Article – Michael Noe – The Influence of Serial Killers

When I got the idea for Legacy it seemed pretty simple. I wanted to write about a serial killer and get inside his head. There quite a few novels that try and shoot for that, but the problem is writers just don’t go deep enough. When I got the idea, I knew there would be no side plot involving a detective looking to take him down because that never interested me in other books so why would I do that in mine? If I was going to do it, it had to be done in first person, and I had to essentially become the character.

Wait, that sounded a lot different in my head. What I mean is, I needed to think like a serial killer. As a horror writer, I knew a great deal about them so it wasn’t like I was walking into unfamiliar territory. As weird as it sounds, I even have a top ten list of serial killers. I have read tons of books about the subject so writing Legacy wasn’t going to be difficult at all. The problem was getting into character. I remember reading an interview with Alice Cooper and he said something that really stuck with me. “Alice isn’t a character. The person on stage isn’t me, it’s Alice.”

I liked that approach and decided to use It for my book. As I began writing, I essentially became the character. It made the book more fun to write. Instead of trying to channel something dark, I allowed myself to reach into the dark places of my mind, and when I was finished writing, I’d put him back in the box. You can also add my love of slasher films in there too. I grew up in the eighties, and there were so many great slasher films. It added to Legacy and gave it an added brutality it really needed.

I began to think long and hard about which killer I would base my character on. Here’s what I need to make clear and allow people to breathe a little. Like most people who have an interest in serial killers, it’s not their crimes I find interesting. It’s the mind set of say Burkowitz or even Bundy. I want to know why they kill, what was their motivation. Even the Zodiac Killer is fascinating because he was never caught. No one knows what happened to the guy. The thoughts behind the crimes, their actions were what I was always interested in. If it’d been just the crimes, Legacy and even the sequel wouldn’t have been so interesting.

Jack the Ripper was the main influence. His crimes were legendary; he was specter that is still whispered about to this day. That was what I wanted to achieve with my book. I wanted someone who was cold, and callous, and he had to do this because he wanted to. That’s what I think about when I envision Jack. This was a guy who had balls, we can only speculate what his mindset was.  When it comes to serial killers, Jack is by far the most interesting. He taunted the police, and not once was he ever caught.

Patterning a killer after Jack was a lot of fun, and I even mention he was the guy my character most admired. There’s no way Jack could exist today. There’s far too many advances in technology. At some point, he’d make a mistake and the police would be all over him. You can’t be an anonymous killer any more. There’s no way. Guys like Jack are legends because of what they accomplished. There’s no way you can be as effective as Jack or the Son of Sam. Those days are long gone and maybe that’s a good thing. The internet has taken away the mystique behind the serial killer which really sucks.

There’s still Netflix which has tons of great documentaries about serial killers. You get a ringside seat to their crimes, and you get to peek inside their heads! As a writer of horror it’s a great source of inspiration. Who needs to make up monsters when flesh and blood human monsters exist? Write what you know and run with it. Have as much fun as you possibly can and create something unique.