Apparently, I did this topic long ago. Found out when I vaguely remembered using the picture above and went hunting. I won’t read it again because it was more on the morality of such a protagonist instead of how to do them.
You would think it’s easy to write a serial killer as a protagonist, but it might have more wrinkles than you realize. Mostly because you need your readers to cheer for the serial killer, so he needs some redeeming qualities. This could be that they only kill bad guys like Punisher, Dexter, and Venom. Maybe they have a loved one and the killing you see in the story is entirely to save that loved one like in Deadpool. These are rationales that we, as non-serial killers (I hope), can understand and connect with. We could see ourselves being driven to a point where we try to kill evil or destroy to saved a loved one. This isn’t mindless slaughter, but slaughter with a purpose and that cushions the blow. The fact that it’s still murder comes into our minds later.
Another factor in the serial killer protagonist is setting. Now, you can do this in any setting if you work through the perception of the killer. Maybe this is an evil character and we’re in their head in order to see how they function. I’m talking first person POV here, which is actually taking me away from the original point of this paragraph. Anyway, you can go the route where this isn’t a redeemable character and the reader becomes fascinated with the idea of the serial killer’s downfall. Will this murderer get caught, killed, or escape the police? It’s tension from the other side of the horror movie if you think about it.
Back to setting . . . shiny . . . I should probably admit that I writing the March posts while suffering from a really bad cold and the medicine that goes along with it. Any-hoo-ba-doo, I’m ready to get to how Lloyd Tenay from Crossing Bedlam works as a protagonist even though he’s a serial killer. I’m going to do this as a list:
- Personality– Lloyd is humorous, wacky, and big in terms of personality. He’s the equivalent of an accident on the side of the road that you have to pay attention to as you go by. Most of the comments I got on teasers and information posts revolved around Lloyd being interesting. This makes him a curiosity because an antagonist serial killer is typically cold, dark, and evil incarnate. They are designed for you to hate while Lloyd is designed to draw people to him.
- Setting– This is probably more important than the former. If Lloyd existed in a normal world then he’d be a bad guy and readers would see him that way. The killing would be illegal and sick even with the pop-culture hinting persona. Yet, when you put him in a world where chaos reigns and survival is the only important thing, the perception of him changes. He’s no longer the ruthless killer on the streets of NYC, but the deadly survivor in the wilds of the Shattered States. Murder in this world, while not legal, isn’t uncommon and most of those who Llody goes after started the fights. Still, the brutality of him fits in this world and makes him a dark protagonist.
Yeah, that was a short list, but those are the two things I found that make a serial killer a protagonist. A small third might be giving them a friend that can help the readers see the good in them. Cassidy doesn’t really fit this bill because she’s a survivor and can be just as ruthless as Lloyd. Still, her existence and relation to Lloyd does act as a bridge for the audience. If one person can call this madman a friend then there has to be something good about him and we’ll look for it. Just as he justifies his killing, we find a way to justify rooting for him.