“It seems every serial killer has at least three biographers.” Frank Borsch
Last week I joined an online writer’s forum, figuring I should rub shoulders with other literary folk. You have to make the effort, otherwise you end up talking to your dog. “I’ve spent too many late-night hours on the rug chatting with my dog,” Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once admitted. “He eventually moves away, looking thoroughly embarrassed.”
I’ve embarrassed a few dogs myself — not to mention cats and hamsters — so I’ve decided to stick to embarrassing people. Not that I take any particular delight in doing this, but it seems hard to avoid when you follow writing forums these days.
“I’m still trying to turn my amazing dream into a novel. Will publishers accept point form?”
My favourite comment came the other night: “I WILL HAVE A BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2018. I don’t know what the story is going to be, but I will do it; that’s a promise.”
For all I know, she’s writing query letters now, getting the silly stuff out of the way first. It’s like the guy who posted: “I’m still trying to turn my amazing dream into a novel. Will publishers accept point form?”
I’m quite concerned with the impatience out there today. Whatever happened to “You learn to write by writing”? Now it’s “You learn to write by publishing.” And why not when one keystroke makes you a novelist, two gets you featured on Amazon, and three gets you someone called “Ginzy” who guarantees 50,000 followers the next day?
The ease of publishing has brought out an astounding number of novelists, political analysts, self-help gurus, and even a few dogs masquerading as humans. When you see a title like: “How Fluffy Can Increase Your Stock Portfolio,” you know it’s a dog — or a cat with identity issues.
According to Pew Research, there are currently over 300 million digital readers, representing a year-over-year increase of nearly 50 percent. One journalist called it “a new growth point in national cultural consumption,” while another called it “utterly disgraceful.”
“The overwhelming majority of these books,” he wrote, “are absolute trash. The few exceptions have titles like ‘Girl Work Your Face,’ and ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.’”
Being on Amazon isn’t so much a literary goal as a personal one, much the way serial killers want attention more than bloodlust.
These titles have been remarkably successful, leading other would-be writers to goose their own titles from “Scary Days Working At The Morgue” to the much catchier “The Dead Ain’t Dead If You Treat’m Right.”
Every writer wants their day in the literary sun. Some look for notoriety, some political credence, but most just want to be seen. Being on Amazon isn’t so much a literary goal as a personal one, much the way serial killers want attention more than bloodlust.
Jeffery Dahmer, for instance, never set out to be a mass murderer. He was the class clown at school, and loved his dog “Frisky.” Normally, that makes you pretty loveable, unless you don’t get any love at home, then you start drawing chalk lines of kids on the school floors. It was called “Doing a Dahmer.”
John Wayne Gacy wept uncontrollably at the death of his two dogs, yet showed no emotion for any of his victims. His final words were “kiss my ass,” which may have been directed at the court system, or possibly anyone who didn’t love dogs.
Of course, we have a hard time understanding how polite conversation with a dog can turn to murder, but murder, for Dahmer, Gacy and Berkowitz, was never the objective.
David Berkowitz, the “.44 Caliber Killer” murdered six women and wounded seven more, saying he was controlled by a spirit living inside his neighbour’s dog. By strange coincidence, he used a Bulldog revolver on his victims.
Of course, we have a hard time understanding how polite conversation with a dog can turn to murder, but murder, for Dahmer, Gacy and Berkowitz, was never the objective. They wanted affirmation, much the way we want affirmation with our books. Given this similarity, perhaps we have more in common with serial killers. Maybe we should be writing for them.
It’s not a big audience. Even serial killers with biographers don’t make big money. What you really want are readers who identify with you. That’s why Hemingway wrote for people who liked bullfighting. Bloodlust wasn’t the objective as much as seeing a bull go mano-a-mano with a guy in tights.
It’s also possible self-published authors and serial killers display a similar form of exhibitionism. Exhibitionism involves extravagant behaviour intended to attract attention. Certainly murdering people on mass would qualify, but so would writing a novel called “The Dead Ain’t Dead If You Treat’m Right.”
Saying, “I’d rather not waste my time on agents and publishing houses,” is eerily similar to serial killers saying, “I’d rather not waste time making friends.”
Exhibitionism could explain a lot. Being an author supersedes actually writing a book, and saying, “I’d rather not waste my time on agents and publishing houses,” is eerily similar to serial killers saying, “I’d rather not waste time making friends.”
Both appear to resort to simple solutions rather complicated ones. Dahmer, Gacy and Berkowitz weren’t what you’d call deep thinkers. They were opportunists. They saw victims, they killed them. That might also describe self publishing—and certainly E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey.” More than a few people wished for a quick death after reading her book.
Like most exhibitionists, content is secondary to the actions themselves, just as being a known serial killer often supersedes actually killing someone.
So why not turn these serial killers into readers? It’s time to reach out, let those mass murderers know you’ve got their backs. Write a visitation romance, a homily to recidivism, or an escape thriller with dogs sawing through bars.
Stick to something action-packed, possibly with lots of foreign locations. Serial killers don’t get out much.
Stay away from stories like “Old Yeller,” though. Serial killers are very emotional, especially where dogs are involved. Stick to something action-packed, possibly with lots of foreign locations. Serial killers don’t get out much, so it’s really up to you to show them a good time.
Robert Cormack is a novelist, humorist and children’s book author. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.