Thursday, July 14, 2011

What I Learned from the Unabomber by j.a. kazimer

Believe it or not, the Unabomber taught me a lot, as did Ted Bundy, the Boston Strangler, and homegrown Colorado serial murder Scott Kimball.

About evil, sure.

But something else, too.

They taught me about being a better writer.

And not in the way one might think.

While studying for my master’s degree in forensic psychology, I discovered behavioral evidence analysis, better known as Criminal Profiling, which changed my life and my writing forever. If you’ve watched the show Criminal Minds you probably have an idea about how a criminal profile is used to catch bad guys.

But have you considered how that same process can be used in your writing?

Trust me, it can help. Immensely. Especially if you struggle with dialogue, or more importantly, the spaces between what your characters say and what they really mean. 

The beauty of well written dialogue is what is not ‘said’.  Think about it.

“Go ahead, make my day.”

Take the above line, spoken through the gravelly voice of Clint Eastwood, his eyes squinty and cold.  

Menacing, right?  

Now consider the same line, said in the baby voice of Jennifer Tilly, her lips pouty and red.

Not the same, huh?

So it’s not always the words between the quotes that create the tension in a scene. And this is where profiling can help. Criminal profiling infers offender traits based upon actions, and that should be the goal of every writer. Readers want to interact with our story, to infer character traits and motivations, to play Sherlock Holmes to our Watson, even in a category romance.

On July 19th, I’ll be hosting a workshop for the PPW to give writers a look at criminal profiling tools and how they can be used to make the reader’s day.  I hope to see you there.

About the Writer: Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, j.a. escaped at a young age, and now lives and writes in Denver, Colorado. Books include The Junkie Tales (Obscure Publishing, 2010), Stolen Kidneys, Dead Hookers & Other Nursery Crimes (Obscure Publishing, 2010), and The Body Dwellers (Solstice Publishing, 2011).

Forthcoming books include, CURSES! A F**ked Up Fairytale (Kensington, March 2012) and Holy Socks and Dirtier Demons (Champagne Books, Spring 2012).

j.a. kazimer holds a master's degree in forensic psychology, and has worked as a PI, bartender, and most recently at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.