No, this isn’t about finding personal motivation to write or achieve, it’s about finding motives for some of my characters actions, and in particular, the characters that kill.
There is lots of ways killer motivation can be categorised. The easiest of these in the two groups of passion and greed. People either kill because of intense emotional response to something, or motivated by the potential of gain – financial, power, etc. It’s a simplistic way to look at motive, and doesn’t allow for the full range of reasons to kill.
There are several groups of motives for murder. These are the ones I consider when I’m looking for the why to go with the who.
To Hide Something
Have a secret you don’t want the world to know about? How far would you go to prevent it coming to light? Perhaps you forgot to divorce your first spouse before marrying the second. You see an opportunity to solve the problem…and you get to keep your secret.
An argument escalates out of control and one person’s anger becomes too much to contain and they snap. Always a spontaneous act.
Yep, people kill for the thrill of it. They want excitement or a challenge, and this is why they kill.
It could be someone is spurned by the person they love, or someone who has ridiculed or humiliated them.
Financial gain is the usual type in this category, e.g. the heir kills the father to gain the father’s fortune. The gain could also be for position, or a grab for power.
There are a vast range of psychological conditions which may cause someone to kill. Psychotic disorders of various kinds fall into this category (delusions, psychopaths, etc), but also phobias and other disorders.
Cult or Philosophy
Witness the atrocities committed in the name of religion. I need say no more.
A man steals into your home, intent on kidnapping one of your children. How far would you do to stop them?
These would be considered by the murderer as a mercy killing, perhaps an old friend who is suffering great pain from disease is given an overdose of medication to ‘put them out of their misery’. These killers see themselves as doing a good thing, and no, I’m not going to get into a debate on this.
There are motives that no one can foresee or categorise – the weird and bizarre motives that are specific to a single person.
How do I choose a motive? Quite often I know the crime well before I know the motive. It’s almost a case of trying on a few to see which motive fits best.
Do you know of any others, or some of the more unusual? I’d love to hear about them!
Blog post 'Killer Motives' by Alison Clifford
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