Today I hand the blog over to fellow crime writer Jane Isaac. I’ve been following Janes blog for a while now and this year she released her first crime novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, which I read and blogged about in August. I like Janes style and when she offered to do a guest post for me, I jumped at the opportunity to host her.
Jane studied creative writing with the London School of Journalism. Her non-fiction articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. Several of her short stories have appeared in crime anthologies. She blogs about her writing experience, ‘Diary of a Newbie Novelist’ at Newbiewriters.com
Jane lives in rural Northants, UK with her husband, daughter and dog, Bollo. When she is not writing she loves to travel, is an avid reader, Mum, dog lover and enjoys spending time with her family. She believes life should be an adventure!
Jane loves to hear from readers and writers. Visit her website where you can read an excerpt of the novel, peruse her blog, ‘Caffeine’s Not a Crime’, and email her through the contacts page.
Getting Into The Mind Of A Killer – Jane Isaac
As novelists, research forms the basis of what we do and this is particularly prevalent in crime fiction. There are characters, settings, plots and storylines to consider, in addition to police procedural research.
The more accurate our work is, the more authentic and believable. This is especially the case with our characters: we need to research their back story, check the feasibility of the person we are creating, before we can make them appear real.
When drawing up the main character in my crime series, DCI Helen Lavery, I spoke to police officers at all levels in the British force in an attempt to analyse their work and home life, in order to build a character that was interesting and engaging, but also realistic in modern day policing.
Unless you have access to prisons, work with criminals, or know any (and even if you’d want to), researching your protagonist can be problematic. For An Unfamiliar Murder, I resorted to reading endless case studies of true crime and watching documentaries about killers and their backgrounds to draw up my murderer’s profile. I’ve read crime fiction for years, yet I wasn’t prepared for the nightmares I experienced after reading real crime. For some reason it’s quite acceptable to be scared out of our wits by the product of another writers mind, but reality? That’s a whole new ball game.
So, what makes a killer? One element to consider is their humanity. It seemed so easy when we were young – all the baddies were ugly, evil monsters. The reality is that even the worst people in this world have some redeeming features, e.g. apparently Hitler loved his dogs; it is said the Yorkshire Ripper was very charismatic and could walk into a room and make everyone feel special. Many of these people appear to function normally in society until they are caught. So, we need to create a character that is realistic. If we make them too bad they become unbelievable.
Another element is motive. Statistics suggest that most people are killed by someone they know, someone close to them. What is their motive? Is it revenge, greed, lust, power, fear, jealousy, blackmail…?
We also need to consider their background in an attempt to provide some kind of explanation as to what they’ve become. This is particularly notable with serial killers. What motivates them to kill? Why do they choose specific victims?
Sometimes, even if we have considered all of the above, we need to seek assistance to confirm the validity of our work. I’m currently polishing the script for the second book of my crime series. The plot is more complex than the first and I researched extensively, yet I still felt it necessary to have my killer’s back story checked by a clinical psychologist to ensure it is feasible.
Much of what we research never makes it into the book. But if we get the back story right, it brings our characters alive on the page. And as a fiction writer, if we achieve that, we’ve met our goal.
An Unfamiliar Murder
Arriving home from a routine day at work, Anna Cottrell has no idea that her life is about to change forever. But discovering the stabbed body of a stranger in her flat, then becoming prime suspect in a murder enquiry is only the beginning. Her persistent claims of innocence start to crumble when new evidence links her irrevocably with the victim…
Leading her first murder enquiry, DCI Helen Lavery unravels a trail of deception, family secrets and betrayal. When people close to the Cottrell family start to disappear, Lavery is forced into a race against time. Can she catch the killer before he executes his ultimate victim?
You can get an Unfamiliar Murder in the following places;