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Thursday 3 August 2017

✉ Dark Harvest: Holt Foundation Stories [2] - Chris Patchell

Today author takes over our blog to tell us about Creating a Killer.

Her latest novel is Dark Harvest (, Chris Patchell, 346 pages), a Suspense, book two of Holt Foundation Stories series.

Are you new to Chris Patchell's writing?
For a limited time, you can download a copy of her best seller, Deadly Lies, for FREE from InstaFreebie!

Don't miss our our Interview with Chris, about the first book in the series, In The Dark.

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || The Series || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

Creating a Killer
by Chris Patchell

Even the bad guy is the hero of his own story, Stephen King claims in his book, On Writing. Take small town despot, Jim Rennie from King’s bestselling book Under the Dome. Jim Rennie doesn’t think he’s a bad guy. From his twisted point of view, Big Jim believes that he is making tough decisions in a time of crisis that will help save the town he loves, not destroy it. Through the lens of the other characters though, Jim Rennie does some horrible, self-serving things.

Creating a killer that is every bit as deep and nuanced as the hero of your story takes a fair bit of time, but is well worth the effort. Anyone who has read a Thomas Harris book knows that Hannibal Lecter is the most fascinating character in the story. Done well, they’re memorable. Indelible. I happen to love writing bad guys and when I started writing Dark Harvest, the thing I loved best about the story was creating the character behind the crimes. In case you haven’t read the book, I’m not going to spoil the story by telling you too much about who he is, but what I am going to do is to walk you through the process I used to create him.

Step 1: Start with why
Every hero needs a strong motivation to carry him through the story, and so does your villain. What’s your bad guy’s motive? The stronger the motive, the more extreme lengths your killer will go to in carrying out his crimes. Is he hiding something? After something? Revenge? Money? Sex?

Dark Harvest starts out with the abduction of a pregnant woman. Kidnapping a pregnant woman is risky business, and unless you’re a full-on-wrap-around-jacket-your-sleeves-tie-in-the-back-nutter, attempting this kind of crime better have one heck of a pay-off to risk it.

Step 2: Arm him with skills
Once you figure out the motive, decide what kind of knowledge the villain needs to not only pull off the crime, but evade detection. Stupid criminals aren’t all that compelling, and according to the cops, they are much easier to catch. And while that may be the kind of criminal you want to encounter in everyday life, it doesn’t make for great fiction. Is he well educated? Self-taught? A natural? Or did he have to train long and hard, acquiring specialized skills to carry out his nefarious crimes?

Step 3: Give him a past
The next level of getting to know your bad guy (or gal) is to think about the kinds of experiences he had that formed his world view, because everyone has a past. What happened to him to make him the way he is? Why does he think the way he does?

I had one character, who despite the horrible things she did, loved babies. Why babies? I spent days thinking about this question before the answer came to me and I ended up writing one of my favorite scenes of the book—a flashback into a character’s past that told a heart-breaking story.

Step 4: Lone wolf or part of a pack?
When I was writing my first book, Deadly Lies, I had the pleasure of meeting a retired FBI agent who’d spent over twenty years investigating child sex crimes. To say that she’d met her share of psychopaths was an understatement. I asked her if was if it was possible for a psychopath or a sociopath to form relationships and love someone besides themselves. I was expecting a flat out no, but her answer surprised me. She told me that it was possible for these individuals to care about others with the caveat that they will always put their own welfare first. I spend time considering what kinds of relationships (past and present) these characters have (or don’t have) and the subsequent impact.

Step 5: Give him a face
The final step in creating a killer is to define all the surface level stuff you often see on character profile sheets: age, height, weight, the color of their hair, skin, and eyes.

I don’t spend a lot of time on this stuff. In fact, sometimes my editor has had to remind me to put character descriptions in, because it’s not something I naturally do. I’m more interested in who my characters are than how they look. I do love it though when the killer turns out to be someone you don’t suspect. So, when the charming redheaded teenaged boy who has been cutting your lawn for years has a family of six stuffed in a chest freezer at home, the neighbors all say, “he seemed like such a nice kid”. But I say “awesome”.

Creating a hero is fun. Creating a killer—well, I don’t need to tell you how doing it well elevates a story. What can I say? For me, people are the most fascinating puzzles to solve.

Dark Harvest
Available NOW!

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CMash said...

I read this book, and I can tell you, Ms. Patchell, definitely created an interesting killer!

Chris Patchell said...

Who are some of your favorite fictional villains and what do you love about them? I loved David Pinscher from Blake Crouch's Wayward Pines series because he's a brilliant scientist who is playing god with the citizens of Wayward Pines, and when that goes bad...