1. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston

    Motivation to kill?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by indy5live, May 15, 2012.

    So I'm a new novelist, meaning I just finished the first draft of my first novel (58,000 words), but it's far from being complete. I still need to add characterization, back story, elaboration...pretty much a complete overhaul to turn the raw plot into a professional story, but I'm having a hard time coming up with a believable back story for my serial killer (Editor brought this to my attention). What could motivate a successful businessman to kill? He's not American Psycho wealthy but he's successful enough in his trade that money wouldn't be a believable motivator and it would be too much of a coincidence in the story for him to do it because he's schizophrenic or something. Any ideas?

    Indy5Live
     
  2. Lazy
    Offline

    Lazy Banned

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Michigan
    Serial killers never do it for money. The broadest definition of a serial killer is someone who kills three or more people with some amount of time in between (to differentiate between a spree killer and a mass killer), but that definition would include a lot of people we don't really think of when we hear "serial killer." We think of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, etc. These people do not commit their murders for any real personal GAIN, only satisfaction.

    We don't know why these people do what they do. In most cases I'm sure it's the result of childhood abuse and neglect combined with possible genetic predispositions to violence. But they're all different. Not all of them are "psychos." Like Patrick Bateman, or the two real serial killers I mentioned, they can appear perfectly normal to us and have no real "motivation" other than the satisfaction of killing another human being. Both Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer have interviews on youtube that you can watch where they appear perfectly normal and lucid. I believe both of them blamed pornography for their crimes.
     
  3. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston
    Interesting. I only have him killing 4 people and he gets caught on the 5th attempted murder and each murder is happening at a one-murder-per-week pace. An online blogger gives him his premature serial killer name, after the first kill, and the media picks up on the name after the second kill. So technically, I'm safe calling him a serial killer but it would be safer to kill at least one more person in the same modus operandi before the media starts calling him by his nickname.

    As the story reads, the killer is a mystery the first half of the book because the killer has a very close relationship to the investigation, so close in fact the police give him the assignment of tricking the serial killer (himself) into chasing after a false target, but I never explain why he started killing in the first place and why he chooses to continue killing when he knows the police are getting closer towards catching him.
     
  4. Lazy
    Offline

    Lazy Banned

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Michigan
    I really don't think it's necessary.
     
  5. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    It might be revenge. I've written a story about a serial killer that kind of considers himself a Vigilante, and it stemmed from witnessing a murder as a kid that he wasn't able to stop. On the same "revenge" angle I can imagine a situation where someone would get revenge on a group of people that were all involved in some incident that has happened in the past. The investigation could be all about "how are these people connected" and only after a lot of digging do they uncover some tragic event that happened that maybe it took all these years for the "serial killer" to figure out that they were behind it.

    I actually disagree with Lazy a bit that serial killers never do it for money. While he is correct in that it is rarely the motivation... I remember an episode of a TV show where a person killed a guy for money (inheritance or whatever)... and then after the fact decided to kill more people as a way of masking the motive for her crime. Now, that's not what we naturally think of as a serial killer, but if you were investigating the crime thats how it would look at first.

    The easy way to do it would be to make all of the victims similar in some way (either looks or maybe they all have the same type of job), and then come up with some reason for the killer to hate that specific group of people. But it can be even vaguer than that... I've read a book where it looked like someone was being a serial killer, but what was really happening was they killed one person... and realized that someone witnessed the murder, but the only information they had was the person's date of birth. It could be something as innocuous as that.

    I think if you are looking for ways to get your mind going... get on Netflix and see if you can't find old episodes of good crime shows. Usually I can trace back an idea I have to something similar I saw on an episode of CSI I used to watch that got me thinking about another similar idea for my plot.
     
  6. Lazy
    Offline

    Lazy Banned

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Michigan
    Depends on your definition of serial killer. The way the phrase is typically used refers to people who do not kill in the course of other crimes (for instance robbery or rape), or for personal gain, but do so purely for a kind of psychological satisfaction. Of course there are always exceptions.
     
  7. MissRis
    Offline

    MissRis Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Canada
    Why don't you read up on the psychology behind serial killers? If you know how psychological profilers categorize them differently from other criminals who murder, I think you might find some motivation there. I'm fairly certain serial killers are a different breed. And I would stray from using mental health problems as an excuse or "reason" for him killing. I think it's overused and misrepresents a large portion of those suffering with mental health disorders. Untreated schizophrenics or other people with hallucinatory disorders aren't really in the state of mind to be a serial killer -- it's beyond their capacity for the most part. They may accidentally kill someone because they think they're someone else or because of paranoia, but they wouldn't have the forethought to plan and execute something.
     
  8. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    Completely agree. But I guess I was just pointing out that what most people would call a serial killer would be something like what you were talking about. They don't do it for the money. However, from the perspective of the police, they see three people killed with the same weapon on different days... they might refer to said criminal as a serial killer even if it turns out in the end it's something random like the 5 people they killed were all witnesses to another murder, and he wants to kill them to keep them from talking. In hindsight no one would refer to that person as a serial killer though.
     
  9. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston
    Without revealing to much of my story...let me give an example and you can let me know what you think:
    A guy is the developer of a underground massive online multiplayer video game with a large following. Every week he updates the content of the game with new objectives. Eventually the updates get dark and gruesome, going into great detail in who the player should select as a victim and killing them in a very specific way. Suspiciously, a real world murder happens in a similar fashion as the most current updated objective on the video game. A blogger makes the connection so the cops get in contact with the developer to find out what he knows. Another game update happens as usual followed by another murder in the exact same fashion. Now the cops are 100% sure this isn't just happen-stance and decide to force the developer to release an update they can control, targeting a very specific person and killing them in a very specific place in a very specific style. The game developer complies and release the update but he is also the person causing the real world murders. That's where it losses a bit of its believability to me, because he is making a decent amount of money with this video game and be knows it's a setup by the cops but he still chooses to attempt the crime anyway. So he would need some motivation right? Or is the fact that he is a serial killer enough reasoning to make him continue, it's the sheer excitement of the kill that makes him want to do it. The story gets twisted when someone else is arrested for the murders that he was about to attempt and the game developer gets pissed because someone took his glory so he goes off on a killing spree directed towards his copycat...blah blah blah.
     
  10. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    Well, it doesn't need to be some kind of complex motivation. Maybe the guy wanted to go down in history as a famous serial killer. Or maybe he just likes the attention. There have been plenty of movies where some guy just wants to mess with the police and they think they can get away with it and all that noise.
     
  11. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    Actually, I just thought of something you might be able to use. If your story is about an online video game, perhaps this killer in question is the competitive type that wants to be the best. And you could play with the notion that he considers it all to be a game. Perhaps he got bored of actual games and wanted to take it up another notch.
     
  12. Man in the Box
    Offline

    Man in the Box Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    Brazil
    Another thing that's important to mention is that there are many serial killers who actually plan to get caught. Being caught is what they view as the ultimate recognition for their work, because this way they are forever linked to the deaths.

    To make things more complex, you could make the developer not as easily reachable by the police. Many developers go by aliases on the internet and an intelligent person who wants to avoid being identified knows how to conceal himself. If the game is part of his grand scheme to make kills and go down as a famous killer, he'd probably prepare beforehand so as not to get caught after only 2 or 3 kills.
     
  13. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston
    You know what, you might have just solved my problem. Instead of him being consumed by his work and feeling like his work isn't being appreciated, change it to; the whole reason he started creating the game was to eventually use it as a tool to kill people. A random blogger makes the connection to the first murder. The second kill seals the deal with the cops that this isn't a coincidence, perhaps the cops go as far as to say to the media "And for everyone's safety I might even recommend everyone that has access to a computer download the game so they are in the know of who the next possible victim might be." This will create the perfect audience for the developer and add even more frustration to him when a copy-cat steals his glory kill. Making the rampage even more authentic. Thanks!
     
  14. Lazy
    Offline

    Lazy Banned

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Michigan
    Sounds good to me, chief.
     
  15. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    Well, that wasn't exactly my idea but I'm glad something I said helped you come up with one on your own. Sounds like it's going to be a good story.
     
  16. CrimsonReaper
    Offline

    CrimsonReaper Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2009
    Messages:
    112
    Likes Received:
    8
    Motivations for serial killers:

    1) Sexual frustration.
    Many serial killers targeted women exclusively not simply because women are physically weaker and less likely to fight than a male victim, but because they had any number of sexual hangups. More than a few clearly raped the women before or after killing them. Then you get the whole Buffalo Bill bit, with skinsuits and all...

    2) Joy of the hunt/power
    A handful actually enjoyed hunting people for sport. Of course they never seem to give their victims WEAPONS or anything else that might actually provide actual sport, but we are not talking about real men here but losers playing at being god. Becoming a serial killer is a huge power fantasy. You literally have life and death in your hands.

    3) Fame
    Many were complete losers in life and saw their murders as a way to be remembered forever. Brilliantly done on an episode of NCIS I saw recently, where the killer specifically targeted the show's team because of their well-known track record with such cases and because killing a military man gets the feds involved. The final setup as him threatening to blow them all up with C4, which the show's protagonist basically laughs at. "You don't want to die. You want to be famous." The guy gives in laughing about how his name will be remembered forever, while no one remembers the names of the cops that caught Bundy or other serial killers. Then the heroes have his identity concealed (possible "links to terrorism") so no one will ever know who he was. The guy actually filed to copyright/trademark the name he chose for his serial killer persona!

    4) Money
    There was a man during World War II who would murder Jews that thought he was part of an underground railroad and keep their possessions to sale for profit. Afterwards most said there must have been something deeply wrong with him, if only to comfort themselves. Surely no human being could be so cruel as to murder so many for money. I disagree and feel he was just an opportunistic bandit. There are plenty of people who will slit your throat for a hundred bucks and not give it a second thought. This is not what most would consider a serial killer, but would appear as such.

    5) Concealment
    Already mentioned earlier and not a new idea at all. There might be a string of random murders disguised as a serial killer, when in fact the first (or any) victim was the actual target and the rest were a smokescreen to keep the cops guessing.
     
  17. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    Being a successful businessman, he can't be psychotic because that would severely affect his ability to function.
    You are looking at narcissistic psychopath, sadist, sexually motivated (all sadistic serial killers are sexually motivated in one way or another. If there is no actual rape, that usually means they are impotent and stabbing or personal face to face strangulation, torture etc all sublimates physical rape).

    ps. I'd strongly advise against using movies as your source of information about serial killers. It's not only incredibly repetitive, it focuses on visual sensationalism that works well on screen, in 1-2 hours of air time (like your typical motiveless home invasion scenario). All that would come across as very "thin" in a book. Hollywood has very little real knowledge of the topics they make movies about (it would be the same as if you got your info for a medical thriller from "Grey's Anatomy" - it's so ridiculously inaccurate, even a nursing student could pick holes in most of their scenarios).

    There are many forensic psych resources available on line or in the library, I think you should read up on it and get to know the subject you are writing about. It will help you create more compelling narrative :)
     
  18. The Tourist
    Offline

    The Tourist Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    1,089
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Wisconsin.
    Well, don't go there. We "synpatically challenged" folks are always more of a danger to ourselves than the public. Look, 10% of the population has some form of mental issues. If we were all serial killers they'd be piling up the bodies like cordwood.

    Personally, I think the act of taking human life is the most unnatural act there is. I have no idea what I'll do if/when I have to face the problem. Experts report that most people go through a "chemical dump." An infusion of so many fight or flight chemicals that they don't hear sounds, they cannot tell time, their fingers don't move correctly and they can never remember how many shots they've fired. No wonder people call it "the fog of war.

    It's a story, pick a method you favor and make it work. After all, 'The Son of Sam' killed people because he claimed his next door neighbor's dog told him to do so. I believe it was the dog that was named "Sam."
     
  19. MatthewSinclair
    Offline

    MatthewSinclair New Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2012
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    While it's about a contract killer as opposed to a serial killer, the book 'The Ice Man' is a fantastic insight into the mind of a stone cold murderer. It's about Richard Kuklinski, the infamous mafia hitman. Might give some ideas. Part of what turned him into a killer was, as always, a terrible childhood. He witnessed his own brother beaten to death by his father when he was very young, both him and his mother were often severely hurt by father also. He literally had the compassion beaten out of him, and despite his size when growing up he was bullied until one day he snapped, and in his own words, that was when he realised "It was better to give than receive." From that it was a downward spiral of crime to earn money, which led to murder, then another and another. It was for personal gain, but he also enjoyed it.

    The mind of a serial killer is quite an unknown subject. The fact is we just don't know what really makes them do it. As someone previously posted, killing is the most unnatural act of a human being. This has been supported by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. He has written works on what killing does to the soldiers who are forced to commit it, and how they are trained to kill, to diffuse blame among the squad or leaders as opposed to themselves individually, and so on. The key point is he says that killing is an unnatural act, and the soldiers are trained against their own nature to do so, to not hesitate.

    So you have to think what would drive this successful man to kill? You've ruled out mental health issues, as well as financial gain. The most prolific reasons for me then would be revenge, divinely inspired, or even boredom. If he's a man who's done well in business, he might simply feel bored. Maybe there's something in his psyche that's never allowed him to feel whole, or really gone to the edge? Repressed urges, possibly overbearing mother, lack of lovers? All these could add up to a man who kills then to experience the rush. It'd also explain why he keeps killing even when the police close in - he can't stop, he's addicted to the rush, an adrenaline junkie needing his next bloody fix.
     
  20. indy5live
    Offline

    indy5live Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Houston
    I think I solved the problem. Yes he is successful. Yes he is mentally stable. But he works a behind-the-scene job that never gets any recognition. All he receives is more and more demands without a single thank you. Of course, the job is what's making him the money and by maintaining a quality product he is constantly rewarded, but it's fame he wants. All the discussion's online are about the game, this week's quest, or how cool something looks or felts while playing...but never about the publisher. So he swings the conversation by killing. Now he is receiving recognition through the murders that mimic the game. There are hundreds of subscribers, anyone can be the killer, their talk is endless. This causes him to get a higher and higher thrill each time he murders and so the void inside him is being filled by his secret life as a serial killer. Now it's just a matter of going back and carefully tailoring his thoughts so when the audience finds out he was the killer it doesn't come off as a complete copout.
     
  21. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    This might be surface motivation but it is nowhere near enough to motivate a serial killer. Otherwise there'd be hundreds of millions of them all over the world.
     
  22. marcuslam
    Offline

    marcuslam Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2012
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    3
    Doing research on serial killers would definitely be beneficial here. For something real scary, look up Albert Fish.
     

Share This Page