The Serial Killer Problem

This post is going to be short because at this point, it’s about problems I’m having with the paper…

Since 8th grade, I’ve been obsessed with serial killers. I started watching Criminal Minds and became immediately enthralled by the work of the FBI agents. I wanted to analyze the minds of lethal killers and not only catch them, but decipher why they operated the way they did–just like the FBI agents in the show. This repurposing project has finally given me the opportunity to explore the nature of serial killers in depth.

Unfortunately, I started writing the draft today and ran into a problem. Because I want to use real events, narrating the paper as a serial killer makes it waaaayyy too disturbing. No one wants to read (and I don’t want to write) about how a serial killer murdered his/her victim. Right now, I’m trying to brainstorm different ways to write about the same topic. I’ve considered writing from an agent’s perspective about either how the killer was caught or why the criminal felt the need to kill. I also think it would be really interesting to write a more academic “nature vs. nurture” type of paper about why serial killers kill. Although I think I may get more out of writing the latter, I’m worried it requires too much research to write about in the allotted time. Any advice??



5 thoughts to “The Serial Killer Problem”

  1. Hi Emily,
    I am in the other half of your cohort and was told to pick a post to comment on outside of the people in my own class.

    I was drawn in by your title/topic as I have always found serial killers and shows about crime solving really interesting. I understand your dilemma about not wanting to write a gruesome gory murder plan in the first person. The nature vs nurture idea could be extremely interesting and I bet it wouldn’t be hard to find some good sources to back up the argument.

    Your paper could also be almost like an episode of Law and Order written out as a script.

    Hope this helps!

  2. Hi Emily,
    I am also in the other half of the cohort, and was drawn to your post by the title. I think the topic of serial killers is very interesting. The “nature vs nurture” debate is a very solid angle to go with, and I think you could find other examples of that sort of argument in research. What do you really want out of it though? What are the real events that you want to explore? You could create a character and add in their perspective to the existing story. This would allow you to think about and try to understand the killer’s motives, and still be close. It could be the killer’s cell mate or jailer, or even a family member (either of the killer or the deceased). But I understand the hesitation to get too close to gory murder, especially when we are in the realm of reality and historical fact.

    Personally, I really like the fiction route. Maybe you could study serial killers, and somehow combine a few of them into one. From there you could create this character with their own motives and problems. You could highlight the roots of the murderer and relate them to the corresponding killer. Plus, set in a fictional world, it takes the edge off of the content, making it easier to write about.

    Hopefully I was of some help, if not, I’m sorry! Good luck with your project!

  3. Hi Emily,

    As I’ve said in class, I think your topic is certainly fascinating. However, I do understand your issue of not wanting to include some of the more gruesome details of these murders. I think both ideas you suggested could work and it’s about what you intend to get out of this project. In class you mentioned that you like academic writing more than creative writing. If you were to write from an agent’s perspective, you could hone your creative writing skills a bit more and challenge yourself in this aspect. If you were to do an academic paper on nature vs. nurture, this would be more in line with your current skill set.

    I kind of want to push you to try something more creative. Perhaps you can work in the nature vs. nurture argument into the agent’s perspective piece. This could be a theory they are looking at in a case they are chasing. It think you’re moving in the right direction though. The research shouldn’t be too much work in either case, and either way it sounds like an exciting topic you are interested in and would probably enjoy learning about. Hope this helps!


  4. Emily –

    I’ll join in on the fun here. I remember when you were torn between two topics and I think I said you should choose this one because its something you’ve always been really interested in and now you finally have the chance to explore it. With that in mind – I would say write about whatever you’re most interested in and what you would be the most excited about. It sounds like this might be more the path of writing specifically about serial killers and an academic paper about nature vs. nurture might get a little away from that.

    As for your problem – I can obviously see how writing a first person narrative from the mind of a serial killer would get way too weird and disturbing. I might have thrown this out there before, but an interesting solution could to be a “case study” sort of thing about a single serial killer you’re especially interested in. You could go through their early childhood, to their evolution as a killer, to how they eventually got caught. You don’t have to get too specific into the gory details, just kind of say what happened. This might be a good combination of creative/academic while still keeping the initial topic you wanted to write about.

    You of course don’t have to do anything close to that, but just make sure your topic is something you are still really interested in, as it’ll probably end up making the final product better.

    Hope this helps and make sure to send me a copy!

  5. Hi Emily – very interesting post. While I do agree that writing an academic nature vs. nurture argument does sound interesting, I think you could still write a first-person narrative from a serial killer’s perspective without it sounding too disturbing. Instead of describing the actual murders, you could instead write from a first-person perspective about a serial killer’s experiences between the murders. Or, you could write a first-person account of their testimony in court, and really speculate and explore what they might have been thinking. I think the narrative format creates more creative opportunities than the academic essay, and I think that there are ways of approaching the narrative without it being too gruesome or disturbing.

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