How To Be a Crime Victim

I’m pulling the good stuff out of  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 better antagonists. Today’s post is slightly different: how to create a better victim. In the last post, I discussed HOW people became victims. Today I’ll discuss WHO they are.

Mactire says crime victims call into three main categories: Family, Acquaintances, and Strangers. Then he arranged them in descending order according to their degree of risk:

1. Family Members
  • Offender’s children (easy access and availability)
  • Husbands
  • Wives
  • In-laws
  • Other relatives
  • Offender’s mother
  • Grandparents

You can quickly see that being a wife puts a character in greater risk than being a grandparent, and children are more at risk than in-laws. Keep this in mind when planning who your bad guy will kill first. Apply motive, too: a nagging in-law is in greater risk than an obedient child, I would think. 

2. Acquaintances
  • Friends and neighbors (less apt to be on guard)
  • Children (vulnerable and prone to be easily controlled by people they don’t know)
  • Women alone (as opposed to packs of women, who aren’t easy to control – sorry, trying to be funny during a serious discussion)
  • Adult males (easily overpowered when attacked by people they know because they’re not expecting it)
  • People in authority
  • Members of same peer group (easy access)
  • Patients (vulnerable and defenseless)

Based on this list, a murderer is more likely to attack his friends and neighbors than the mayor, although if the mayor is a female, and she’s alone, and she’s a friend of the murderer… 

3. Strangers
  • Young women alone, female college students, and prostitutes (chosen because they are vulnerable and isolated)
  • Children (vulnerable, easily overpowered or manipulated)
  • People at home, entire families (secluded)
  • The handicapped and hospital patients (vulnerable, isolated)
  • Business people (vulnerable anytime, anywhere)
  • Pedestrians and travelers (vulnerable, can be easily isolated)
  • Older women alone (vulnerable, physically weak)
  • Police officers (easily isolated and overwhelmed)
  • Employees
  • Homeless/street people
  • Newspaper ad respondents
  • Persons of another race

You can see that anyone who is vulnerable, isolated, and easily overwhelmed could find themselves a victim of a total stranger. On the other hand, violent criminals never have a hard time finding someone to victimize. In your novel, whoever you chose to be the victim should be believable and sympathetic. Use the list above to figure out which victims are more at risk than others, but don’t let the at-risk percentages dictate who could or should be a victim in your story. 

-Sonja
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One thought on “How To Be a Crime Victim

  1. In my yet to be completed novel, In the Game, the victims are successful career women who failed to recognize the warning signs given off by a serial killer. Some times victims are people who don’t expect to become victims.

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