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canstockphoto4156898Within the logical scene sequence of a mystery novel, a murder is discovered, the sleuth arrives on scene to investigate and then the murderer’s identity is revealed at the end. But behind the scene (both figuratively and literally) the criminal has been there since the beginning. Unseen by both the sleuth and the reader, the criminal is actually driving the story.

That’s a pretty hefty role for your Antagonist to shoulder. And if you’re going to write a really good mystery, you better have a really good bad guy.

So who exactly is your murderer? Criminals generally fall into one of the categories below?

  • Amateur – generally commit crimes of opportunity; little thought and relatively no planning goes into how the crime will be committed; they are often emotional and live in close proximity to the crime scene. Think crimes of passion.
  • Professional – conduct detailed planning, carry out reconnaissance, and often have access to weapons & technology. They generally specialize, such as high level burglary, art theft, jewel theft, armored car robberies, and assassinations. Also, the professional may have received some form of training, perhaps within the military, prison system or overseas terrorist camps.
  • Blue-Collar – their crimes are often blamed on job loss and a bad economy. Nevertheless, these criminals make our streets unsafe. Blue-Collar Crimes often include kidnapping, shoplifting, vandalism and rape.
  • White-Collar –  financially motivated nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals. These criminals are people of respectability and high social status, and their criminal activity includes fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, embezzlement,cyber-crime, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery.
  • Organized Crime – International, national, or local groups of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals, who intend to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Sometimes criminal organizations force people to do business with them, as when a gang extorts money from shopkeepers for so-called “protection” or motivate a private citizen to do their bidding under threat of harm to a family member or loved one
  • Street Gangs – A group with identifiable leadership and internal organization, identifying with or claiming control over territory in a community, and engaging in violent or other forms of illegal behavior. Members often have to prove their loyalty by committing acts such as theft or violence
  • Psychotic – an abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a “loss of contact with reality.” A psychotic just “snaps” and murders his family, or his pastor’s family, or shoots kids on campus from a clock tower.
  • Serial – a person who commits a series of two or more murders, as separate events over a period of time, with a cooling off period between the murders. The motivation for killing is usually based on psychological gratification. Hello, Hannibal Lector.

Want more information? Check out:

Seven Archetypes to Create a Memorable Villain

Even Hitler Loved His Dogs: Bad Guys with Good Motives


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