In the Mind of a Killer
Subtitle: Physician, heal thyself
For over two weeks, I’ve been working on the edits on the next Zoe Chambers mystery (No Way Home). And for two weeks, “working” has looked a lot like staring at printed-out pages. Or staring into space. There are problems that need addressed. But how?
About a week into my staring, I had something of an epiphany. Not about a fix. But about the source of my problems. I’d left out one very important step in my process.
I teach a workshop on villains and antagonists (not necessarily the same thing, by the way). Part of the workshop involves getting the villain’s story and backstory written down. This is stuff that won’t end up in the book. But it’s stuff that directs what ends up in the book. It’s the unseen action that drives the story.
And it can be a lot of fun. Since this is stuff that isn’t going into the book, it can be truly terrible. No one but the author is going to read it. No one is going to edit it, critique it, or otherwise make the author “fix” it. And getting inside a villain’s head can be therapeutic. We can drop the veneer of politeness and etiquette that we try to carry around in society.
Anyhow, I’d left this step out. I had no idea where my villain was or what he was doing. Or why.
Why is a big one. What motivated him to do such-and-such? The author (me, in this case) needs to know! And sort of knowing isn’t enough.
So today, I’ve crawled into the mind of a killer. The stuff that’s showing up on the page is creepy. And enlightening.
And I think I’ve solved the story problems my editor pointed out to me.