Writer or Psychopath? Top Reasons Authors are Commonly Mistaken for Serial Killers

Writers are different, though maybe you’ve heard you are special…as in “special.” We writers definitely fell off the end of the Bell Curve and probably suffered some head trauma on impact. Which OF COURSE unlocked our inner genius *flips hair*. Oddly, though “normal people” (code for “boring”) often just don’t get us. Heck, often we don’t get us.

Anyway, I love being a writer. It’s a world like no other and it’s interesting how non-writers are simultaneously fascinated and terrified of us. While on the surface, people seem to think that what we do is easy, deep down? There is a part that knows they’re wrong. That being a writer, a good writer, is a very dark place most fear to tread.

In fact, I think somewhere at the BAU, there’s a caveat somewhere. If you think you profiled a serial killer, double check to make sure you didn’t just find an author.

Hint: Check for empty Starbuck’s cups.

A regular person may believe she’s come face to face with a maniac, but blunt truth is most of us gal writers are nerds who get ragged on for not wearing makeup more often. So if you see THIS (image below) probably NOT a psycho, just some poor author who tried an Instagram makeup tutorial…and it all went horribly wrong.

Writers march to the beat of a different kazoo.

Seriously. I once spent an entire afternoon googling Fort Worth hotels to find the right one with a balcony to toss someone off of. I was like the Goldilocks of murder.

Nope doesn’t face a street.

Not high enough to be fatal.

Don’t want them landing in a pool.

Apparently “normal” people do not do this, which is why being normal is totally boring and for the imagination impaired.

So before friends and family turn you into the FBI, here is a handy list of ways we writers are often mistaken for serial killers.

#1 Serial Killers Writers Need Alone Time

Generally, dealing with the public is only for a purpose (like making others think we are normal). To truly recharge and immerse in the art of what we do, we need to pull back and simply “get away.” Many writers can be found in basements, dark corners of libraries or lurking behind a desk surrounded with bear traps.

#2 Serial Killers Writers Often Hold Down a “Normal” Job

Many writers are also teachers, engineers (or likely married to an engineer—What is WITH that?), lawyers, doctors, or even librarians. We are friendly, polite and on-time and hold down gainful employment. This is what makes writers SO terrifying. You probably work with one.

You might even be married to one.

#3 Serial Killers Writers Can Look Just like YOU

When our book comes out, neighbors will say, “But she seemed so nice and normal. Really polite. Always thought something was off, but writing? Really? Who can ever know these things.”

#4 Serial Killers Writers Understand Law Enforcement

And probably dated it 😀 ….until they married an engineer.

When planning any murder or series of murders, we have to know our enemy. The cops. What are ways we can confuse them? Can we kill in multiple jurisdictions knowing the law agencies will never properly communicate and thus we can kill as many people as our plot requires? Can we run the police down a rabbit hole of distraction?

Can we evade them altogether? Get rid of ALL the evidence?

Image via Creepy Freaky House of horror (Facebook)

Image via Creepy Freaky House of horror (Facebook)

Which is why it is more critical than ever to support authors by BUYING books. Because the next best thing we are good at is planning a murder and not getting caught. So….

Just leaving that there.

#5 Serial Killers Writers Use Terms Like T.O.D.

Throw T.O.D. around a writers’ group and no problemo. But using this term at Thanksgiving with the family? Meh. We writers know the best time of year to kill and dump the body and which season a shallow grave is an acceptable option. No writer ever sees just a freezer. Or just a car trunk. 

Trust me, we are thinking how many people we can fit in that sucker and if we’ll have to saw apart the body first.

#6 Serial Killers Writers Hear Voices That Tell Them Who to Kill

And often talk to those voices. We might be driving to Costco when the Voice visits and tells us that we really shouldn’t kill that asshat who stood us up for prom. No, the slutty cheerleader he dumped us for is a way better choice. Then, so enraptured with talking to the Voice, we find we missed the last fifty exits and have to hope there’s a Costco in the neighboring state.

#7 Serial Killers Writers Choose Victims Carefully

Generally our victims will include anyone who picked on us in high school or ever broke up with us via Facebook or text message. Victims can also include anyone who ever worked in HR or customer service for AT&T.

#8 Serial Killers Writers Plan Their Kills Methodically

Sure you might get the fantasy or sci-fi author who just exterminates an entire race, but for the rest of us? No, we thought those kills out. We can’t just kill anyone lest we be left with a pacing and plot problem.


#9 Serial Killers Writers Have a Timeline for Their Kills

Sure the body count will rise, but during revisions? We just go back and spend quality time with the souvenirs we took off our victims. We might even take breaks between books because we can’t murder characters without a plan. Helloooo?

#10 Serial Killers Writers are Narcissists 

Seriously, we have to be. Who else can write hundreds of thousands of words just knowing the world will love every bit of what you put down? And PAY MONEY to consume it? Narcissists have a God-complex but unlike serial killers who pretend to be God?

We writers actually ARE.

#11 Serial Killers Writers Take People Apart to See How they Work

We crawl in your head, but don’t get too freaked out. It’s actually a compliment. We only crawl in interesting heads 😀 . Betcha feel WAY better now right?


Image via Doug Bowman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Okay so when ACTORS do this it is OKAY and “method acting” but a writer does this and it’s creepy?

We need to know how people think, what makes them tick, what sets them off. What are the right pain points and speaking of pain…

#12 Serial Killers Writers Are Also Sadists

Excellent fiction is the path of greatest resistance which means good writers are all about exacting pain. Doling it out bit by bit. Upping the heat and making that victim and all who love him squirm, then panic, then question the very meaning of their existence. We push our victims until just before that spark of hope in their eyes extinguishes completely.

And then we give them a bone and rescue them so there. We aren’t completely heartless. Sheesh, these people are imaginary. Calm down already.

#13 Serial Killers Writers Struggle with Addiction/Compulsion

Drugs and alcohol? Maybe. Books and cute bookmarks we never use because we lost them and so have to use the receipt from purchasing the freaking bookmark as a bookmark? Definitely. Female serial killers writers can often be spotted wandering around a craft store talking to the yarn. Males? Computer stores.

Angels and Devils

Yeah yeah writers could be mistaken for serial killers but in the end, everything we do is for the ultimate good. We actually have to write in mistakes lest our villain remain free and that is bad fiction.

Speaking of which, have you ever created a villain so good you had to go BACK and write in some oopses? Like, “Wow, this guy’s good. Nope, they’d never catch him. Ah $&#!.”

Okay so some of you by now are either laughing and nodding…or you’re dialing an FBI hotline ready to link them to my blog. Fine, when they haul me away in cuffs, trust me I am taking notes so when I write a similar scene? I know how cuffs FEEL.

So there 😛 .

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had strangers overhear you talking about how to kill someone and you had to stop and say, “It’s okay. I’m a writer.” Do you love Discovery ID just a bit more than is probably healthy? Do you freak out friends and family because autopsies make you giddy? Are you more than a little weirded out that we all seemed to marry engineers?


What do you WIN? For the month of September, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

There is STILL TIME to sign up for my Author Branding Class TONIGHT! I am going to teach you to work smarter, not harder so plenty of time left over to kill people…um, in YOUR BOOKS. Jeez!

And as always you get a FREE recording with purchase.

I highly recommend you sign up for one of our upcoming classes listed below. ****Note, those who subscribe by email, the visual gallery doesn’t show, so please click through and sign up! We look forward to seeing you and serving you in class! Helping you be the best you can so your work can stand apart 😀 .

[abcf-grid-gallery-custom-links id=”22231″]


2 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. LOL I LOVE this post. So true!!

  2. Serial killers… writers also make for interesting parents. What we say to our children in the course of dark humor, we must then remind them not to repeat it to their friends of normal parents.

    • Anna Erishkigal on September 28, 2017 at 10:57 am
    • Reply

    The best part about being a serial killer writer is dreaming up terrible and fun ways to kill people who crossed you. I just spent several days researching the best way to rip out a human heart while still beating … there’s a YouTube video for that! Like … scientific!

  3. A highly entertaining post. Thanks for the smile! 🙂

    • Annette K Tenny on September 28, 2017 at 11:41 am
    • Reply

    Not a crime / mystery writer so one might wonder why so much of this piece fits like a latex glove. Though I must say, bodies turn up at a rather disquieting frequency in my work…

  4. First thought: “What have I done for Kristen -lately?-“

  5. *all of the evil laughter* That was so awesome. You nailed it!

  6. A while back, my critique group met for dinner at a restaurant. And talked about killing people. Several strange looks from the other tables…

  7. You make it all sound so normal, Kristen. Okay, maybe it only sounds normal to writers. But I’ve got the t-shirt, so what does that say about me?

  8. Thank you for the wonderful laugh, but I’ll probably need a massage to fix the kinks in my neck from nodding. 🙂

    PS: My novel releases this Sunday. I did a lot of research for Star Touched that I’m sure has me on a few watch lists.

  9. While I’ve never been overheard plotting a character’s murder, I did get caught cleaning up a crime scene. I was filming a book trailer in my back yard and was in the process of cleaning up when I realized I was wiping (fake) blood off of a very large butcher knife in full view of my entire neighborhood! On the bright side, the neighbor kids usually skip my house when door-to-door fundraising. And, yes, I am married to an engineer. That IS weird!

  10. I worked with engineers for years, if that counts.
    We have weird research habits and bookmarks, don’t we?

  11. “Goldilocks of murder”? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Now I know what next week’s one-liner will be. I already have it enshrined on a Quozio…

    1. OOH! Can’t wait!

    • Val Clark on September 28, 2017 at 6:22 pm
    • Reply

    Hilarious and so true.

  12. I would like to go on record as saying that I was not dropped on my head as a child. I jumped…
    It’s nice to know it’s not just me who does things like whiling away the long hours at uncongenial jobs thinking about how to stage murders there! Bonus fact for you all: you cannot strangle someone with film (the sort that goes through a cinema projector). It’s too weak for the purpose.

  13. I’ve read this before, and it’s still funny.

    I don’t write books where too many people get killed, but I’m sure other of my searches would have me flagged. 😉

  14. Kristen, this is the first time I’ve ever seen your blog and it made me laugh out loud and read portiond to my (engineer, of course) husband.
    And I had a lovely conversation with the Voice on my way home from Costco just today!

  15. I absolutely adored this post. It’s all so clear now — the fascination with the grotesque details, the compulsion to talk to oneself, the constant wondering of “what if…” I feel like Gene Wilder about to blare out, “My name is…” or was it “Give my creature life!” Whichever. Writers must have a wide variety of latent tendencies in their genes. Seriously, though, terrific post. Was a much-needed boost of sympathetic humor at the end of a rough day. Thank you for the ray of sunshine (or was that a flashlight at the top of the basement stairs…?)

    • Tom Gould on September 29, 2017 at 3:35 am
    • Reply

    Undoubtedly agree. Especially on the self obsession part. Please check out my book ‘The Hartnetts’ at Amazon.com

  16. You’re right! Needed the laughs this provided. And I did not marry an engineer, I married an actor . . . with the brain of an engineer. Aren’t we a twisty combo 😉

  17. Love this, Kristen. I actually did laugh out loud. Last night I gave a gory short story of mine that had recently been published to my neighbours – I have no idea what they’ll think of me now!

  18. Thanks for the laughs. I’m at a readers event right now and am looking around at my fellow authors a bit differently.

    • Jan Sikes on October 1, 2017 at 11:03 am
    • Reply

    What a scary but oh, so true, comparison!

  19. Hilarious article. Also very true. As a fiction writer who has killed a few characters, I can truly relate.

    In the interest of covering my tracks, I’ll use one of those secured search engines for my research. Think duckduckgo or startpage, anything *but* Google. Don’t want the wrong people to see my search activity. Don’t need inquiries like “how long does it take a body to decompose in the desert” showing up in my search history, to be seen by various law-enforecement or governmental types.

    • Erin Moira O'Hara on October 2, 2017 at 8:21 pm
    • Reply

    I loved this blog, Kristen. I’ve been in a cafe with a couple of (writing) friends and we were debating the best way to kill of (a character). Suddenly, we noticed the table of people beside us had gone extremely quiet. Their coffees were cooling rapidly as they tried very hard not to look at us, but listen to every word. We ended in fits of laughter and had to say. “It’s okay, we’re plotting a murder, but we’re writers.” Maybe we didn’t quite word it properly. They left in a hurry.

    • Jean Lamb on October 4, 2017 at 1:05 am
    • Reply

    Of course we’re married to engineers (though in my case, a chemistry teacher). It makes life easier to have someone around who already knows just how many foot-pounds of force it takes to crush someone’s head, or in my case, how you can ‘accidentally’ let nitric acid into the atmosphere and somehow cut the line to the hood fan and blame it on faulty maintenance.

    (wanders off, hoping nobody legally-minded is reading this…).

    • Kat Kent on October 6, 2017 at 1:03 am
    • Reply

    My writing teacher is feeling empathy for my antogonist. She hopes there exists some sort of redemption for him down the road so he can cross back over to the good side. Sort of like Darth Vader before he dies?? Uh, no. My antagonist is charismatic, even charming and its a fine line to make sure I write him to stay the antagonist. Gonna have to dig up more dirt on him which is actually more fun to write than digging up more ‘nice’. Nice is boring. Right. Great post.

  20. Hahahahahahaha! Lots of fun stuff in here. I’ve missed the exit a million times from getting lost in plotting. Now that they’re going to tax each gallon of gas an extra 19 cents starting next month (in California – I’ll stop there), I need to pay more attention to the exit signs. 🙂

  21. So funny, but I can see myself in so many of these…hmmm.

  22. I had a head start on #4 because my dad was a policeman and my older brother was in the California Highway Patrol. Listening to their on-the-job stories gave me a lot of insight into law enforcement over the years, which I can use as material for future writing projects.

  23. Research is heaps of fun…until you keep getting email responses saying, “I’m sorry, but that information is classified.” or “Due to security reasons, that information is not currently available.”
    I’m not married to an engineer (or anyone else), but my son-in-law studied chemistry and his brother studied engineering – does that count?
    T.O.D. is fine to chuck around casually, until someone wants to know why you’re interested in the Turk Ortodonti Dernegi. So you just smile knowingly, give the zip your lip signal and then rush home to Google it only to discover it means, Turkish Association of Orthodontics. But, you immediately have an exciting idea for a spy thriller involving orthodontists, nano-technology and disintegrating foreign diplomats…

    • Belinda on May 12, 2020 at 7:39 am
    • Reply

    Oh this just made my day, as an aspiring writer who is both studying a form of engineering, with my (hopefully) soon to be significant other also studying engineering. The amount of conversations I’ve had about murder, disposing bodies etc. Not just with him but also with my mildly psychotic friends just makes me laugh… I mean, one of the best feelings is reading your own book whilst you are so in love with your own character and get to the part where you killed them and then be like ‘yeah, he deserved that, he was a complete and utter ass***’ such wonderful memories (swipes away a stray tear)…

  1. […] Writer or Psychopath? Top Reasons Authors are Commonly Mistaken for Serial Killers […]

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.