From time to time I get a letter from a writerly type, asking me for input on a writing topic. Here’s one.
How on earth did you get inside the mind of such a shocking psycho in Double Blind?
I’m having a very hard time with that myself – my killers aren’t that evil.
How did I?
Well, in Double Blind I laid out some parameters of what I thought he’d do and think, based on stuff I’d read online about psychos, and stuff I’d seen in movies or read in books…
And then I said, he has to have urges or whatever, like an itch he can’t scratch, that make these actions beyond his control – like a wild animal that is hungry and must eat or they starve.
Like a lion in the jungle; if they don’t kill, they don’t eat.
It’s what they do, so they have to do it.
Then I dwelled there, showing the reader what I’d see and feel if I were doing it.
So how did I figure that part out?
An author friend once had a scene where a guy had to take a car and drive over what were essentially zombies to get away, and she said, “How do I describe what it’s like to run people over?”
Having never actually run people over, I assume, she was a bit lost.
I was like, well, on Mythbusters they’re always saying pig muscles are a good substitute for human muscles (like if you need to see how far a bullet penetrates), so what would be a good substitute for running over people? People are 90% water and some hard stuff. What’s like bones? Rocks? Tree limbs? And in a car, we’ve all driven over a speed bump; I bet that’s like running over a body. So, pile some up and drive over it! You’re halfway home: you have the information. But how do you relate it to a reader?
Having driven over a few large sticks in my time, I said you receive information in a car from the gourd up: first your feet feel a jolt, then your butt, then your hands through the steering wheel; maybe up your spine – I just broke down into detail what happened so I could transfer that information to a reader.
Same in Double Blind.
If you’ve ever cut up raw chicken for dinner, or a steak, there’s a feel to it.
Meat is meat; cutting a steak feels like cutting a human body.
And who’s going to say you’re wrong? Killers?
You think in detail about the process (for a reason I’ll explain in a sec), how using a serrated knife sends information up your hand and arm – and then what else would you feel (if it were a body, and the key word is FEEL)? Warm wet stuff, if you were stabbing a body; the knife never cuts smoothly when I’m cutting a chicken for dinner, so the killer’s knife would hang up on a bone or joint. Laying that out and adding the killer’s mental impulses like having to do it or needing to do it, to get relief – and then pushing it all as a package beyond what any normal person would ever do.
- Also, a lot of killers like the feeling afterward, or during, like a sexual rush, so you can add part of that.
- And many times there’s a degrading aspect they need to have over the victims, so you add that.
Lots of adding, right?
But wait, there’s more!
In Stephen King’s book Pet Sematary, there’s a scene where a college student gets hit by a car and his friends take him to the main character’s clinic, and King describes the guy’s brains showing. King dwells there for a while, and I realized how gross it was for me, “seeing” the guy’s brains as he laid there on the carpet – so it would be really gross for others.
And that was the genius.
Everyone who reads that gets a little uncomfortable because King dwelled there.
When I read a book or watch a movie, if it’s scary or whatever and it made an impact on me, I’ll watch it twice.
I watch it the first time to enjoy it, and then I watch it a second time – to learn.
- When did I like this character? Why did I like them? What did the author do to make me like the character?
- When did I start to feel scared in this movie? What was making me scared? How did the director lay the blocks to build to that feeling?
When you find it, you usually see the author or director dwells there.
So in Double Bind, I dwelled there. A lot. In the mental stuff and in the physical stuff the killer did. A lot of people thought I overdid it, and maybe they were right; we’ll see in book 2 because I wasn’t planning on being so “in the mind” of the killer, but it’s not finished being written yet, either!
Great question. Hope my answer helped.
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From Amazon reviews of my murder mystery Double Blind
“Dan Alatorre is one of the best mystery/thriller writers ever!” Cheryl Shearin, Amazon review
“Shortly into this story I had already added Mr. Alatorre on my favorite authors list.” KayBay 1096, Amazon review
“This is the first book I’ve read by Dan Alatorre; he quickly shot to the top of my must-read list!” Bibliophile, Amazon review
“This is the first book I have ever read by Dan Alatorre and I love it.” Jobear, Amazon review
“not the first book I’ve read of Dan’s (I’ve loved them all) but this is probably my favorite!” Angela Kay Amazon review
“Dan is a wonderful author.” Angela Gallagher, Amazon review
“This is my genre and Dan Alatorre gave me just exactly what I wanted. A plot that kept me guessing all the way until the end.” Deb H, Amazon review
“I loved this book — it’s just what a serial killer/police procedural should be, thanks to author Dan Alatorre!” Linda McKay, Amazon review
“makes you feel like you are right there living this nightmare” Karina S Thibodeau, Amazon review
“a ride that will have you sweating and so compelling that you can’t stop reading.” Tracy Holbrook, Amazon Review
“very fast paced and intense. I stayed up late at night to finish it.” Susan Green, Amazon review
“Dan has, to me, the writing style of Dean Koontz” Cheryl Hall, Amazon review
“kept me up all night . . . Truly an enjoyable read.” Joseph DiFrede, Amazon review
“Double Blind became my favorite Dan Alatorre book just a few chapters in.” Claire N, Amazon review
“Great author!!” Diana Martinez, Amazon review