Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…

John Katzenbach: Profile of a killer

John-5

John Katzenbach

This interview in The Writer is so fabulous I had to share.
John Katzenbach: Profile of a killer | Previously Published: January 1, 2014
Excerpt Below (to read the full interview click here for The Writer)
“What two qualities must a killer have?
OK, I’m presuming you mean a literary killer. I would hate to shoot my mouth off, only to find an angry mob of paroled murderers and un-caught serial killers outside my door some morning, up in arms complaining that they don’t have the necessary qualities according to me. But in a book, the bad guy – who is in many regards the engine that drives the plot – should be psychologically accessible. In other words, even in his or her evil behavior, we need to recognize emotions and behaviors that make sense. The other important element is something more elusive: They have to be interesting. They can be ordinary, but even that ordinariness has to be intriguing. They can be eccentric, but that eccentricity needs to be compelling. Easy to say, hard to accomplish. Re-read The Silence of the Lambs and watch No Country for Old Men again.

If someone wants to be a crime, thriller or suspense writer, what caution and encouragement can you offer? 

A small bit of advice to people who want to write suspense: It’s not about writing a police manual. Real suspense emerges when readers care about characters. The richest characters are those that are memorable not because they have artificial details imposed on them in an effort to make them “unique.” (The one-eyed, transgendered, leg amputee, former Delta Force operative, who can quote French Symbolist poetry and Bruce Springsteen lyrics while raising his murdered sister’s Goth teenagers.) Characters stay with readers because they can feel an emotional link. This isn’t necessarily familiarity as much as it is a commonality of understanding – which pricks curiosity and engagement. So, advice: Spendless time interviewing police detectives and more time examining how people react to stress. Once you – Mr. or Ms. Prospective Thriller Writer – grasp that, well, you’re good to go.

 

To read the full interview click here for The Writer

If you are writing any kind of suspense this article is a must read. Mindy

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