Friday, March 27, 2015

Delving Into the Criminal Mindset

Personally, I'm fascinated by the human mind.  Always have been.  I want to know what makes other people tick. Hell, I even majored in psychology when I first went to college.  (Until the thought of actually working with the insane creeped me out too bad to envision a future in the field.) Only in the last ten years or so I've switched from wanting to know what goes on in the average individual's head to wanting to explore what makes up the criminal mind. 

Oh, I have my theories.  I employ some of them in my writing, but I really have no data to back them up.  Just a thought or two and some personal experience to make my fictional characters real. 

I also watch a lot of crime TV.  On any given day, you can find me watching at least an hour or two of a true crime show.  Dateline, 48 hours, anything on Investigation Discovery, Cold Justice, Cold Case Files... You get the gist.  I love the show The Killer Speaks because they actually talk to killers, so you get a glimpse into what's going on in their heads. 

Recently, I picked up a copy of Inside the Criminal Mind by Stanton Samenow.  I only just started reading it, but already, it's brilliant.  He's been studying criminals since the year I was born, so I'm guessing he pretty much knows what he's talking about.

I like to think my killers ring true already, but I want to make them better.  I want them to be more believable.  And the best way to do that - short of becoming a criminal myself - is to study them.  I want to know what turns a perfect, potentially normal baby into a killer, so I can bring them to your living room in the totally safe pages of a book. 

And then, of course, I want to catch them and either kill them in my books or see them locked away forever between the pages of a novel.

Or like I told another writer years ago - Crime writers are the safest people to be around in the world.  We let out all our aggressions on paper rather than in real life.  ;o)

Why do you read or write crime fiction? 

5 comments:

jblynn said...

OMG you killed me with "short of becoming a criminal myself"

I think crime fiction has been a lifelong love because crime stories were the first series I read...I'm looking a you Frank and Joe Hardy and Miss Nancy Drew.

If I'd been started on science fiction, that would probably be my addiction.

Jennifer said...


You said: "Crime writers are the safest people to be around in the world. We let out all our aggressions on paper rather than in real life." Huh -- I never thought of that. Or crime writers are just too smart to get caught :-)

I used to be a crime fiction junkie, then somewhere along the way, I just...stopped. It got to be too much. That said, all my years of reading and research play a big part in my character development. Mind Hunter and The Gift of Fear are two books that I recall having a big impact on me.

Now I'm tempted to check out Inside the Criminal Mind so my interest must still be there!

Silver James said...

The thing about criminals, whether real or fictional, is that they believe they are the hero (or heroine) of their own story. I've been in courtrooms with murderers who carried that same red spark in their eyes as Manson. I seen people driven to drastic action and something snapped, leaving them either numb or cold-hearted.

The human psyche has the potential for good or evil, except when something is broken on a cellular level and then there's just evil. Manson. Gacy. Dahmer. Then there are the sociopaths with their narcissistic tendencies. Yes, I enjoyed my abnormal psych class way back when in college. There is no black and white in the criminal mind. They are layered with nuanced shades of gray, and that makes them fascinating. Plus that whole "monsters in the dark" thing in the human hindbrain that keeps us alive.

Oops. Sorry. I didn't mean to go all philosophical. LOL I need to get off the internet and write. *nods* Yeah, I'll get right on that.

Karyn Good said...

I think like you I'm fascinated by the human mind and what sometimes can go horribly wrong inside someone's head. It's about wanting to delve deeper into what Silver said about criminals being the hero of their own story. A story is better for having a well-developed, three-deminsional villain. But really, for me, it's about what it takes to defeat them or bring them to justice.

Jennifer: I've heard about The Gift of Fear and wondered if I should read it. Maybe I'll give it a try.

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