Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Dreams I Had - When Writing Midnight Eyes

Doug Dorow's recent post on the research he did for his novel The Ninth District jogged my memory about the original writing of Midnight Eyes.

Although I did an extensive re-write recently, I set down the first draft a few years ago while I was working as a librarian. Handy inter-library loan tools were at my fingertips.

While I'd worked for years before that as a newspaper reporter, often shouldering police beat duties that included late-night visits to crime scenes, I spent a lot of time reading books and references about serial killers and pouring over police training textbooks and FBI journals.

I was striving to construct the psychology behind the book's central killings properly. I've never seen Midnight Eyes as "just" a serial killer novel. A series of brutal murders plague the cops in the story and bring the protagonist, former FBI agent Wayland Hood, home to Louisiana to help his sheriff father, but the identity of the killer is not simple. There are secrets to be unraveled and psychological complexities.

I scanned encyclopedias of serial killers during the research, reading about famous and less famous killers.

Dark dreams
The research produced more than a few nightmares during the writing. I didn't dream so much that serial killers were after me as I did about their deeds and about the crime scenes depicted in the training texts. And about the loss of life.

That channeled into Wayland, a haunted man, damaged by his past and by his work with the FBI in the apprehension of four major serial killers. In dreams, I felt really in tune with Wayland's cold and dark places.

I guess that was an ancillary effect of the research, expanding beyond the acquisition of facts. Since some of the reviews and comments about the book suggest Wayland seems real for readers, I guess those nightmares were a benefit even though they didn't seem so at the time.


Charles Gramlich said...

Nightmares are rather precious, I find. I hate to miss one.

Sidney said...

Yeah, I have been known to eat cake late at night trying to induce bad dreams.

Peter McMinn said...

Sometimes it takes a good mare to unlock story ideas that come in sleep. I awake, say, after being chased onto a narrow plank, to find I have the critical lead into a plot.

Sidney said...

Seldom an Ill Wind: Nightmares As A Cure for Writer's Block. :-)

Rosa said...

Thanks for your article, quite effective info.

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