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  • Writer's pictureTessa Barron

I'm a Psychopath in Training, but it Makes me a Good Writer

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

This post is about the oh so sexy topic of research.

Yay! What every writer wants to discuss.

One of the best things about writing SF, fantasy or horror, and something I think you can all relate too, is just how disturbing my internet search history is! The ads I get online have been for psychotherapy, new age conspiracy theories, Scientology, weaponry, and porn for years now! The crazy thing is I haven’t even been researching porn...sooo weird.

Ha. I am just kidding about that one. Seriously….the things I do for laughs.

But you know what I am talking about. Sometimes we need to put some pretty gnarly things in that search bar when researching our novels.

Some things that I have searched in recent days…..

  • person whose lips have been cut off

  • how long does it take to die of disembowelment?

  • what does ether smell like?

  • natural laxatives

  • how much force does it take to cut off a horse’s head in one go?

  • how to convince a population to go along with genocide.

…..and that is definitely not even the worst of all time.

I understand why I need to search these things, and I know my fellow authors understand, but dang, I sure hope our Google Overlords understand.

Even if it often comes with unwanted personalized advertising, it needs to be done, because thorough research makes our stories and the worlds we develop realistic. Without it, we would be guessing and more often than not, make ourselves look like idiots to the readers who will inevitably know more than us.

Though, you all can admit that sometimes the things we need to research get dark as shit.

I find myself diving into black holes of truly disturbing things, and worse, relishing in it. Maybe I’m a “freak on a leash” (just to show you exactly what age I am here) but I do love to dissect me some gory, nasty, bad behaved people—really try and figure out how they tick. But I am also the type of person who watches a ton of slasher and horror movies, and absorbs the worst true crime stories like a sponge. And in my own writing, I have had people reel back and dry heave. Making the gore effect all your senses is my talent, what can I say. Though most of that finds the chopping block!

Why? Because of the reasons I outline here....

I would never actually do the things I'm so interested in…..

Facing facts, I can say that I am just a little wannabe sociopath, all talk and no game.

BUT!!! I think this can also make a writer really good. To be able to obsess about this stuff so that the reader doesn’t have to—use it to make a viscerally realistic world with characters in believable situations.

Personally, I use the knowledge I have acquired of what happens in the shadows to do some pretty terrible things to my characters like the Spanish Inquisition with your nan’s comfy chair...diabolical!

Aren’t we lucky to live in the time we do? I get to play at being a serial killer in stories and any horrible image I need to help me get there is right at my fingertips.

It’s amazing actually!

Writing a fictional cult and want to make their rhetoric more realistic? There's a website for that! Try out the still-going website for the Heaven’s Gate folks….remember them? The 39 found dead of suicide in 1997? Well, if you know even a little about the cult and how it functioned, the website takes on a really eerie aura. But if you want to get a feel for how a cult functions and communicates then this might be the website for you

Need to know what happens to the human body with disease and injury? There's a website for that!Head on over to the Internet Pathology Laboratory for Medical Education. There you will find everything from burns, tuberculosis, to what lungs look like after you drown and many other not so great things to gaze at. (Though Google is pretty good at this too these days, inn't it?)

Need to get in the mind of a sexual predator? There is a website for that too, believe it on not! It’s called the Fifth Nail Exposed, and it is basically the personal blog of a pedophile in prison. There are confessions of crimes, Q&A, and even dream logs. Some of it is quite shudder-inducing, but perhaps of value to writers who might be looking to develop a certain type of character.

Or maybe you just want to describe a certain type of rash on your protagonist’s ass? Why not check out Skinsight? Your one stop shop for all images of skin ailments and rashes you’ll ever want!

That is only a small set of examples for why you should consider yourself blessed to be a writer in the modern world of niche sites and google images!

Hmmm… I feel like there should be a point to this post…

Uh… Do your research, I guess, cause you really don’t have an excuse…

Yeah, that seems like a good message.

What is the most psycho thing you have ever put in a search engine as “research” for your novel?

This was kind of a pointless one, huh? Try something with a little more substance like the ones below.


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