by Pari Noskin Taichert
In the summertime, during New Mexico’s highest fire risk, I have dark fantasies. Most often, they’re sparked by some young woman who throws her still smoldering cigarette butt out of a car window. In spite of my fury, I’ve never imagined murder — not in real life — not with the kids in the car.
I do think about murder when I’m writing, though. The method and the why of it are part of the big puzzle, the challenge in coming up with a "compelling" novel.
And yet, in day-to-day life, most motives are dreadfully mundane, cliche.
There’s greed, revenge, betrayal and perversion. That’s about it. (Please set me straight in the comments section, if I’m missing a category.)
Each one of these can be fleshed out:
for money, security, property, human "property" (custody battles, loverships), desire for recognition/fame, downfall or defense of business, religious/cultural domination
jealousy, crimes of passion, distrust, childhood scarring, drug deals gone bad, domestic violence
personal satisfaction (here’s where we meet the psychos and sociopaths — the stars of many serial killer novels)
alot of gang-related stuff would go here, road rage, religious conflict
I wasn’t quite sure where to put WAR. IMHO, this phenomenon usually has to do with one of the motives above such as greed (territory), revenge (religious conflict).
If my categories are generally true, I think they show that people aren’t that creative when it comes to rationalizing reasons to off each other. At least, that’s how it looks to me.
So why do I feel obligated to come up with new motives, to be inventive? To dress up reality?
That’s the strange thing. The majority of real-life crimes — though horrid in their aftermath — are boring in their moment. I’m thinking of the prison guard in southern New Mexico who hired a hitman to kill his wife. He paid the guy $250 because he was "tired" of her. Nothing big. Nothing fancy.
No editor would EVER accept that as a motive. There would have to be more. But, folks, there wasn’t.
Most crime is like that. When I pick up the local newspaper, I find small stories — crimes committed by unremarkable people who become interesting because of a single act.
We writers embellish and weave marvelous stories from the smallest ember. But why does fiction have to be larger than life?
Or, does it?