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The Guilt-Free Criminal Mindset

The Guilt-Free Criminal Mindset

In preparing to write Child of the Night Guild, I had to do a lot of research. I wanted to understand everything that went into the character's story—from the skills she'd need as a thief to the mindset of a criminal to the techniques used to "brainwash" her to the effects of the life she led. In my research, I found an interesting article on Psychology Today that put the criminal mindset into very fascinating perspective. The article states: "Their mentality is well expressed by an offender who told me during a psychological evaluation, “I can make anything right wrong. I can make anything wrong right. Right is what I want to do at the time.” Individuals who think like this are perfectly capable of warning others, including siblings, not to do things that are wrong because they could get into trouble or hurt someone. However, with respect to their own contemplated action, criminals have a chilling capacity to shut off from immediate awareness any consideration of right and wrong, obliterate any sentiment, and banish any thought of how they might harm others. Once they have honed in on what they intend to do, in their mind the act is as good as accomplished without any adverse consequence to them. This usually is borne out by their experience in getting away with many offenses in the past. Criminals do not have to rationalize what they are doing to anyone. That comes later if they are apprehended." Think about that! The sort of people who commit crimes are able to rationalize what they're doing—not to others, but only in their own minds. It's only if/when they get caught that they have to explain. I've found this a common theme in cop/detective shows. The detective has the suspect in custody and they're sitting in the interrogation room, grilling them or trying to get them to crack. Finally, the criminal says, "I did it because of X". Most of the time they almost say it like it's a logical defense, like their actions are acceptable because of X reason.
  • "He hurt me so I killed him."
  • "She was nasty so I stole from her."
  • "X company owed me money so I robbed their bank account."
Now, thinking about my own characters, I can see how that is real. For example, the Hunter of Voramis (from Blade of the Destroyer) believes that killing out of vengeance is justified because the people who he's killing deserve it. Talk about wild rationalization! That "eye for an eye" mentality is common among murderers who commit crimes of passion, but also vengeance killers (like the Hunter). In Child of the Night Guild, the character Ilanna doesn't really have that justification yet. She's stealing because she has no choice, and because it's all she knows. But later in the story, she's able to rationalize her actions because of actions other people have taken. It's that same "eye for an eye", "you hurt me so I hurt you" mentality that's common among criminals.