Crime of passion


Paula’s Post #57  Happy 5writers New Year’s Eve!

In yesterday’s post, The Top 10 Most Overlooked Emotions, my 5writer colleague Silk closed out the year with a thought-provoking commentary enumerating ten under utilized emotions writers may wish to consider when seeking motivation for their fictional characters.

I’m sure Silk’s outstanding post caused many of you, like me, to pause and reflect on your current work in progress. Did you find yourself examining your literary characters’ motivations and how these motivations relate to your plot and character development?

What’s the verdict?

In retrospect, did your protagonist’s emotions seem real and genuine? Believable? Likely to enthrall your readers and keep them flipping the pages into the wee hours of the night?

I hope so.

But what about your antagonist?

I think we can all agree that here is where the real fun starts. If we 5writers learned anything this past year or so it is that we had a whole lot more fun with our antagonists than with our protagonists.

Many of you have been fortunate enough to attend a seminar, workshop or lecture given by literary agent and writing guru Donald Maass, the author of several bestselling books on the craft of writing including Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and The Fire in Fiction, all available from Amazon.

If you’ve ever attended one of Mr. Maass’ workshops, you’re familiar with his oft asked question:

What could cause your villain to care deeply enough to… ________”

Go ahead. You fill in the blank.

Right about now, I can see you thinking about your carefully constructed character sketches… your convoluted plot… wondering if you’ve imbued your protagonist and/or antagonist with sufficient emotional triggers to carry your story.

If you’re writing a murder mystery, or even a thriller, your plot may revolve around a: ‘crime of passion’: the name given to any crime committed under circumstances that involve the compelling emotion of the perpetrator.

One usually thinks of murder or at least assault causing grievous bodily harm.  The ‘Love Kills’ garden variety type of crime where a jealous cuckolded husband takes revenge on the adulterous couple.

But even here, isn’t the writers’ magnifying lens required to determine the actual emotion at play? Did jealously provoke the act? Humiliation? Rage? Overwhelming feelings of inadequacy? What is the triggering emotion that caused such a loss of control? Some component of anger for sure, but here, the subtle differences are the writers’ paintbrush.

Take a closer look at the definition: ‘the compelling emotion of the perpetrator”.

No where is the word jealousy used. You, the author, have free rein here. Your imagination and the endless reach of the internet your very best friends. Check it out yourself by googling “crimes of passion” or better yet “odd crimes of passion” or even “bizarre crimes of passion”.

Having fun yet?

Getting some good ideas?

I mean come on! Who can forget the headline grabbing accounts of Lorena Bobbitt’s bizarre attack on her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt in 1993?

If you clicked on the “bizarre attack” above, you’ll notice that I’ve linked back to the Wikipedia account of the crime. I can already see some of you frowning. She does her research on Wikipedia? Seriously? ‘Lightweight’ you mutter under your breath.

But stop and think about it for a moment – if you’re seeking inspiration, if you’re writing fiction, does your source research need to be completely accurate? Isn’t it more important that it just be believable, or better yet entertaining? Your not writing a scholarly treatise here, you’re looking for inspiration.

In the Bobbitt case, I have no idea whether the contributors to the above wiki are correct or not when they report:

“After the incident, John Wayne Bobbitt attempted to generate money from his notoriety in a number of ways. He formed a band, The Severed Parts, to pay his mounting medical and legal bills, though the band was unsuccessful and failed to generate enough money.[12] In 1994, John appeared in the  John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut, in another attempt to make money. In 1996, he appeared in another adult film, Frankenpenis (also known as John Wayne Bobbitt’s Frankenpenis).”


Seriously? Is that true? The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) says it is, but who cares?

Yes, who cares!

I could go on forever with examples mined from the internet, but the point I’m trying to make is that perhaps for many of us, our background and training has fettered the way in which we approach our fiction. Are we too logical? Too dispassionate in our research?

Have you fallen into this trap?

If we writers spend too much time researching dates and places and facts and figures, if we get bogged down in a futile attempt to probe too deeply into the soundness of scientific theory, are we not perhaps missing out on the opportunity to entertain our readers?

If you’re a fan of Tom Clancy’s techno-thrillers, I can already hear you grumbling. But just for fun, give it a try for yourself.

My challenge, for this last post of 2013 is to ask each of you to do a little internet surfing of your own. Research the phrase ‘Crime of Passion’ or some variant thereof. Mine one or two little gems from the internet and concoct your own ‘pitch’ for a story.

A one line story idea that sparks your imagination. I cannot tell a lie, I got the ‘one sentence’ idea from a fabulous site inspired by the concept of brevity. The idea that most of the best stories that we tell from our lives have one really, really good part that make the rest of the boring story worth it.

So, have some fun. Think up a crazy crime of passion. Tell us the story in just one sentence. Maybe you’ll find your inspiration on the internet, maybe in one of Silk’s 10 most overlooked emotions.  Don’t be shy. Post it below! A real writer could never resist this challenge.

Happy 5writers New Year!

5 thoughts on “Crime of passion

  1. OMG forgot about the bizarrely unfortunate Bobbitts. The truth-believability proposition in fiction can be tricky. You’re right, it doesn’t have to be true to be believable, but the Bobbitts’ story demonstrates that it also doesn’t have to be entirely believable to be true.

  2. There are those times when “truth is stranger than fiction,” and if we wrote the truth into our fiction, readers wouldn’t buy into it! I’m still working on my characters’ motivations, and your post is a good reminder to make sure the antagonist has a good reason for doing what s/he did. Someday, I’ll figure it out!

  3. Yes, but at the same time, important to not just apply our ‘rational-meter’ to our antagonist. Irrational behaviour can be compelling, too! happy New Year and again, thanks for following!

  4. OMG, what have you done to me, Paula: I got so engrossed in the website that I forgot all about my own writing for a bit. Great suggestions.

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