The Serial Killer’s Guide to Better Writing

I am sorry to inform you that serial killers exist in this world, (and not just in the movies).

Oh, you already knew that?

Yes, it’s unfortunate that such creatures continue to roam the earth, committing heinous crimes that would make even Stephen King characters shudder in dismay.

But since we can’t get rid of their memory, we might as well extract something useful out of these despicable devils.

Such as helpful lessons (or at least ONE lesson) on how to be a better writer.

Case in point: I present for your consideration, the story of The Campus Killer…

A Serial Killer “Writing Trick” That Works — Even If You Don’t Write Horror

On January 24, 1989, a human monster known as The Campus Killer or sometimes The Lady Killer was forcibly and permanently retired from this world.

His real name?

Ted Bundy.

His crime?

Raping and murdering at least 30 people (mostly women).

His modus operandi?

Approach potential victims, feigning injury or disability, then knock them unconscious and murder them.

Ew! What Can I POSSIBLY Learn From a Serial Killer? *Shudders*

Aside from how NOT to use your precious limited time on earth, you mean?

You can learn how to write better, of course!

I know, I know, I said that before, but I mean it. You can really write better if you take Ted Bundy’s advice to heart.

What advice? you ask.

The answer is above. His modus operandi:

If you want people to listen to you, one way is to be vulnerable.

Bundy didn’t go up to women and say, “Hi! I feel like murdering someone today. Who wants to be my victim?”

Instead, he would approach a young lady with his arm in a (fake) sling and ask for assistance unloading his car or some other such rot.

Look at me! I am so handsome, and so unfortunate, what with my arm in this sling and all. You know you wanna give me a hand…

And those dear, doomed women would follow that liar to his car and never be heard from again.

Know what? Vulnerability works for writers too.

In other words, vulnerability is to readers as a glowing computer screen at night is to moths:

Irresistible.

That’s all? I thought there was more.

Patience, my precious.

I know, I know: Perhaps you’ve heard about the “vulnerability” writing trick before.

Perhaps you’ve even heard, as one of my more eloquent writing teachers once told me, that you need to “write something that makes you want to vomit.”

But the truth is, you need to be reminded. Because the truth is, that truth doesn’t change.

The principles of writing do not change.

And one of those principles is:

If you want people to pay attention to your writing, you need to let them see inside the dark squishy corners of your heart, instead of merely re-spouting the cliched trip-trap-tripe that amateurs hawk from all five corners of the internet.

But how?

How to be Vulnerable the RIGHT Way

Now, I’m not talking about TMI.

And I’m not talking about blabbing your emotional pain before it’s gone through a bit of healing first.

We may be interested in hearing what you learned from surviving a burst appendix, but we don’t (necessarily) need to see your gory pictures of the excised organ.

And if you plan to write a poignant expose about your break-up from your bf, it helps no one if recounting the episode sends you to the Emergency Room because you’re crying so hard you can’t breathe.

On the other hand, we also don’t want to hear you be pretend-vulnerable just to earn pity points, either.

(Like writing about your grief over the death of your next-door-neighbor’s Daschund when the truth is, you couldn’t stand dear old Doogie and his penchant for pooping on your turf)

Even Ted Bundy, for example, failed once when he tried to use his “I’m helpless” routine on a near-victim:

He told one woman that he needed help unloading his sailboat. When she saw that there was no sailboat, she ran.

That’s what false vulnerability does to people — make them run far, far away and never return.

The reality is, most folks aren’t truly being vulnerable when they write. They either don’t know how, or they’re doing it with ulterior motives (trying to earn the aforementioned pity points).

So if YOU are honestly and authentically vulnerable in your writing, with the goal to help people, you will attract more and better readers than all those other wanna-bes.

Of Course, Being Vulnerable Ain’t Easy

Now, being vulnerable is NOT easy, and you SHOULDN’T necessarily do it in everything you write. (Remember TMI?)

But when you bare your soul every once in a while, tastefully, especially to your loyal readers, you’ll win more fans than not.

And the readers who already know and like you will like you even more.

Because we all know that no human is perfect, and the longer you try to keep up a “perfectionistic” image, the faker you appear.

For example, I’ve written before about my own costly mistakes, painful illnesses, horror stories, even my first-love-that-never-was.

(And no, I’m not going to link to those stories here. They’re embarrassing. But loyal Brilliant Writers will be familiar with these sorry tales, and I’ll probably write a few more for them in the future)

I did it more as self-therapy than anything, but to my surprise, people started following me. And reading more of my stuff. And subscribing to my writing accounts.

And all I did was tell the truth.

The painful, terrible, hard-won, vulnerable truth.

And instead of me having to beg random people to read my writing, they opted themselves in.

So here’s a tip: If you want to learn to be vulnerable you should start by being vulnerable with yourself. Ie, keep a journal.

Seriously, this one habit has contributed I-don’t-know-how-much into making me a stronger, faster, better writer.

 

So that’s the lesson for today.

Give vulnerability a try, now and then. (Maybe in your next article?)

Tell a story you feel iffy about.

Be honest with yourself and others, and see what happens.

Oh, and one last thing:

If a handsome guy with his arm in a sling ever asks you to help him unload his car in a deserted parking lot, you know what to do* 😉

Signing out,

Sarah

P.S. *In case it wasn’t obvious: kick him in the you-know-what, and RUN!

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