Have you ever told someone what you write about and you suddenly see them kick into flight or fight mode? Watched them fold their arms protectively around their body and pre-program 911 into their phone? Yeah. I’ve been experiencing this a lot lately since I’ve started focusing my writing on serial killers. So, I’d like to set the record straight up front.
My obsession with writing about violence and serial killers does not stem from a desire to kill you (unless you go 20 mph in front of me and keep tapping your brakes). It doesn’t mean I want to be a serial killer or even want to know one.
It comes from two things:
Remember that stage all two to three year olds go through? The “why” stage? It seems I have never grown out of that. It drives me nuts not to know why something happens the way it does. That’s the main reason I love science and use it a lot in my writing. Science answers questions. Psychology and neuroscience has come a long way in figuring out human behavior, but not far enough.
Research has shown neurological abnormalities in the frontal lobe of a sociopath’s brain. So, sociopathy is a disease, not a behavorial choice. When an individual born with this type of brain abnormality grows up in an abusive or neglectful environment, they are going to have problems being empathetic, well-adjusted members of society. They just don’t have the right equipment under the hood.
Or the other side of the argument…that the harsh environment they grew up in caused these abnormal physical changes in their brain. Either way, we know that our brains are capable of structural changes that affect our personalities. Our brains are capable of re-organizing our thought patterns, the way we view ourselves and others. So, here comes the why–
WHY can’t we stop people from growing up to become sociopaths and serial killers? WHY can’t the ones that have already become these things be helped?
Well, I know why, really. We just don’t know enough yet. Some believe these people are just born evil. That’s the easy way out. I don’t believe in evil so I can’t accept that explanation. I think they were born into unfortunate environments with vulnerable brain structures. They are just extreme ends of other mental illnesses, a matter of degree.
I realize this is naive. In NOT knowing, I don’t know what’s impossible. Still, I don’t think we should just throw our hands up and say “well, they are just evil, we can’t help them.” Yes, they should be locked up, seperated from society, but we can’t ignore them. We have to learn from them, understand them and figure out how to stop our future children from becoming them.
I am always shocked more by the real news stories I read. Yesterday I read a story about a dad on PCP who ate his little boys eyes. WTF? You can’t make this kind of stuff up. Nature is cruel. Humans are cruel. Fiction writers are control freaks.
In real life, murders go unsolved. Killers walk amoung us, free to destroy more lives.
In fiction, murders are solved, killers are caught and justice is served. As a reader, it’s why I read crime fiction. You can call it fiction, but the satisfaction, the sense of relief gained is real. And it’s priceless in a world that feels like it’s spinning out of control.
(The second reason–my personal experience with serial killers–will be the next post, so please come back by and thanks for stopping in!)