The Culprit POV

With the success of books such as Dangerous Girls and I Hunt Killers as well as TV shows such as Bones and Pretty Little Liars, there has been a surge of mystery and thriller books in the young adult genre recently. And I’m all for that – there’s nothing better than a spine-tingling, mind-bending thriller to keep you up at night.

Yet I’ve noticed that there’s a specific technique authors have been using in these thrillers: they occasionally write a sporadic chapter or two from the point-of-view of the culprit, without giving away their identity.

As creepy and unsettling as reading from the culprit’s view, there are instances when it does more harm than good. For instance, while authors don’t simply come and tell who the culprit is in these chapters, they do explore what their motives are; and this can make it easier to narrow down who it is.

This being said, I’m curious to know:

54 thoughts on “The Culprit POV

    1. I agree Paula. πŸ™‚ How it’s done is definitely a huge aspect of whether or not it ends up working. xD

  1. I love it because it adds that extra creep factor! I got hooked on Mary Higgins-Clark in high school and loved her novels because there was always a POV from the killer and it use to freak me out and keep me up at night!

    1. Agreed Ali – they’re always so creepy! And if you read one, don’t expect to sleep at all that night – ha!

  2. I actually really like it because it gives off a sense of curiosity that keeps readers wanting to turn the page further. Also, I really do think that authors use this technique all the time because they want to make every reader think “Oh. What does he plan to do next?” which eventually makes them want to know the answer by READING and continuing the book πŸ™‚

    This is really interesting. I never really gave this much attention, but now that you mentioned it, I really do notice it a lot πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for sharing Jillian. I’m totally with you – they definitely help in the suspense department. xD

  3. I always find it unique and amazing when authors put the culprit’s POV. You should check out the novel You by Caroline Kepnes if you haven’t, it is creepy yet fascinating. Lovely post!

  4. I think writing from the perspective of the culprit is a very interesting technique and when done correctly can definitely increase suspense. It just makes the stakes and danger of the situation feel so much more real. You can also sometimes really get a sense of the psychology and motives behind a culprit that you normally wouldn’t.

    HOWEVER, I feel as though there becomes a time when the culprit POV is used too much throughout a story and therefore looses its magic. It can become almost contrived in a way?? And I also think it’d certainly make things more predictable.

    Great post girly!

    1. I completely agree with everything you’ve said Larissa. If they’re done correctly and used sporadically, they can really be spine-tingling.

  5. I don’t knowwww. I haven’t read many books with a culprit besides Dangerous Girls. OH and also All The Walls Around Us.I do have to agree that I get more of a motive when the culprit is well developed. This reminds of me Kiss of Deception, where I couldn’t tell who was the prince and who was the thief because it was just done so well. But then that ended up not good because then I couldn’t tell the love interests apart . πŸ˜›

    1. OMG WHERE DID THE REST OF MY COMMENT GO?!! Aghh, now I have to remember what I said. But seriously, I did says something more intelligent than that last sentence. HAHA. *ahem* I feel like it takes me away from the characters I’m interested in and throws me in the POV of a character I’m not. Like, yeah, I want to know who the killer is, but I like minimal POVs. xD I didn’t hate it in Made For You tho. It was seriously chilling. 0_0

      1. It was SO creepy in Made for You. I made the mistake of reading that one at night and it kept me up for hours. The thing about that one, too, though, was that it also kind of unintentionally narrowed down the culprits for you to the point where it was insanely easy to guess who it was. *shrugs* I guess it’s just a delicate balance, you know?

  6. Personally, it depends on how the POV is done. Sometimes the author does unintentionally reveal too much,and the reader can easily figure out the culprit. And, as a few other comments pointed out, it can interrupt the flow of the story.Still, I’ll never say I outright hate when authors add those POVs, because other times they’re just chilling, suspenseful, and fun!

    1. I completely agree Eve. It’s definitely a balance of being creepy and not revealing too much, you know?

  7. I feel like I do like it BUT sometimes it can be SO overdone, if you get me? Sometimes it works and there’s something positively chilling about the voice. Most times, it just feels contrived which I’m not a real fan of :/ Fabulous discussion, Zoe! x

    1. I completely get you Jess. Sometimes there are books that just don’t need them, and there are other books that they really work well in.

  8. Hmmm. Before reading this, I would have said YEAH, TOTALLY!! But you’re right… sometimes it does kind of give things away. I think I like it, as long as it’s very vague and doesn’t give me any clues. That being said, I’m terrible at figuring things out, so I’m almost always surprised by who it ends up being. Great post!

    1. Thanks Lisa! I completely agree – it’s definitely a delicate balance of revealing enough information to keep the reader interested & creeped out, but at the same time not revealing too much. Thank you!

  9. I voted for yeah! because whenever I read a few chapters from the killer’s point of view I find I still don’t know who they are. I’m still in the questioning phase. This happens so infrequent for me in books that it hasn’t backfired yet thankfully. Done right, I love reading the crazy mind of the killer.

  10. I voted “Not really,” and it surprised me to see that the majority of people are saying “Yeah!” I don’t read a lot of thrillers, but knowing too much of the story can really hinder my enjoyment of it.

    I just finished a thriller — Black Iris by Leah Raeder — a little bit ago and the ~big reveal~ was kept secret until the last 50 pages or so. I think that was a GREAT idea because it left me guessing. Even though she jumped around in time I NEVER felt like I knew how the story was going to play out. It made the ending that much more enjoyable for me. πŸ˜›

  11. Definitely depends on the execution as to whether I like culprit POVs! Sometimes it makes it ridiculously obvious, and it’s like, whyyy. But on the other hand, it does sometimes really aid in ramping up the tension and building up to the final reveal!

  12. I think it all depends on the author really, or else it could end up being disastrous. In YA and if the book features a brutal murder or worse, a sexual assault, I don’t want to see that from the culprit’s point of view. For me, that would be far too confronting. But for mild scenarios, it adds that extra piece of the puzzle to the plot and often makes you invest in the storyline even more. It’s a fine line though, between authors being all mysterious and accidentally letting the cat out of the bag. Great topic Zoe <3

  13. I read an Agatha Christie novel and she wrote the whole thing from the perspective of the killer, though you didn’t know he did it. It was weird, actually, because he was so calm and nice and assertive, and all the while I was reading about the one who did it! She also did an amazing thing with one of her other books (I won’t say which, lest you’ve not read it and get spoilered if you do) where she wrote these alternate chapters about the person who you thought was the criminal, and it showed all these incriminating things and made him seem completely out of his mind, when really it was only being pinned on him and he had no idea what was going on. It was honestly the most amazing thing, and so believable. I hated that character, then felt so sorry for him!
    This is a really interesting theme, though I don’t know how many books I’ve read where it only sporadically took place. It is really creepy, but it’s not something that I mind about in relation to it making it easier to figure out who they are. I just think it’s pretty interesting, and can be done really well.
    Great conversation starter, Zoe! Xx

    1. Gah! I really want to read something by Agatha Christie – you make all her stories sound so good! Thank you Ro!

  14. YAY POLL! I do find it fascinating and twisted, because it puts us in their mind, and it makes the big reveal all the more shocking. It’s kind of an interesting psychological trick for the reader you know?

  15. I find books partially told in the culprit’s pov interesting, especially when it changes your perception of who you think the culprit actually is. I think it’s such a cool technique, and there’s been a few books I’ve read in which the culprit’s pov have led me to guess the completely wrong person. It can definitely make the novel slightly too creepy sometimes, though. I tend to not read novels with that pov at night. Awesome discussion! πŸ™‚

  16. Not really. I, too, think that it can somehow spoil our guessing of who the culprit really is. They do that in Pretty Little Liars but the producers pulled it off quite well, because we’re more confused than ever every time, instead of being clarified on who they are. I haven’t watched Bones, but now I’m curious. hmm.

  17. I voted for ‘yeah’ but it really depends on the book and how it’s written into the storyline. Sometimes it works and it adds some extra dimension and creepiness to the story. Sometimes it gives away too much information or it just doesn’t add anything special.

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