Exactly. The psychology is a prop, not an exploration. I liked the movie "7" for the evil-within twist at the end, and the setting but from there my favourite serial-killer list falls steeply. There's also the definition. More than one killing, one following the other, is serial murder and many, many narratives use additional murders to maintain pace and increase tension, but we don't always think of them as serial murder stories. Murder becomes a device.
Technically, flashbacks are more of a device while serial killing, as we're defining them, a theme or subject. Any devices get used over and over. A writers' skill is revealed more by using devices without appearing obvious than by avoiding them, I think. I love narratives that play with familiar concepts of time.
I suppose something similar might be said about using themes too, but ideas tend to be explored in the arts and media in clumps, until exhausted and something new comes along. And I guess we all enjoy, to verying degrees, both the adventure of change and the comfort of familiarity.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, August 16, 2010 12:48 PM
Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Moratorium on serial murderer mysteries?
--- In email@example.com, "gsp.schoo@..." <gsp.schoo@...> wrote:
> When they became formulaic serial-killer yarns are more about spooks and monsters than noir and/or hardboil. Anyway, when anything becomes a formula it's time to move on. Even babies outgrow formulas.
I can see why the formula is attractive. You can have a bad guy who is as bad as you want him (or her) to be, practically without limit. And since these types are usually crazy as well (in some sense), they can also do absurd things that in a normal plot would stand out as clunkers. The hero is also automatically heroic, since he is fighint the most awfully evil enemy imaginable. My problem is that these books usually lack subtlety in the cast of characters. It's a ready made chase, maybe with shifting points of view (Connelly has done this with The Poet and the sequel much later) to create some suspense... but essentially, you are letting loose a guy to commit a bunch of atrocities and finally be stopped in some way. The psychology doesn't help move things along, in my opinion, and the flashbacks... please, I've read enough of those.
Moratorium on flashbacks, too? James Lee Burke used a huge number of them, as I recall.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 16 Aug 2010 EDT