A to Z Challenge – S


My theme for the A to Z challenge is Villain Archetypes.

Yes, 26 descriptions of some of your favorite villains of literature, TV, and movies.

April 22 – S is for Serial Killer

This archetype…is kind of a slam dunk. Serial killers are one of the most oft-used arch-villains, and easily one of the most compelling. Leaving a trail of bodies for a hard-boiled (or well-endowed) detective or amateur sleuth to follow makes for some enrapturing entertainment. They’ve played the main bad guy (and sometimes the good guy) in countless TV shows, movies, comic books and prose work. The Serial Killers penchant for trying to outsmart the protagonists, or the forces trying to catch them, makes plot twists, loops, and dives very accessible to the creator. A dark imagination can run wild, and create all manner of creepy and grotesque scenarios that can’t help  but pull the curious audience in.

A very popular movement in the last few years is to feature a serial killer a anti-hero from the get-go (i.e. Dexter, to a lesser extent Frailty and Silence of the Lambs). As arch-villains they are almost never redeemable, corrupt to the core and fully devoid of any remorse. When not the main villain, however, these murderers can often have their homicidal intents turned on more deserving prey, in a killer-killing-killers scenario, which is also the basis for any anti-hero fiction with a Serial Killer as a protagonist. They differ from the Psychopath, although they could be accurately classified as one, in that they specifically have to kill people to satisfy their compulsion. It does tend to pigeon-hole this archetype into the cops and robbers (or killers) genre, but their employment is so wide-spread that they deserve their own arhcetype.

The examples of Serial Killers are as varied of the methods they use. They’re usually intelligent, cold, calculating, but occasionally can be prone to violent outbursts and fits of rage. The application of their intelligence can vary as well, some being master manipulators, others devious strategists, and some rare examples a twisted kind of savant. They can be successful, middle class, or completely destitute. They have varied ethnic backgrounds, can be either sex, any sexual orientation (often this is confused and complicated, which can lead to the killing compulsion), and as previously mentioned they employ a variety of methods in their “work”. The chilling real-life examples often influence these memorable antagonists, and help shape some of the creepiest villains in all of fiction.

Some Famous Serial Killers:

  • Paul Spector (The Fall)
  • Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs)
  • John Doe (Seven)
  • Macbeth (Think about it…you know it’s true)
  • Patrick Bateman (American Psycho)
  • Anton Chigurh (No Country for Old Men)

11 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge – S

  1. Great post. Serial killers are interesting villains in any story, and the chase to catch them (and also to PROVE that they did it) is equally enthralling. While I enjoy reading the genre, I can’t say that I’ve excelled in writing the mystery novel with the serial killer. I think it’s the level of the dark – and the darkness of the serial killer – that I have difficulty maintaining. It would be interesting to hear from the writers of successful books/movies/shows, how they managed it without being depressed all the time. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That would be cool to see how they put themselves in that headspace. Maybe they have interviews on the Internets. I’ve never attempted serial killer specifically but it can get a little dark when writing dark characters. It’s probably important to keep positive people around, have a hobby or a dog, something like that to remind that it’s fiction and real life isn’t all that bad.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post. This makes me wonder–if I may pick your brain–in your ‘experience’ reading up on serial killer characters, what do you think is the most common root cause to make someone become a serial killer? Just a curiosity. It’s chilling to think how many published works are based off of a serail killer’s true story. One of the most intriguing psychological genres. I enjoyed your write up! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmmmm…there’s a lot of variables through the fiction I’ve read at least that contribute to the serial killer mindset. Some say family environment, other say weird genetic pre-disposition, and others fall somewhere in between. Yeah folks love the serial killers…dunno what that says about society.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Serial Killers, the bread and butter for my favorite television shows. I am a Criminal Minds, Law and Order, Dexter, CSI, junkie. Seriously, so great. Not for movies for me generally as they tend to go more creepy than I can handle.

    Liked by 1 person

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