The Profile Matrix, Part 1

I’m dispensing information from Sean Mactire’s book,  Malicious Intent: A Writer’s Guide to How Murderers, Robbers, Rapists, and Other Criminal Think, in an effort to help novelists create believable antagonists. Today’s discussion is on the profile matrix, which I think is the best part of creating a bad guy.

The FBI has a matrix of six questions they use to profile a criminal. Let’s begin with the first one:

1. Who?

A. Who are the victims? Women, children, gays, prostitutes, elderly, or men? Are they targeted specifically, or are the targets varied? You’ve seen this on crime tv shows, where the investigators try to figure out what the victims have in common. Sometimes the commonality is obvious (they’re all young blond women) and sometimes it’s impossible to connect them (because they’re random). 

B.  What type (organized or disorganized) of killer is involved? Is the killer:

  • 1. Visionary: He’s received word from God, or angels, or aliens, that someone needs to be killed, and he’s just the guy for the job.
  • 2. Mission oriented: He’s going to save the world from blue-eyed blondes. Or he’s going to save himself from nosy social workers. Or he’s going to save the children of New York City from pedophiles dressed in Santa suits who encourage children to sit in their laps and whisper secrets in their ears. 
  • 3. Comfort oriented: He’s number one, and his desires must be satisfied. He must have cash, bourbon, and expensive works of art or life isn’t complete.
  • 4. Lust motivated: He’s got a thing for Asian women with long black hair, and life isn’t good unless he’s having sex with all of them.
  • 5. Thrill motivated: Jumping out of planes and climbing rocks without a rope used to be enough, but now it’s not. He’s escalated to murder to get that rush of adrenaline.
  • 6. Power/control oriented: He must be the one calling the shots, making the decisions, and being god. Without power, he’s worse than nothing.

Just with this first question, you begin to create a magnificent antagonist. A disorganized killer who targets runaway teenage girls is much different from an organized killer who targets wealthy white males. The killer who’s on a mission from God to clean up the streets of San Francisco by clearing out the homeless men and hookers is different from the guy who lusts for older women who remind him of his mama (I kind of grossed myself out there for a minute). 

On a side note, I keep using “he” for a pronoun, but your killer can be female. But that’s a discussion for another time. In the next post, I’ll cover questions 2 and 3 from the FBI profile matrix.


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