doesn't have to understand why, she only needs that rush of the kill. Leave all the complicated motivations to the people trying to catch her (assuming you have any of those characters). They try to stick all these labels on her like sadomasochistic or bipolar or anay othera psycho babble you can think of, but in the end she's just shrugging and murdering because she enjoys it.

    If you're looking into the motivationas of serial killers in general, remember that it's often something about the victims they choose that sets them apart. First thing that makaeasa aa serial killer is that they kill in a serialaized fashion. So choose the method, choose the gender and such of the victims, and work backwards from there.
     
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  6. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Gender is absolutely an issue, and many female serial killers want to advance their station in life (through inheritance or collecting life insurance claims). There are many turn-of-the-century examples of this. More often than not, women don't kill for sexual gratification, but of course it does happen (Rosemary West, for example). Women also tend to kill in less violent ways, such as by using poison or starting a fire. And women are much more likely to suffer from M√ľnchausen syndrome by proxy than men.
     
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  7. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with this, gender is absolutely a factor.
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Be careful about using generalities to understand an individual character. The OP, I assume, is trying to write an individual serial killer, not a composite of all female serial killers.

    So if we're looking at trends in criminology, gender may be a factor. But if we're creating a character? It's important that the character work, not that she fit a generality.
     
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  9. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    But the character is female. Shouldn't that factor be just as important? We might disagree on this fact, but as a reader, I would want that addressed.

    I'm also of the opinion that people kill because they are mentally ill, so understanding the root of that illness will give you the motivation. And there are some mental illnesses that are more prevalent in certain genders.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Shouldn't the character's sex be "just as important" as what? As the fact that she's a serial killer? Of course not. There are three or four billion women in this world, doing their thing, not getting books written about them. This character is interesting because of the killing. That's the important part. Being female is part of her characterization, of course, as is her race, her body size/type, her economic background, her intelligence, her level of education... lots of things that will go into making her who she is. But the reason we're interested in her is the killing, for sure.
     
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  11. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem is that if predominantly male motivations are applied then the character becomes rather unrealistic.
     
  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can you give me an example of this? Like, a motivation that would make a female character seem unrealistic?

    Like, a common male motivation is... sexual gratification? But lustrousonion gives examples of women who were motivated by that. What other 'predominantly male motivations' are there, and are you sure they couldn't work for a female character?
     
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  13. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I guess we disagree.

    As for motivation... She might have been abused as a child and now re-enacts that situation with herself as the abuser; she could be a protege of a famous serial killer, now keeping the legend alive; she's a necrophiliac who works in a hospital; she got into larping and takes it too far? That last one is mostly for humor's sake, but you never know. :)
     
  14. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    This will save me some typing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_killer
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wait. So, I'm a woman. You're saying I have more in common with a female serial killer than I do with a man of my exact same race, age, economic status, moral beliefs, etc.? Seriously?

    That just makes no sense. Gender is a spectrum, with loads of overlap in the middle of just about any category you want. There are women who are stronger than most men, men who are more nurturing that most women, etc. etc.

    Serial killer vs. not-serial-killer? That's a pretty black-and-white distinction.
     
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  16. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm guessing it may also save you some reading, and possibly some thinking?
     
  17. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well it was fun chatting.
     
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  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here, I'll do some reading for you. From your wikipedia link:

    "Sources state that "[e]ach killer will have her own proclivities, needs and triggers."

    "Peter Vronsky in Female Serial Killers (2007) maintains that female serial killers today often kill for the same reason males do: as a means of expressing rage and control."


    So, was there something in the link that you thought actually SUPPORTED your argument, or were you being a gentleman and conceding your point, albeit in an indirect manner?
     
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  19. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Allow me to do some reading for you: -

    Firstly my initial point: -

    The problem is that if predominantly male motivations are applied then the character becomes rather unrealistic.

    Now an extract you chose to ignore from Wikipedia: -

    A review of the published literature on female serial murder stated that "sexual or sadistic motives are believed to be extremely rare in female serial murderers, and psychopathic traits and histories of childhood abuse have been consistently reported in these women.

    That said it is not my book or research so I will now leave this argument you seem intent on having.
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I chose to ignore MOST of the Wikipedia article - it was very long. Thank you for highlighting the part of it you found relevant. Of course, the sentence right AFTER your sentence is "A study by Eric W. Hickey (2010) of 64 female serial killers in the U.S. indicated that sexual activity was one of several motives in 10% of the cases, enjoyment in 11% and control in 14%."

    So... does 10% count as "extremely rare"? Maybe, maybe not. But are those real-life female serial killers who did kill for sexual pleasure 'unrealistic' because they don't fit the majority? I don't think so, and I don't think a female character would be unrealistic if she followed the same motivations as 10% of real-world female serial killers.

    I mean, according to that same article, there are six times more male serial killers than female ones. So, assuming that's accurate, if we're following the "we need to use statistics and ensure that our characters fit the majority of real-world examples" rule, the serial killer character shouldn't be female at all. If something's rare, it's unrealistic, right?

    Oh, but, wait! Most of the world's population doesn't commit serial murders, so serial killers at ALL are statistically unlikely. If we want to write a realistic character, male or female, serial killers are out. Not realistic.

    But of course this is nonsense. We write characters who are exceptional. We don't write to the 'average', we write to the extremes. Our characters should be internally consistent, but they don't have to be representative of real-world population distribution.

    Chinspinner, you won't be back to comment since you've left the argument. That's probably just as well.
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Retaliation, think Clytemnestra.
     
  22. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a LOT of information out there on serial killers. There are FBI profilers who specialize in serial killers and some have written books about them. Now, it's true that the majority of serial killers have been men, but there have also been women. Read some of the books about Aileen Wuernos that are out there. Also read about other serial killers. The more you read about them, the more you'll understand what they have in common, be they male or female. Then you can start to develop your character.
     
  23. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "Extremely rare" doesn't = never. Why would it be unrealistic if the author chose to write about the exceptional individual instead of the most standardized expression of a female serial killer? Do you always write characters who only have the most standard characteristics?
    Likewise, as @BayView pointed out, it's a rather subjective term anyway, since I wouldn't count 10% as "extremely rare."

    Point being, the MC can be an exception to the "rule." The author just needs to know why she's an exception, what drives her etc. It will only be unrealistic if it's written badly.

    In fiction, practically anything can be made to work if it's done well. Likewise, practically nothing will work if it's done badly.

    I don't claim to have done a perfect job, probably I ended up quite far from it, but I've written a female serial killer who's an exception to the rule. She kills for several reasons, but the most prominent are (in no specific order):
    -she's a psychopath, i.e. has a lowered capacity to feel compassion, remorse, pity etc.
    -she's intrigued by death and killing
    -she loves the hunt, stalking, and the moment when her mark dies (be they animals or human)
    -money, i.e. she's also a hired gun/assassin as well as an opportunist, i.e. if she ends up in a situation where killing a person has low risks and high rewards, she'll kill the person and then take their valuables
    -self-defense and defense of others when saving those others is beneficial to her; once they are no longer useful to her, she would let them get killed as that makes her indifferent to their fate
    -she has a low tolerance for bs, i.e. it doesn't take much to make her pull the trigger on an impulse

    Before, during, and after writing her, I've read a lot of literature on the subject (non-fiction), watched documentaries (critically, of course), and interviewed a psychologist (with a degree and all) to ensure the character's past, personality etc. match who she's supposed to be in the story and to ensure psychological plausibility throughout the story.
    Yeah, it's a ton of work, but it's worth it; although still far from perfect, she's now a much better, deeper, more multi-dimensional character than before or in the beginning of all that research.

    So, to the OP: if you want your MC to be an exception, go for it. If you want her to fit the most common female serial killer profile, go for it. If you want her to be somewhere in the middle, go for it, but whatever route you choose, put in the time and effort to do it as well as you can. It'll be worth it.
     
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