What Makes a Terrifying Villain?

Why serial killers? 

I’ve been asked this question many times about my thrillers.  Why write about serial killers?  The very words “serial killer” scares me.  It conjures up images of a madman wielding an ax coming after me in the dead of night and help is nowhere to be found.  Or, running out of gas on a deserted country road and the nearest town is twenty miles away and there’s no signal for my cell phone… 

Seriously, images like this run through my mind as I begin to create a serial killer for any of my stories.  I have to dig deep into my own psyche to find what scares me most and incorporate that image and feeling onto the page of a thriller novel.

For Dead Game, I wanted to create a villain or serial killer that hunts for his unsuspecting victims because of the type of technology that they used and the video games they played.  I found that to be frightening.  We all feel safe when we’re on the computer or using our cell phone. 

I wanted to leave that lingering question for readers… What if someone was watching or stalking me because of the technology I’m using?

What makes for a terrifying villain in a thriller?  For me, it’s the unknown.  Fear is in the darkness, the loneliness, and the unfamiliar.  It’s also the thought that there are people lurking out there searching for victims right now. 

Here’s a brief excerpt of Samuel’s psychopathic mind from Dead Game:

The mornings were easier to fight the uncontrollable urge to run and hide, not being seen by the enemy that was always lurking just out of view. 

The evenings were all together different and were the time that posed the impulse to torture and kill.  The menacing shadow that  relentlessly followed him during the day was finally resting and content with his dark thoughts. 

It was still only in the midmorning hours and the urges that possessed Samuel were real and immediate.  He hated the feeling of not being in control, or frightened about the prospect of being a potential victim himself. 

He tried to push the memories of his childhood from his unbalanced mind.  He was extremely poor growing up, but that wasn’t by his choice.  His father drank and would wallow in his self-pity and then pump up his own ego by beating only Samuel, never his brothers or younger sister.  He was the family chosen victim and there was nothing he could do about it.  He suffered unspeakable savage beatings, broken bones, and numerous head injuries.  He finally gathered enough strength and ran away from home and joined the Army, he lied about his age and soon found himself deep in the jungles of the Vietnam War.

It was the only time in Samuel’s life that he felt closeness to anyone.  He soon found that the group of men he spent every hour with had the same urges to kill that he did.  They developed a strong bond that connected them even today.  That bond could never be broken.


About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
This entry was posted in Dead Game, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What Makes a Terrifying Villain?

  1. Hi 🙂
    Scary bad guys always makes me think of the headless horseman from that Johnny Depp movie. Makes me shiver!

    Just some thoughts about your excerpt…
    Is there a specific reason why certain times of day are worse…and is it important to the story?
    Might be interesting to pursue.
    Also, would he be aware his mind was unbalanced? Or has that state (those periods when he’s out of control) become what he craves because the feeling evoked when he kills releases something that otherwise eats him inside….?

    Happy thoughts 🙂


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