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Would you read a horror/thriller with the main character being a split personality serial killer?

  1. Yes

    90.9%
  2. Maybe

    9.1%
  3. Not a chance

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    0.0%
  1. Thairen
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    Thairen Member

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    Would you read a story with a serial killer as the MC?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Thairen, Apr 6, 2015.

    Hello everyone!

    I ask for your thoughts before I move too far forward with my current novel idea.

    At this point I have two MCs and several supporting characters, with time changes and it's starting to get slightly confusing, so I'm also looking for any thoughts on how to show the flow of time a little better.

    Now, onto the main point. One of the main characters is your average man, nothing too spectacular about him, he's pursing the woman he meets at his work.

    The other MC is a serial killer, but he is a split personality (haven't decided if he's from a different character, or if he's the split of the other MC).

    What I'm curious about is if this is worth writing a full novel about? Obviously I know a lot is going to hang on my writing for if it's successful in what I'm trying to convey, but in your opinion would you read something like this? I'm currently sitting at around 20,000 words and it's getting difficult, I want to finish it on one hand, but the other hand I have a million other things I could be writing as well. I realize this is probably a difficult answer for most of you because you haven't read any (I plan to post up a short chapter once I can post to the workshop) but going off of no knowledge, where someone says the mc is a serial killer, would it be something you would consider reading?

    Thank's in advance for your thoughts and any suggestions!
     
  2. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As somebody who loves Dexter, Death Note, and is currently writing about a serial killer protagonist: what does he want to accomplish with his crimes (Dexter Morgan and Light Yagami believed they were saving the world from people worse than themselves), and who specifically is in his way (Dexter and Light both have to deal with attention by law enforcement)?

    If his half of the story is simply one murder scene after another, then only serial killers are going to not be bored reading those parts.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Why not?
     
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  4. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually it sounds quite interesting - especially given that your split personality idea essentially makes this person two characters in one body. But as Simpson said - he has to be complex and do things other than kill people.

    There are lots of good stories about killers, but killing in itself is not a good story, and if you're writing a story centered on a murderer, the key is to show that these acts are wrong. If he's making choices as a psychopath, this should obviously horrify both the reader and the authorial voice (assuming it's in 3rd person). I've had writing group experiences where someone wrote a deeply violent protagonist and got smacked in the critique by one reader (who wrote some deeply violent stuff himself) who was absolutely horrified. His problem wasn't so much with the action but with the authorial voice (In this case first-person), which seemed to take too much pleasure in the events and justify what was going on. Of course, that's the problem with writing a first-person narrative from the point of view of a psychopath - readers are generally fine watching killers, but they're not fine with justification of killing or sharing headspace with someone who thinks that it's fun to watch people suffer.

    BUT - if you have a GOOD serial killer story. People love those. The question in terms of whether readers will read is not "Serial Killer or No Serial Killer?". It's "Will my reader feel that this serial killer is subjected to an appropriate level of moral judgement?" People love murder mysteries and horror novels, but they hate gore porn and murder itself.
     
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  5. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    is the character interesting? Is there conflict? Silence of the Lambs most popular character is a Serial Killer. The main character in American Psycho is a serial killer. The Tell tale heart is all about a killer and a murder. Gone Girl is about crazy psycho's and murderers.

    I guess what im trying to say is...why would you have a character in your novel that isn't a serial killer?

    Sarcasm aside, i think your story sounds interesting. A mystery Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. A split personality where the serial killer either kills off the MC's loved ones, or over-reacts and avenges what he sees as social slights. Or a story that as it unfolds leaves the serial killer looking sympathetic while the Joe everyman MC comes off as bad person. (Dexter did this well...the fact that we wanted the cop to die in the early seasons because he found dexter out was amazingly done). I think the main thing on this is you need to establish drive for each, and why we care about each.
     
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  6. Thairen
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    Thairen Member

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    I'm not sure that he's going to specifically justify his killing, or look at it ever from a moral standpoint. As of now with what I've written I've been exploring what he's doing when he isn't in control of the body. exploring his thoughts as well as his surroundings that he's seemingly trapped in, while in the horizon he is watching his body like a movie, his only possible intervention is feeding his opinions through thoughts of the character. I can't wait to be able to post up a chapter but there's that 2 week rule holdin me down
     
  7. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Depends on the serial killer's motives, because if he's just killing people to kill people I probably won't read it.
     
  8. Thairen
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    Thairen Member

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    I guess it depends, as I have it set up now he takes control of the body and he is filled with joy, he gets to see all the color (he lives in a world lacking color otherwise) hears all the laughter and happiness and then he is filled with hate and jealousy. While he has certain motives such as someone picking on his other personality or holding him back from achieving something, but every time he kills it broadens his prison he is captive in whenever he isn't in control. I'm attempting to extend out these concepts and most people have seemed to enjoy it, but people have said that what I am attempting is so complex and difficult that they would have discouraged it had I talked to them before I began writing the story.

    I have flirted with the idea of going back, cutting back on some chapters where I'm speaking from 1st person views of less important characters, like the mc's mother and such... This may make much more sense when I'm able to post some of the material
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Sure I would.

    Dexter, American Psycho, etc.
     
  10. ZYX
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    ZYX Member

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    Just make sure it isn't like " he's mentally ill so he kills people " and you should be all set !
     
  11. ToBeInspired
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    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    Writing > Water > Well. The three W's. As long as the writing flows and you make it work to fit your intended area, the story is just another facet of a human mind. We're all different, why not revel in it?

    Sure, serial killers are scary and all. Steven King sells though, doesn't he? People get too comfortable in their safe community based lives. A little horror or drama is never amiss in my view at least. Hell, if you wrote a story about Marbolo's CEO I'd be far more disgusted. "He apathetically stared at the piece of paper in front of him. The number of projected deaths had raised over a hundred thousand in the last year alone. He noted to congratulate marketing on the increase of sales."

    Shivers.

    P.S. Dexter. 'nough said.
     
  12. Thairen
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    Thairen Member

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    Yea dexter I understand but he is always more moral than anything, this guy will have little to no morality, minus his main personality, which is going to be a more average guy with normal woes, that has absolutely no idea that he is essentially a psychopath. I will give him some kind of motive, though I'm still close to the beginning so he appears to be killing for sport
     
  13. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, as long as they were interesting and it wasn't just an excuse for gratuitous violence. Books I have enjoyed with serial killers as the MC: Crime and Punishment (although not a traditional serial killer he does commit more than one murder), Perfume: The Story of a Killer, American Psycho... There must be others but they don't spring to mind right now. Ah yes, Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, Hannibal.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
  14. ToBeInspired
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    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    I only mentioned Dexter because it was already inputted. I personally don't find Dexter interesting for the plot idea. "Killer kills only bad guys." Ya, ya... whatever. It's a funny show, he is displayed as a capable person, and it does quite well with the drama.

    Minus the comedic aspect and if you can display your character as more than capable... it's interesting. Even in fear their can be respect. What of Hannibal? An inspired book of a serial killer that cannibalized his victims and was of the genius level. He played mind games with his pursuers confident in the knowledge that he was smarter than them. This hit on the point of how many serial killers seek for a note of fame or leaving an imprint on the world. Many killers feel the need to leave calling marks or face their adversaries. It's incredibly stupid, but it's part of what makes them who they are. The killing feels a need in them and they want others to understand it.

    Your main character can be atrocious. No visible redeeming character traits or any semblance of personality. Bland and completely forgettable. Which means you need to introduce another character as well. Someone to focus their attention away for a few moments, to give them something to chew over. "In the face of true evil, there will always be one who finds hope."

    He could start out nice or always be a bad guy. He could have a troubled past or you could blow completely past it. Just keep it interesting. A serial killer means drama and suspense. You want to build it up? That's fine. Just make sure that you don't have your readers feel as if the conclusion wasn't worth the time spent. Pan out what you want to achieve with the character in the first place. I think I'll go write something disturbing now. I'm in the mood.
     
  15. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    Hells yeah! That would be awesome. Imagine being able to get inside the head of a murderer? It would be the first book I pick up.
     
  16. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Based on what you've said it sounds very intereating. And I don't mind if he's totally amoral or even happy about what he's doing - psychopaths get a great amount of stimulation from violence. That's why they do it.

    The key is to make sure your AUTHORIAL VOICE doesn't take the same pleasure in it that he does. Readers will go for some pretty twisted stuff as long as they don't think the author is as twisted as the character. They'll happily watch him feel joy at killing but they won't want to feel it with him or feel that it gives the writer joy. That's the line I think.

    But I also don't read this sort of stuff so take me with a grain of salt.
     
  17. Thairen
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    Thairen Member

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    Well, it's hard to say, I make it quite graphic, but don't really focus on his feelings as much as what is happening. Most of the time it's what any psychologist would say about a killer, where there's a build up of pressure from anger or hate and when they kill it releases and they feel calm, most of the time after his kill, he loses control of his body and slips back into his ... inner world I guess you could call it. The only real difficulty I'm facing with that is what to do with the time lapse after he retreats and the normal guy slips back in, because at this point I have him never having any knowledge, no flashbacks, nothing. His only tip-off that something is going wrong is when the killer is telling him to do stuff in his head, which he always pushes back and thinks it's just a normal thing everyone deals with.

    I'm kinda glad most of you seem to like or at least accept it, I know there is no such thing as a original work, but I have yet to see anything explore what is going on when a split personality isn't in control of the body, so I'm pretty much just trying to make up this fantasy-yet-believable place for him to be, and I've spent quite a bit of time in there, trying to build on it, since it changes and expands every time he kills.

    Can't wait to post the chapter, should I be posting it in the novels section or short story section? I chose the chapter because it does a decent job at being a standalone short story, but since I'm new you all would have a better idea than I would, I do know it would most likely be in the horror section
     
  18. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    This sounds really cool - and actually you have a good story there with the non-killer seeming to be your main protagonist.

    Also, while I always hesitate to recommend books I haven't read, I hear a lot about Dan Wells' John Cleaver series because I listen to a podcast that features the author. That's about a teenage sociopath who worries that he's destined to become a serial killer, l and trying to use his thought process against an ACTUAL serial killer in his town. The first book in that one is "I Am Not a Serial Killer".

    Obviously people read that, so your stuff doesn't sound out of the ordinary. It's just that in your case the killer and the person fighting the killer are sharing a body.
     
  19. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    The book I finished writing a month or so ago has a main character who is a killer. I worried a little about readers having some feeling for him so developed some empathy via his background and the reason for his first kill. I've had 1 guy who loved reading it and gradually developed some feeling for the killer. Care for the main character is often cited as a requirement - but then rules are made to be broken.
    I enjoyed the Dexter series. The Dexter book I read (when someone said my story was like Dexter - it isn't), says something like Dexter is the killer you have to love on the front - and that's simply not the case. Dexter's cold.
    I note the Bath novel award twitter says psychological crime thrillers seem popular this year. So, go with the killer to be a little different. Just keep him interesting.
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Forgot about Perfume. Another great example.
     
  21. Thairen
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    Thairen Member

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    Well thanks for all the feedback, I think people will relate and have feelings for the good side of the MC... The killer... Eh I don't see people feeling for him, I have 2 or 3 murder scenes in the 50 pages I've written and I've thought about toning them down slightly because even I think they're a bit gruesome, but I have the advantage of knowing how it's going to end so I'm loving writing it
     
  22. Michael Pless
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    Michael Pless Active Member

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    There are many stories that feature multiple murderers/killers. Dexter came to my mind too. However, Jack Reacher always manages to kill someone in each excerpt of his life and the John Rain series has the MC as a hired assassin. These are worth reading because the author manages to give a valid reason for each victim to be killed. Of course, James Bond was famously given government approval to kill.

    It all depends on how the writer keeps the reader connected or interested in the MC, regardless of what s/he does. If a reader feels the victims are valued by someone and have redeeming qualities, and their death causes distress then it is likely a reader will start to lose touch and want the protagonist to fail. This immediately makes the antagonist's efforts more important, and it gets increasingly difficult to keep the focus on the alleged protagonist. The risk of a role reversal becomes harder to avoid.
     

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