Real vs. fictional villains (or, the case of Luka Magnotta)

Disclaimer: This post is meant to be tongue-in-cheek and is definitely not intended to offend anyone. I don't take murder lightly at all, but sometimes, all we can do is throw up our hands and scream, "WTF is wrong with people?!"

I suppose, being a Canadian thriller writer with a blog called The Serial Killer Files, that I should comment on Canada's newest media murder darling, Luka Magnotta.

Photo courtesy of
For those of you not familiar with the story, here's a quick rundown. Luka Magnotta, a 29-year-old prostitute and porn actor, is accused of killing and dismembering Montreal university student, Jun Lin. Magnotta videotaped the whole thing and posted it on a site called Best Gore *, and then mailed Lin's body parts to a bunch of different places, including a political office in Canada's capital city of Ottawa. He's currently facing five charges, including first degree murder and defilement of a corpse.


As a thriller writer who's made up a few fictional killers of her own, I'll obviously be following the Magnotta case with great interest. The case is fascinating to me, and not just because of the depraved nature of the killing and the fact that it happened in Canada, but because of Magnotta's utterly desperate attempt at showmanship.

I mean, seriously. He posted the video online. Really?

After an international manhunt, Magnotta was arrested in Berlin and brought back to Montreal. At the time of his arrest, he'd been hanging out at an internet cafe, reading news reports about himself.

And I have to tell you, when I read this, I laughed. Because it's just, well . . . so frigging stupid.

As a writer, I can't help but think what a terrible fictional villain Luka Magnotta would make. If he wasn't a real person who killed another real person in a horrible way, his character wouldn't even qualify as interesting. But he's not a character in a book, he's real. And so of course the media is all over him. His treatment by police has even been compared to that of Hannibal Lecter.

But here's the thing. Hannibal Lecter was a great fictional villain because he was smart and original. Luka Magnotta, in this writer's humble opinion, would make an awful fictional villain because he's, well, an ego-driven dumb ass. Is Magnotta psychopathic? Sure, I think so. But is he smart? No, I don't think so.

And no writer or reader of fiction appreciates a villain who makes such colossal mistakes. If I created a villain like Magnotta, the novel would be a tough sell. It's just too crazy to think that someone would murder someone else, post it on the internet, and believe he could get away with it. My agent would laugh at me. The plot stretches credibility.

But. This isn't fiction. It really happened. And that's what makes the story so fascinating.

And heck, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Magnotta isn't so stupid after all. Maybe he even expected to get caught. If fame is Magnotta's ultimate goal – which I personally think it is – then we're giving him exactly what he wants. We're feeding into the media frenzy and plastering his face all over the news. Google "Luka Magnotta" and you'll get over 48,000,000 results. Two friends of mine, Ben Lelievre and Mark Pryor, have already blogged about him. And of course, I AM BLOGGING ABOUT HIM RIGHT NOW.

(I will not, however, watch that video, unlike this teacher who actually played it for his tenth-grade class.)

Magnotta may not be worthy of fictional villain status, but that doesn't matter, because he actually exists. Rightly or wrongly, we're entranced. And wasn't it Mark Twain who said that unlike fiction, the truth doesn't have to make sense?

* ETA: I originally mentioned YouTube as the site where the video was uploaded, as early articles about Magnotta referred to it, but I've since corrected this. Thanks to a reader for pointing this out.
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And the freakiest FREAKS are...

You guys! I didn't know what I was in for, having a contest challenging you to write about FREAKs. Every single entry was a contender, and no, I'm not exaggerating. Your stories far exceeded my expectations, and I appreciate your efforts and all the support you've given me.

Thank you so, so much.

Unfortunately, I had to disqualify three entries due to slightly high word counts, even though I absolutely cringed over one of them. But it wouldn't be fair to break the rules. I admit, I kind of wanted to give everyone a prize, but I know that would defeat the spirit of competition.

And please remember, just because you didn't win doesn't mean your story wasn't excellent! The only criteria was to MAKE ME CRINGE, which is purely subjective, and these were the stories that FREAKed me out the most:

First Prize
Winner of $50 Amazon Gift Card, an ARC of FREAK, and a hardcover of CREEP

The woman gazed down at her husband dangling below her. The rope had saved him, but he couldn't get a foothold on the sheer rock face.

She sighed. The climbing vacation had been her idea. It had taken all her powers of persuasion to get him up here, but she couldn't decide which was the harder battle: overcoming his vertigo, or getting three full days out of his schedule all to herself.

He was taking it all very calmly. Remarkably so. No sign of his terror of heights. Maybe high-powered – and wealthy – vice-presidents were made of sterner stuff than she'd given him credit for.

"It'll be over soon, honey," she called. She fingered the knife at her belt. "But, if you're going to, this would be a good time to freak."

Second Prize
Winner of an ARC of FREAK and a hardcover of CREEP

They never try to hide the names. Loser. Weirdo. Freak. Their voices follow me down the hallway, a constant buzz in the background, like the TV tuned to a dead channel, like the tide sucking at my feet, drowning me an inch at a time.

Weirdo. Freak.

It's my own fault. I know I bring it on myself. Long blonde hair dyed black over a sink in the girls' bathroom, cut to just below my ears with scissors stolen from art class, not caring when the roots start to show.

Not caring when the cuts on my wrists show.


It should bother me more: the names, the voices. But it's so much easier to ignore them than the others, the voices no-one else hears, and for a little while after the cold metal splits my skin, they go quiet.

Third Prize
Winner of an ARC of FREAK:

The bleachers were on fire. The football team lay scattered across the field, blood staining the Astroturf beneath them. Coach Edelman dangled from the goal post, a thick string trailing from his slack mouth. It took me a minute to realize it was his whistle. Someone had jammed it down his throat.

A group of cheerleaders lay in a pile near the end zone. Their skinny legs with orange spray tans stuck up at odd angles making it impossible to tell where one ended and the other began.

It wasn’t until I caught sight of the mascot that something inside me broke. We were the Shadow High Eagles but the costume looked more like a freaky chicken. It was upended in a giant cooler of Gatorade. Bright yellow feet drifted slowly from side to side as the green liquid sloshed and spilled over.

I screamed my anguish at the sky.

Honorable mention goes to:
for submitting a fabulously original poem

Hot, weak, young, and twisted;
Wore a wig, number unlisted.
Snuff film madame,
Real name, Adam;
Transvestite joke,
Gave head for coke.

Six lines down, rock star clown;
She'll make you laugh in the worst part of town.
She'll show you hers and leave a scar;
You won't make it home if you get in her car.
She'll get you high, she'll make you cry,
She'll freak you out, and then you'll die.

This was so much fun. Thanks for participating, everyone. You rock!

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FREAK giveaway!

It's not August 7th yet, but I do have advance review copies of FREAK to give away, along with a couple of hardcovers of CREEP, and a $50 Amazon gift card. Want to win something? (Don't say no, because that would hurt my feelings!)

All you have to do for your chance to win is: 


It can be a true story or a flash fiction story. It can be an experience you had with a FREAKy person, or it can be about something that FREAKs you out. Or you can TOTALLY MAKE SOMETHING UP. Doesn't matter to me.

There are only two rules:
  1. You must use the some variation of the word FREAK in your story (i.e. freaky, freaking, freaked, etc.)
  2. The story can be as brief as you like – one sentence, even! – but you must not write anything longer than 150 words.
The contest is open internationally, and it's okay if you've already won a copy of one of my books previously (you can always give your prize to a friend). Submit your entry in the comments below. One story equals one entry, and you can enter as many times as you like – just make sure each entry is its own comment. The three most FREAKy stories will win...


1st Prize: 
Signed ARC of FREAK, signed hardcover of CREEP, and a $50 Amazon gift card

2nd Prize: 
Signed ARC of FREAK and signed hardcover of CREEP

3rd Prize: 
Signed ARC of FREAK

Contest starts NOW and runs until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 17th. Winners will be announced on Monday, June 18th.

And hey, if only three of you participate, then all three of you will win, so take a shot! And for my non-writer pals, don't be intimidated. I'm not looking for perfect writing. Entertainment is what matters most.

Make me cringe, people. MAKE ME CRINGE.

Can't wait to read your FREAKy stories!

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Me? A Cosmo Girl?

We interrupt our contest programming to bring you a few short announcements:

I'm interviewed at horror author Luke Walker's blog today, where I discuss tipples, Stephen King, and what a mean boy said to me in a workshop.

I got a brief mention in Canada's National Post last Friday! Super cool.

I was over at the ThrillerFest blog yesterday, where I admit to gushing all over Jeffery Deaver (and yes, there is pictorial evidence).

I've always dreamed of being a Cosmo Girl and now it's happened! I am honored to have been chosen as Cosmopolitan Philippines' Fun Fearless Female for June! The article isn't available online without a subscription, but here's a snapshot of the print article:

And last but not least, did you enter my FREAK giveaway? You have till June 17th! All you have to do is tell me a story using the word FREAK, and you could win an ARC, a copy of CREEP, and a $50 Amazon gift card!

Even if you're not planning to enter, you gotta read the stories. They're cringe-worthy, guys! CRINGE-WORTHY! And I mean that as a total freaking compliment.

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