10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9. The false suspect
8. The cover up
7. The flight
6. The actual killing
5. The first irretrievable step
4. The opportunity
3. The plan
The topic line is sure to provoke head scratching—it is drawn from engineering where energy is conserved or lost to entropy. Allow that the word entropy is not one that either an engineer, writer, or reader aspires to, so all groups would be better served if they understood the dynamics of the energy flow going up the ladder.
Motivation is the well from which the murderer’s principle energy is drawn. In all worlds, engineering and art, motivation is about energy’s source and energy’s intended use. Energy is transferred, but its waste through neglect in the writer’s or the engineer’s craft is rarely acceptable.
What is the energy equation?
total energy = energy taken – energy used – energy lost = 0
where both the engineer and the author seek to achieve:
energy taken = energy used
energy lost = 0
How does this translate into the murderer’s ladder—rung-by-rung?
What is the murderer’s equation?
murderer’s energy = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 = 0
As can be seen, the well of energy is deepened by rungs 2, 3, and 4; but they account for little of the total energy available to the murderer which is found at the first rung of motivation. Temptation (rung 2) and opportunity (rung 4) are driven by chance. The energy from these rungs are sparks compared to rung 1’s flame of motivation. Planning (rung 3) solidifies motive, and is a greater energy contributor than rungs 2 and 4, but it is still a small amount as plans do not have the same passionate energy as does motivation.
So, what happens when we look at this part of the equation:
– 5 … – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10
Each of these rungs on the ladder drain energy that could have been spent at rung 6, the murder, where the natural source of energy is intended to being consumed. Rung 5 is the murderer’s energy expended because the murderer did not simply thrust the knife on the first opportunity (skipping over opportunity, rung 5, and plunging on). Rung 5 drains the energy available to perform the murder. In all regards this amount is negligible, but can be monumental in a hesitant (under-motivated) murderer. This hesitation, of course, could make its own story.
For some motivations, the revenge story for instance, there should be no energy available for rungs 7, 8, 9, and 10—as passions would dominate all action, and passion would be completely drained at the ultimate act at rung 6. The passion of revenge needs no escape, no containment of evidence, no false suspect. Thus, the revenge story would have only 5 rungs, not 10. This would be our equation, then:
murder’s energy = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 … – 6 = 0
However, if this is more than a story, such as a revenge epic, then an epic is larger than a single act of murder. An epic spans time or place and consists of many actions with many sources of motivation. This would be the story of a serial murderer. A simple serial revenge (Hatfields vs. McCoys) might look like:
murder’s energy = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 – 6
+ 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 – 6
+ 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 = 0
where three murders are performed after three visits to the well of motivation—and presuming surplus energy was drawn to contend with the authorities after this string of murders. Consider that the murderer is going to the well absolutely exhausted the second and third time.
As a twist, consider the psycho’s serial murder equation:
murder’s energy = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 – 5 + 6
+ 3 + 4 – 5 + 6
+ 3 + 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 = 0
where the psycho’s motivation comes from murders which build a surplus of energy used in subsequent murders. The psycho’s energy does not flag because the act of murder is their second source for energy. However, all serializations come to an end.
This structure also suggests how complex plots can be energized, and that through successive murders, the psycho might reach for stronger victims of higher energy need. So, returning above to the psycho’s serial murder equation, the first murder had a reserve of energy afterward. The second murder did too. Those two reserves of energy were sufficient to accomplish the third, but the consequences were inevitable.