View Full Version : Have Serial killers been done to death (pardon the pun)?

08-07-2006, 05:24 AM
I have an idea for a book about a serial killer and the chase that the detectives and the killer go through...cat and mouse, catch me if you can type plot. Has this just been done to death? I want to make this a horror/thriller loosely based on BTK. Would me basing this on those series of murders be wrong? I can see this playing out in my mind ( a little too vividly, I might add).

Im just wondering if I could have something or would it be passed on because it has been done too much. Any thoughts?

08-07-2006, 06:40 AM
It's a dramatic, emotionally charged subject. It's destined to be done to death, just like war, sex and politics – but there'll always be interest in it. It comes down to what your angle is.

08-07-2006, 09:08 PM
Go for it. There are only seven basic story lines in existance: man against man, man against nature, etc.
Don't worry that a similar story may have been done. Do it better!
Both my completed novels -- unsold -- are loosely based on true stories, although the original participants in the actual events would not recognize what I did with the story. It took me 20 years to come up with an appropriate twist to one of them.
I'd wager that most thrillers are loosely based on truth with the writer's creativity elevating the thrill.
Good luck to you.

08-08-2006, 12:20 AM
I personally love the genre. A good story stands above the crowd, no matter how many have written the subject before.

Go for it! And good luck - I look forward to being able to read your works.

08-08-2006, 03:51 AM
Everyting has been done to death unless you can come up with a new twist, a new way to make it interesting.

08-19-2006, 08:14 AM
Wouldn't a cereal killer be listed under the Recipe Murders section???

08-19-2006, 09:00 AM
Give the serial killer a new reason for what he does. Give him a difference. The Boston Strangler was a married man for instance, who led a somewhat normal life. Serial killers are disturbed individuals but not everyone is a Leather Face or a Hannibal Lector. If you step outside the spectrum, new things will open up.


08-19-2006, 05:51 PM
Like everyone else has said, give it a fresh angle and its a whole new story.

08-20-2006, 04:42 PM
Wouldn't a cereal killer be listed under the Recipe Murders section???


08-20-2006, 05:07 PM
I'm working on one now, too. It's darker than I normally write, and is taking me longer to write to make sure I'm keeping him creepy and obsessive enough not to leave evidence behind for right now. But that will soon change, with his first slip up.

Viva serial killers!

Samuel Dark
09-01-2006, 11:19 PM
It hasn't been done to death, but it has been done a lot. I would say don't be the same old crap -- have a new angle in it, do something new and creative. It might be asking a lot, but do research and see if you can add some sort of plot twist -- something that will make your readers gasp. Because, in my opinion, that is what marks the difference between a good writer, and one who is read over and over -- who touches the readers hearts.

09-02-2006, 01:11 AM
There's nothing new under the sun, except for the size and shape of the shadows.

I'm prepping a serial killer right now, with a serious little twist. Just write it well, and it'll be a winner :D

Soccer Mom
09-02-2006, 01:18 AM
JUst what are you prepping him to do, MM? :D

09-02-2006, 01:46 AM
;) Who says it's a Him ? Hmmm?

09-02-2006, 02:53 AM
I have seen recent comments from a couple of agents and editors indicating they're tired of seeing serial killer plots. I think it's like the clones of Lord of the Rings in the Fantasy genre; once someone hits it big with a serial killer mystery, like Thomas Harris, with Silence of the Lambs, the less imaginative amateur writers start churning out thinly-disguised fan-fiction based on similar premises. And like the Fantasy clones, it gets geriatric real fast.


Anthony Ravenscroft
09-02-2006, 11:45 AM
The "serial killer" trope has increasing counts against it.

Firstly, & most important, is that editors & agents are thinking, "Oh, god, how many today?" The writer, particularly the first-timer, is already at a disadvantage if half the stuff coming over the transom centres on a serial killer.

Thanks to TV shows like Criminal Minds & the "CSI" franchise, audiences are capable of picking your SK apart. Is he situational, or ritualistic? Does he have a believable profile? What's his trigger? How is his pattern evolving? If you don't have something that's clear & interesting in approach, you're just another throwaway episode.

Back in the Olden Days, multiple killers were easier to deal with. Is he nuts, or is there some overt purpose? For instance, is the killer acting on the advice of the voices in his head, or is he carefully picking off the family members that stand between him & the inheritance? Was one killed for getting in the way, or because the killer thought he'd figured out the scheme?

Now we have hundreds of hopeful authors trotting out the trope & that's just supposed to be enough.

If you want your manuscript to stand out as being Something Different, then it's a huge mistake to play to the stereotype. Nothing wrong with creating a "one from Column A & two from Column B" by-the-numbers story, but it certainly doesn't increase saleability.

09-27-2006, 11:11 PM
Are psychopaths just a little misguided? Would a little lovin' turn 'em around? One scientist seems to think so (http://wired.com/news/technology/medtech/0,71819-0.html?tw=wn_index_1)...

Psychos Need a Little Sympathy
By Suzanne Leigh
02:00 AM Sep, 27, 2006

It's difficult to empathize with, let alone have sympathy for, a psychopath. But one scientist believes psychopaths, despite their sometimes terrifying behavior, deserve compassion.

At its core, he argues, psychopathy is a learning disability that makes it difficult for psychopaths to stop themselves from pursuing harmful behavior.

Many psychopaths end up in jail, where they comprise up to 25 percent of the incarcerated population. Outside of prison, just 1 percent is diagnosed with the disorder.

The incidence of psychopathy is about the same as schizophrenia, but a clear differential exists when it comes to studying the former, says Joseph Newman (http://psych.wisc.edu/newman/), chairman of the psychology department at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

"If the incidence of psychopathy is comparable to schizophrenia and the personal costs are as great," he says, citing failure in school, absence of real friendships, marital and job dysfunction, accidents and even death related to recklessness, "then aside from the terrific costs to family and society, the case for understanding and treating (and) preventing this disorder, based on the affected individual alone, are as great for psychopathy as for schizophrenia."

The public's morbid fascination with Scott Peterson and JonBenet Ramsey's killer obfuscates the "very serious mental health issues" that the psychopath presents, he says. Newman describes his theories in a chapter of The Psychopath: Theory, Research and Practice (http://www.amazon.com/Psychopath-Theory-Research-Practice/dp/0805850538/sr=1-8/qid=1158616852/ref=sr_1_8/002-9952986-7848834?ie=UTF8&s=books), published earlier this month...
The article goes on and gets deeper into the mindset. If you have any interest in the pathology of psychosis (and distinctions from sociopaths), give it a read...

09-28-2006, 12:41 AM
There can never be enough good stories about serial killers. But they should catch your attention. Personally I like the angle where you can actually understand why the guy is doing what he does...


09-29-2006, 09:03 PM
I would say this was still a subject that was open, but you would have to bring something new to it, some twist or plot element with a different flavour.

09-30-2006, 01:11 PM
Take a killer quiz at Malevole.com (http://www.malevole.com/mv/misc/killerquiz/)... Short summary: you'll see pictures of folk. Some are programming language inventors, others are serial killers. Can you tell which is which...?

...I got 8/10.

10-02-2006, 06:52 PM
I'm a nonfiction, freelance mag. writer so I'm out of my usual comfort zone here. But I am a reader of mystery/thriller/suspense.

Personally, I'm sick of sickos of all varieties as protagonists, but especially serial killers. And enough with the fem-in-jep stuff!! Dismembering beautiful women, etc.

As for the article posted above - give the psychos a little love and understanding?? Give me a break. I've been practicing psychotherapy for many years and psychopaths and sociopaths are actually rather boring in their world view and predictability. I have also seen the horrible damage they wreak on families, employers, etc.

OK, had to get the 2 cents in. I'll hit the road.


Anthony Ravenscroft
10-03-2006, 12:55 AM
Nancy: sounds like we're coming to the same conclusions from opposite directions.

Having the dashing, evil, maniacal, super-smart villain is far easier than writing.

I started writing a story I should go & dust off. The killer's a nebbish, not too smart, & basically a sociopath. However, he gets no thrill from killing, & feels no remorse. Someone gets in his way, he kills them much as I'd smack a silverfish with a newspaper... no, check that: I feel anger &/or disgust, my killer has about as much investment as an amoeba eating.

He's a nice enough guy, reliable but "gray," soft-voiced & friendly. But the bodies drive the cops nuts because there aren't any apparent patterns: no calendar, no escalation, no ritualism.

But notice that, with that last sentence alone, I've just cut myself off from at least 90% of what fills "serial killer" fiction & nonfiction.

Then again, I'm not very likely to chew someone else's recycled cud, & will leave that for those who enjoy "safe" territory.

10-03-2006, 08:02 PM
Serial Killers have been done to death, BUT if you have something brand new to add, then go for it. Two of my novels are in regards to serial killers. One needs work, the other is sick and twisted, but folks will love it! Add something fresh that will stand out. Agents and editors look for that!