Purged is the fourth novel in the Circle City Mystery Series and the darkest of the group. As in book two, Inconspicuous, I feature a serial killer as my antagonist. Why, you may ask, is a sweet grandmother of four writing about such horrendous crimes? Unfortunately, they happen in real life much too often, and because not only do those who commit these crimes fascinate me, they fascinate many people.
I grew up in the 1960’s with college protests against the Viet Nam War, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. With more widespread news coverage in the 1960’s and 1970’s came the stories of the murders by the Manson followers; Charles Whitman’s psychotic break which led him to a tower at Texas University where he shot forty-three people; and Richard Speck’s notorious murders of the nursing students in Chicago. All of these crimes and more repulsed me, but also sparked my interest in psychology of humans.
Often, the study of psychopaths, sociopaths, and those who have psychotic breaks leads us down a dark path. This is especially true when an author tries to observe the world from the killer’s point of view. In both of my serial killer novels, I used the antagonists’ points of view as well as those of the victims and the detectives. These killers each had different influences and mindsets and most people would view them as abnormal or “crazy.” However, that’s not always the case.
My antagonists have differing psychotic breaks, so yes, they are mentally ill. However, the sociopath and psychopath look at their killing as normal and can live amongst us without detection for long periods of time without our suspecting a thing.
The most normal traits are found in the psychopath. They tend to be very organized so they not only can hold down a job; they can have good relationships with family and friends, and are great neighbors. The psychopath often marries and has a family, all of whom are very unaware that this person feels absolutely nothing real for them. To the psychopath and the sociopath, feelings of empathy, sympathy, concern and guilt do not exist. However, they understand the “dictionary meaning” and like any good actor, can fake them.
Of course, not all psychopaths or sociopaths become killers. Some become high-level executives, politicians, and con artists, especially those with narcissistic personalities. Again, not all who seek these professions (except maybe the con artist) have psychopathic personalities.
Recluses who don’t fit well into society are often harmless and avoid other humans, but they would fit the sociopathic personality.
Keeping some of these personality traits in mind, it’s important for writers to evaluate their characters before they label them. We all strive to be as accurate as possible since our readers are so knowledgeable. If your character is organized, friendly, maintains relationships, and works well with others in his community, but has this one little flaw. For the pleasure of it, he takes women out to the middle of a lake, murders them and then dumps them there. He is probably a psychopath. If your character can’t hold down a job, stay married, and appears to be antisocial, he/she is definitely a sociopath.
Of course, you will have many psychotic disorders to choose from in order to have your character see things and do things he/she doesn’t feel they can control. In Inconspicuous, my character was physically and mentally abused as a child and has severe abandonment issues. He may even be thought of as paranoid-schizophrenic. A grandmother who has pounded her religious beliefs tainted by her hatred for others into his head since infancy has mentally abused the character in Purged. Now he believes he is an avenging angel who God has sent to purge the world of sin.
You can find a lot of information on the internet regarding serial killers, and mental disorders which might lead one to murder. The FBI has information and statistics on their website: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder. You may want to search the www.webmd.com for articles on serial killers and mental disorders. Search for the article “Portrait of a Psychopath” on WebMD. It is fascinating.
If you ever want to ask me questions about my research or comment on this article, please go to the Contact ME page on my website www.memay-mysteries.com and I’ll be happy to give you an answer or recommend a website.
Michele (M.E.) May attended Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana, studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her interest in the psychology of humans sparked the curiosity to ask why they commit such heinous acts upon one another. Other interests in such areas as criminology and forensics have moved her to put her vast imagination to work writing crime fiction that is as accurate as possible. In doing so, she depicts societal struggles that pit those who understand humanity with those who are lost in a strange and dangerous world of their own making.
In creating the Circle City Mystery Series, she brings to life fictional characters who work diligently to bring justice to victims of crime in the city of Indianapolis. Michele also hopes her readers will witness through her eyes, the wonderful city she calls her hometown. Learn more about Michele at www.memay-mysteries.com.