Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Serial Killer In My Head

I am currently rewriting a novel I completed about a decade ago. It's about a woman who has begun to achieve success only to be stalked by a nefarious character who remains unnamed and mysterious for a good part of the story. The killer decides that not only should the object of hatred be killed but tortured in a most unusual way, that being to kill people who look like her as a prelude to the main event. The character is loosely based on a person I've known in the past but who is not, at least to my knowledge, a serial killer.

When I first wrote the story, it was titled The Happy Face Killer and it was fun in a bizarre way to have the killer leave a bright yellow Happy Face with the inscription "Have a nice day!" at the scene of each murder. You can imagine my dismay that after spending a year writing and polishing and paying for a professional edit, I found out there was a real Happy Face Killer and someone had written a book about him titled The Happy Face Killer. I bought the book and read it, recalling that I'd actually heard reports about the guy on the news. He was a long distance trucker who picked up women who hung out at truck stops, raped and murdered them, then left little scrawled happy faces in restrooms along the interstate system.  Not a very imaginative fellow, nor was he very smart because they caught him and he's in prison now, but wow! Was I ever bummed. So I put the story aside and thought perhaps I'd drag it out again after a few years had gone by.

So they've gone by and I'm doing the rewrite and it won't be titled The Happy Face Killer any longer because I don't want my novel to be confused with the true crime story. In doing research, I've had to read about real killers but I do things ass backwards sometimes, so I did the research after I'd finished the story - just to check if my killer is believable. I found that my fictional killer was just as much of an egomaniac as real killers are. My killer sends missives to the news media. So do real killers. The Happy Face Killer did and so did the Zodiac Killer. Zodiac was smarter than Happy Face because they never found him, although I recently read they think they know who he was but now that person is dead, so the authorities will never know for certain.

I gotta tell you, it's a pretty weird thing to find out that the serial killer living inside your head mirrors the real ones out in the world. In one way it's a great feeling because you know the character stands up to the test of reality and is, therefore, believable, or at least as believable as a crazed manic can be in an ordered world. But on the other hand, it's scary to know that a character like that is back there, lurking somewhere in  the nether regions of your brain, just waiting to get out.

It makes me grateful that writing about it is all the thrill I need rather than the screwed up soul who has to act on those thoughts.

So I'll get back to work and try to get this done by the end of the year and then all you people who like to read mystery-thrillers can pick up a copy of Crazy and get a glimpse into the mind of my serial killer. More than a glimpse, actually but I'll leave that for later. Don't want to put too much on the table right now!

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