true-crime

Why Write About True Crime?

crime blog

I realize that True Crime isn’t going to interest everyone. Some people simply aren’t interested in crime stories, whether true or fictionalized.

But I’ve also found that sometimes people who might’ve enjoyed the genre, unfortunately have been turned off from True Crime by sensation-seeking writers or those who glorify the violence of the crimes — or even the criminals themselves. So what this blog post does is explain my approach to True Crime blogging.

But Why Write About it at All?

That’s a fair question. The most basic answer is that crime stories in general interest me. I’ve long been a fan of TV crime shows like Law and Order, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Blue Bloods, which, while not being True Crime, are often loosely based upon aspects of crimes that happened in real life.

But I guess you could say that I’m relatively new to True Crime. I really love reading about historical events, and at some point got into historic crimes — the Old West outlaws like Jesse James, the Prohibition mobsters, and eventually serial killers. There’s also a handful of youtubers and documentary channels that helped fuel this interest.

Another interest of mine is the “why” of what makes criminals commit their evil deeds — what makes someone turn to a life of crime or lash out in violence against others, where perhaps another person of similar background does not. I like to understand the criminal mind, at least in a way — to figure out the “breaking point” that sparked their violent spree.

Ok, so what Makes this True Crime Blog Unique?

As I mentioned in the opening section, I feel that a lot of True Crime blogs, documentaries, and even at times Wikipedia crosses a line that I’m not comfortable with in describing the nature of the crimes. The violence becomes gratuitous — seemingly going for the “shock factor.” There are also segments of the True Crime “community” that idolize or lionize the criminals, and seem to forget that they committed heinous acts against the undeserving and defenseless. Also I’ve seen the pendulum swing the other direction of giving so much attention to the victims that it seems that they’re not allowed to “rest in peace.” So in my True Crime blog, I hope to avoid these pitfalls that sometimes plague the True Crime genre.

Things this True Crime Blog will Not Do

Glorify Violence

This aspect probably turns off more people from the True Crime genre than any other. There’s a reason news outlets are usually careful about what they show and say on TV. And it’s not about censorship but rather about decency. Most people do not want vivid, violent images of crime filling their minds. Even fictionalized crime shows have a “decency box” they are required to operate in (movies and subscription cable services have more leeway). I believe there’s a valid point to this.

I realize that the True Crime community does have a segment that is infatuated with violence and wants to know every gory, seedy, stomach-turning detail of assault, torture, and gruesome death. But this is not that kind of blog. That people died is tragic. That the victims lived their final moments in intense pain and terror is horrific. I have no intention of reveling in their trauma. Read a police report or an autopsy report if you’re looking for every detail of victim trauma.

In my debut mystery crime novel, The Missing, a town lives in terror. People sometimes die. And in the continuing story, The Holiday Killer (still being written) the villain is a serial killer. But I have no intention of being gory. I believe you can paint a mental picture of death and terror that makes the reader’s heart pound — yet still be decent and appeal to a wider reader audience. It’s that same approach I’m taking with this blog. No gratuitous violence found here.

I wade through the gruesome details to bring you these stories, so you don’t have to.

Turn the Criminals into Celebrities

I wrote a whole blog post about this, but there is a disturbing sub-community of True Crime readers that are genuinely infatuated with (and sometimes in love with) serial killers, school shooters, and other heinous criminals.

While this blog obviously tells the stories of various criminals, it never forgets that they are villains who committed awful crimes. It is true that often they themselves were victims of trauma growing up — but once they turned to violence, my sympathy for them runs out. It’s a good thing that they were eventually apprehended and that justice was carried out.

Details of the criminal’s personal lives will only be given if they are relevant to their motives or crimes. I don’t care what their favorite band was — unless it fits into the case. The Night Stalker Richard Ramirez and his infatuation with the rock band AC/DC is a good example of a personal detail being relevant to his crimes. But how much they loved fishing or classic cars or similar unimportant details will never make their way into this blog. The criminals are not celebrities.

Stalk Victims and their Families

Maybe “stalk” is too strong a word…but just barely. I do think it’s important to remember the victims. But not to the point of obsession I’ve seen among certain parts of the True Crime fandom — tracking down their entire life history and overlaying their lives on the timeline of of their killer’s life. Or still keeping up with the movements and ongoing lives of survivors and victim families.

It’s been my experience that family members want to grieve, get justice, and then be left alone. Nobody wants to be remembered for the rest of their lives as “the sister of the murdered girl.” There’s a balance between “not forgetting the memory of the victims” and obsessing over their lives.

In my blog posts, victim names are often omitted — not to erase their memory, but to let them rest in peace. Life events are limited to those relevant to their case. Descriptions of their trauma are always as brief and sanitized as possible, while still giving relevant details to the crime — and never sensationalized. Victim pictures are always respectful. This isn’t the place to find crime scene photos.

TLDR

So if you are interested in crime, but worried about graphic content, rest assured, you’ll find none of those lines crossed here. Criminals will be treated as such, and victims will be treated with dignity.

And maybe you’ll learn something about the criminal mind, psychological profiles, and the investigative processes that track down and catch the worst of the worst in society.

stephen-zimmerman-the-missing-book-3

I wrote a book! If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my mystery/crime/thriller novel The Missing.

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4 thoughts on “Why Write About True Crime?”

  1. Pingback: Psychological Phases of a Serial Killer - stephenzimmerman.com

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