The Profile Matrix, Part 2

I’m offering 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. In the last post, I covered question #1 from the FBI’s profile matrix. Today I’ll cover #2 and #3.

2. What?

A. What was the cause of death? There are many ways to kill a person, and the method tells investigators a great deal about the killer. For instance, poison is more often used by female perps, while guns are more often used by males. But what does it tell you about the killer who uses a sledgehammer? Or a garrote? Or a miniature statue of the Venus de Milo? Choose carefully what your killer will use to do the job, because it reveals something about his character. An organized, mission-oriented killer will probably not use a weapon of opportunity, like a chain saw he happens to find in his victim’s garage. Instead, he’ll bring his own weapon.

B. What kind of deviant sexual behavior is evident? This question gets squishy and gross, and I don’t really want to talk about it. Your imagination can fill in the blanks. One thing I will bring up, though, is the lack of sexual behavior. If the opportunity existed for the perp to rape the vic, but he didn’t, that’s also a valuable clue for investigators. It might point to motive, or physical problems, or even gender. 

C. What are the unusuals? What stands out about the crime or the scene? Does it match any other crimes? Was a unique weapon used? Were any “souvenirs” taken from the victim? Was the vic posed? These types of things help investigators profile the killer, and it helps you as the author to create a believable antagonist.

3. When?

A. When did the crime occur (time of day, time of month, time of year)? Does your killer get the blues in the winter when there’s not enough sunlight, so to jazz up life a bit, he goes out on the town with a set of brass knuckles? Is your killer incapable of facing the anniversary of his mama’s death every June, so he kills older women every May and June to help him through that tough time? Is your killer a morning person, killing his victims during their morning commute? Know who your killer targets and his motive for killing will often provide this question of when.

B. Did the crime occur on or near a particularly significant event or date? Christmas is a great time for homicides due to memories of holidays past. Ditto anniversaries, birthdays, and death dates.

C. Did the crime occur on a religious-related date or occult-related date? It’s easy to offend people with this one, so tread gently. Does your killer target observers of Ramadan? Or does he kill every Halloween to appease his dead ancestors? 

D. Is there anything special or unusual about when the crime was committed? You know your killer, why he kills, and how he kills. Figure out why he kills WHEN he kills, and you can weave that into the story.

The next post will cover the last three questions on the FBI’s profile matrix.


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