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What's your field?
I know I'm coming at this from a very different angle than a lot of people, so I thought some discussion of our backgrounds/areas of expertise/interests might be helpful.

I'm an academic - I have my Master's in Rhetoric and Technical Communication and my PhD in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (from the same institution - they changed the name of the program while I was there). I work at a tribal college and teach classes like composition, world cultures, literature, and intro to humanities. I'm also the assessment coordinator, so I work a lot with instructors on how they're teaching and fulfilling the goals of the course, program, and college.

The biggest question I get is "What is rhetoric?" There's no easy answer - it's something you discuss a lot if you're in a rhetoric program - but the more general go-to is "the art of argumentation." Rhetoric looks at what words are used and how they effect an audience. In essence, if you can't convince your audience to do something, then you've failed at rhetoric. (Most people connect rhetoric with politics, so the "do something" there is "vote for me." Most people also seem to think it's a dirty word, but another definition attributed to Quintillian is "a good man speaking well," and good men don't lie.) So what I'm interested in, really, is how we talk about people and places and things. With this approach, I'm not necessarily concerned about whether an author is presenting us with reliable facts. What I'm looking for is clues into the social and cultural constructions of those people, places, and things in the words the author chooses to write or speak about them. (And that in itself is also a point worth noting: that we're trained to use the words and perspectives we do simply by living within a specific society. the critique may focus on one person's words, but those words didn't just spring from nowhere.)

My dissertation, Identity and Ritual: The American Consumption of True Crime - downloadable here if you're interested, but yes, it is a dissertation and not exactly light reading - focused on the way criminals and victims have been written about in America since the first accounts were printed. I specifically stuck to printed accounts and American narratives because it was already longer than my committee wanted it to be, so there were some very specific limitations on it. (When you're writing a dissertation you also have to get your committee to agree with everything you've said, so each chapter ended up being drafted a ridiculous number of times over a period of two years, sent around to everyone, and then back to me with a bunch of notes. It's exhausting.) All four of them have to agree that your work is worthy before they confer the degree on you. In my case this was after a one hour public presentation of my research, and then another hour of being grilled privately by the committee.

I also therefore have firsthand experience in understanding why academics don't research true crime. One faculty member outright refused to chair my committee (although she later apologized after I repeated my first conference presentation at my home institution. It was the presentation that later turned into my book). So I know how true crime can be misunderstood and dismissed as being beneath someone of a certain standing or degree. I've also heard from multiple sources that representations of victims is in and of itself a ridiculous topic for someone to focus on - a waste of time. I can absolutely understand why academics don't want to go into true crime, whatever the format, but I also know that this means my background positions me to have a very different perspective than others who are engaging the information.

So what's your background? What perspectives, ideas, and experiences do you bring to the table?

(For reference, I like to keep in mind The Illustrated Guide to a PhD. We've all got our areas where the knowledge runs deep, but really, they're just little bumps in the scheme of things.)
I'm a current college student, working towards my degree.
That's about it. I write a lot in my free time and am trying to plot how to kill off a character... that's all I'm bringing to this character.
Any suggestions on "offing" a character?
Oh, let’s see ... I’d suggest figuring out how other people are going to react to your character’s murder. Media teaches us how to respond, and that response generally entails some sort of blame. Either that person shouldn’t have been in that place at that time - hitchhiking, down a dark alley, in that part of town - or there’s something else about them that allows them to be dismissed: race, gender, sexuality, means of employment (specifically sex work). What crime narratives tend to do - and the way they help make us think - is to explain that there was something the murder victim could have done in order to save themselves. Therefore, since the readers are more intelligent and aware, we are able to ensure that we also don’t end up murdered.

So whatever time, place, and method your killer chooses, think about how others will respond to it. Police, reporters, the victim’s friends and family, and others will have different reactions because of their relationships and responsibility to the character you murder. You might show a range of reactions, or you might show the most common and then, from those who disagree, silence. The police might be criticized for how little attention they show to the case, or it might just slip from the headlines. If you’ve got another character trying to find the murderer, that character might try to keep it to themselves because they know that others will argue and call it a waste of time - that sort of thing.

Does that help?
This helps wonderfully! Thank you!

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