Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Going to the Dark Side

by Clare O'Donohue

Q- Is there a type of crime you won't write about?

Shoplifting.

Also, probably, serial killers. In part because (forgive me) it's been done to death. But also because the idea of killing for the thrill of it, to satisfy a craving, doesn't really interest me.

From what I can tell, either you have an urge to be a serial killer or you don't. It's kind of like the ability to roll your tongue. If you don't think that way (and I sincerely hope you don't, especially if you know where I live) then serial killers are the literary equivalent of circus freaks. You might be fascinated to take a peak, but you're not afraid of turning into a serial killer anymore than you are of becoming the bearded lady.

Maybe you might imagine yourself his victim, but fictional victims of serial killers tend to be less interesting than their fictional killers. They exist to up the body count.

I'm more interested in people who - but for a specific issue, like money or infidelity or a twisted kind of love - would never commit a serious crime. I want to know what makes them take a step like that, so far out of their nature. I want to know if it haunts them, or if they have found a way to justify it. I want to know how they got from never thinking about murder all the way to actually plunging the dagger into a friend or loved one. What was the tipping point? Did they think they'd get away with it?

I think we all have a dark side. And, under the right circumstances, we would all be willing to kill. Maybe it would take war, to save your own life, or the life of someone you loved. Or maybe your line in the sand is murkier. That's the character I want to write about. 


5 comments:

Art Taylor said...

What's funny is that the story I'm working on now is about shoplifting....
Art

Meredith Cole said...

I've got a shoplifting scene in my next book, Art!

I agree with you about serial killers, Clare. Random killers are scary like a horror movie, but often not very compelling in a mystery (since it becomes just a whodunnit and not a whydunnit).

Clare ODonohue said...

Art- If anyone can make shoplifting a compelling crime, I'm going to bet on you.

And exactly, Meredith. They are horror movie scary, but only because they are beyond our ability to comprehend. But show me someone who has had a bad boss or a really bad break-up, and I'll show you someone who has thought "if only that person were dead...." Somewhere between that thought and those who actually act on it, is a fascinating series of steps.

Robin Spano said...

Wow, yeah, I have a shoplifting scene too. I think you're right that if it were the major crime in the book, though, it wouldn't be so compelling. (Hmm, unless it was a YA book about a group of 13-year-olds stealing makeup and jeans. That could be kind of fun.) Anyway great post. Very true re: serial killers, too.

Susan C Shea said...

Agree, although a noir novel about someone who stopped people in their tracks by rolling his tongue would be pretty interesting, at least for awhile!