In my article on Stalking (Stalking 101), I started sharing a recent read:Stopping a Stalker by Captain Snow.
When I read thrillers and mysteries, stalking is a prevalent theme. It should be. It’s a prevalent crime. We know for example
- A full 90% of women who are killed by their (ex)spouses were stalked prior to their death. This statistic is quite horrifying.
- Only 10% of the (ex)wives did not have a heads up.
- 90% lived in fear.
If you're a writer - stalking is almost an obligatory prelude to a spousal murder.
Stalking should be included. Sometimes, I think maybe the writers could have done a little more research into the effects of stalking on their victim/heroine. As I read, I find, from my personal perspective that there are Goldilocks issues. The reaction is either too soft or too hard. The victim’s emotions are too cool or too hot. It’s hard with individuation to get it “just right.” This was true with my own stalking-crime survival - I was always trying hard to get my reaction to be “just right.” But not being able to flip to the end of the chapter, or even the end of the book, to find outcomes made this an ongoing guessing game of “how much fear should I feel today?”
My romantic suspense LYNX series, begins with WEAKEST LYNX where my heroine is a stalking victim who has her own personality, apart from mine. She has her own tools and abilities that help her to cope. Her sword was tempered in a fire of a different color and heat than mine was. She handled her stalker differently than I handled mine. So, in no way am I suggesting that there is one perfect temperature for a big bowl of crazy - nor am I suggesting that every bowl of crazy comes in the same flavor. What I am suggesting is that the writers take into account (to leave the Goldilocks metaphor and move on to a more useful one) that being stalked is to be weathered, abraded and eroded by the elements. Sometimes the stalking is a smooth stream that whispers over a rock. Sometimes it is a tsunami swelling to its full and monstrous height in a shocking surprise before the crash swallows everything and everyone in its wake. Probably it’s a flickering and changing gradation somewhere in between the two. Statistically it is a growing storm both in the violence of the stalker and the impact on the victim.
Stalking is a crime of endurance. Is your character an igneous rock with strength from a magma core? or will your character crumble instantly like sandstone? Maybe your sandstone character will surprise everyone with a core of corundum? Maybe not. It all comes down to the question of who can persevere the longest. Who can outthink and outmaneuver the other? It is not a crime of the past that was survived. Stalking is constancy. Constant looking over the shoulder, constant checking locks one more time, constant startling at an unknown noise. Constant.
Stalking is an ongoing terrorist act. The terrorist has the upper hand in many ways. The terrorist knows the delusional obsessive thoughts - how dark they are becoming, how insistent. The victim is left to guess, to try to read between the lines of the missives - to try to understand the crazy gauge and interpret the findings. As the victim does this - they need to check their own gauges, too. In truth, few people can act with the imperviousness of the igneous rock. Time and constancy wear down the strongest among us.
Let me share a lengthy quote (Stopping a Stalker by Captain Snow. p. 142):
“When a person remains in a constant state of fear and stress, as a stalking victim does, the body does not get a chance to recover from the adrenaline surge, and return its system to normal. Eventually, the body’s systems begin to fray, and physical and psychological problems develop.
A few of the physical and psychological problems stalking victims suffer include:
All of these, incidentally, are symptoms of clinical depression.[Depression article] Some experts have suggested that victims can suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder described as an exposure to a stressor or event outside the range of usual human experience. War veterans, natural disaster victims, and others who have experienced something so horrible that their mind cannot accept it have been known to develop this disorder. The symptoms of PTSD include panic, grief, despair, traumatic nightmares, avoidance behavior, emotional numbing, and generalized anxiety disorder. [PTSD article] Anyone who deals with stalking victims can see that this is indeed describes their experience, which is certainly outside the range of usual human experience, and their symptoms. Yet even worse than the symptoms is the fact that once the stalker has driven a victim to this condition, the victim becomes even easier to control and intimidate. The victim will do anything to make the fear and anxiety stop…”
- Loss of appetite
- Inability, nightmares when they do sleep
- Inability to concentrate
- Loss of self-esteem
- Thoughts of death or suicide (Suicide artcile)
- Panic attacks.
- Over time - PTSD
ANYTHING. And that too might figure into your book. A meek sandstone of a woman, who found her corundum core, might just do something that even she thought was impossible. Never underestimate the primal desire to survive.
If you're writing a stalker I HIGHLY recommend your buy Captain Snow's book.
I hope this was helpful. As always, a big thank you ThrillWriters and readers for stopping by. Thank you, too, for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.