I have been working on developing a new serial killer for my WIP Hero’s Story. He was coming along nicely but not great. I felt like I was missing something really creepy about him. Each time he killed a group of boys they were dressed up according to treasured childhood movies. While it made the clues interesting and the interaction of the cops interesting, it didn’t really creep me out. It had no shudder factor. It more just made me want to watch those movies again. And to be honest, I really don’t want those movies to be creepy, so I was subconsciously fighting against using them.
One day as I ran my errands, I stopped at a light. On my left, trees dotted the medium staked with rubber hoses so that the strong Texas wind wouldn’t blow them over. Stuck in the wrapped around straps of the stake was a little abused doll. It was missing limbs and its hair had been chopped off. Something about it really made me shiver. I just sat and stared at it. It was like a little piece of abuse hidden away where only someone with the right twisted mind would see it. Or, where the creator and dreamer of the men and women who hunt the twisted mind that stuck the doll in there in the first place would see it – me.
Around that time someone posted a picture on Facebook of their childhood dolls, complete with chewed off fingers. While they enjoyed the nostalgia, I enjoyed being totally creeped out: twist-in-the-gut-with-a-desire-to-run-or-throw-up.
These two things reminded me that for a serial killer to be good in an urban fantasy novel, he needed a creep factor. In my last WIP I used insane asylums. This time I was using treasured childhood movies. Not creepy. So, I changed it. I changed it from movies with fun clues, to dolls with a theme of tortured abandonment. Overnight my story changed. I began to see things which needed to be connected. I found stronger themes that tied into the idea of Lost Children. Characters were drawn together and my serial killer gained a creep factor. Yea for scary toys!
By the way, if you find dolls a little frightening….never walk down the pink aisle at Target. One step down its bright path leads you to a world of talking, blinking, giggling horror.