Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Criminal Profiling a la Supervisory Special Agent Dumbledore

If you've ever watched the TV series Criminal Minds, you'll know that this show takes the popular crime investigation plot to a deeper level as the investigative team delves into the mind of the unsub (unknown criminal subject) to understand his motivations, his modus operandi, and who he is likely to target next in order to aide law enforcement officials to prevent him from acting again.  The process frequently involves understanding patterns of behavior and past experiences which have influenced the unsub into acting out against others.

The Criminal Minds' team of profilers, based on the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit, helps law enforcement solve and prevent crimes with three main goals:

Holmes and Holmes (2008) outline the three main goals of criminal profiling:[2]
  • The first is to provide law enforcement with a social and psychological assessment of the offender;
  • The second goal is to provide law enforcement with a “psychological evaluation of belongings found in the possession of the offender” (p. 10);
  • The third goal is to give suggestions and strategies for the interviewing process. (Source: Wikipedia)
According to researcher and profiler Gerard Labuschagne, the investigative team follows a standard process which includes:

1) gathering information from multiple sources, especially if more than one crime has been committed
2) identifying significant and shared features from each related crime
3) determining the unsub's modus operandi or signature

Much in the same way, throughout Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore takes Harry on a quest into the criminal mind.  Specifically Tom Riddle's.  Dumbledore and Harry become a profiling team of two in order to delve deep into Voldemort's past, understand his patterns of behavior, especially in regards to the creation and hiding of his Horcruxes, so that Harry may survive their future showdown.

'Sir ... is it important to know all this about Voldemort's past?'
'Very important, I think,' said Dumbledore.
'And it ... it's got something to do with the prophecy?'
'It has everything to do with the prophecy.'
'Right,' said Harry, a little confused, but reassured all the same. (p. 203, HBP, Bloomsbury)

Look again at the Holmes and Holmes outline above.  As the profiler to Harry's law enforcement, Dumbledore helps Harry assess Voldemort in all three goals:

  1. social and psychological assessment -- Through the Pensieve, Harry views Tom Riddle's troubled family history, his lonely years at the orphanage and the children he terrorized, his pack of "friends" at Hogwarts who became the first Death Eaters, and his need to set himself above all others and attain immortality.
  2. psychological evaluation of belongings -- The Horcruxes!  Harry and the reader learn that Voldemort kills primarily to make Horcruxes to ensure his eternal life.  These bits of Riddle's soul are secured within physical objects, objects (like the Gaunt family ring and relics of the Hogwarts founders) that bear significant meaning to Voldemort.  What's more, these Horcruxes are then hidden in places that have played a prominent role in Riddle's life -- such as the home of his mother and a secret room at Hogwarts.
  3. suggestions and strategies for the interview -- Throughout these journeys into Riddle's past, Harry comes to understand Voldemort, his goals, fears, motivations.  This insight plays a crucial role throughout Deathly Hallows as with Ron and Hermione by his side, Harry must stay one step ahead of Voldemort in his quest to seek and destroy Horcruxes, as well as when in his final confrontation, he offers Voldemort one last chance for redemption.

Along the way, following the process outlined by Labuschagne, Dumbledore and Harry gather information from multiple sources and crime scenes, identify the shared features within each of Voldemort's murders, and are then able to come to the conclusion of the nature and number of Voldemort's Horcruxes.

'But now, Harry, armed with this information, the crucial memory you have succeeded in procuring for us, we are closer to the secret of finishing Lord Voldemort than anyone has ever been before.  You heard him, Harry: "Wouldn't it be better, make you stronger, to have your soul in more pieces ... isn't seven the most powerfully magical number ..."  Isn't seven the most powerfully magical number.  Yes, I think the idea of a seven-part soul would greatly appeal to Lord Voldemort.'   .......

   'However, we should not congratulate ourselves too heartily.  You destroyed the diary and I the ring, but if we are right in our theory of a seven-part soul, four Horcruxes remain.'
   'And they could be anything? said Harry.  'They could be old tin cans, or, I dunno, empty potion bottles ...?'
   'You are thinking of Portkeys, Harry, which must be ordinary objects, easy to overlook.  But Lord Voldemort use tin cans or old potion bottles to guard his own precious soul?  You are forgetting what I have shown you.  Lord Voldemort liked to collect trophies, and he preferred objects with a powerful magical history.  His pride, his belief in his own superiority, his determination to carve for himself a startling place in magical history; these things suggest to me that Voldemort would have chosen his Horcruxes with some care, favouring objects worthy of the honour.' (p. 470 - 471, HBP, Bloomsbury)

With her use of trophies and assessment of a modus operandi, it seems fairly obvious to me that J.K. Rowling studied criminal profiling to some extent to better develop Voldemort's criminal mind.  This is the kind of research and depth of character development we need to go to as writers if we want our readers to accept our characters, both protagonist and antagonist, main characters and secondaries, and relate to them as if they were real.

In the earlier books, Voldemort was not the fully-fleshed villain which he became later in the series.  Indeed, it was the criminal profiling journeys of Supervisory Special Agent Dumbledore and Officer Potter which helped both Harry and the reader finally get a feel for Tom Riddle as a complex and motivated individual.

Also, these Pensieve journeys throughout HBP played into one of Rowling's key themes of the series as well providing a critical clue for this particular book.  By studying Voldemort's backstory, the reader sees clearly the importance of choice along the way, especially as Harry's shadow, Voldemort's choices can be contrasted so starkly against Harry's.  Finally, by having the reader look literally below the surface of the Pensieve throughout Half-Blood Prince, Jo gives the reader the tools to look beneath the surface of the actions taken by THE Half-Blood Prince at its climax.

I've included a table below so you can refresh your minds on the Pensieve trips Harry and Dumbledore took to explore Voldemort's past and understand his present.  But, what about you?  How much research do you put into profiling your villains?  And, out of curiosity, are you into any of the currently popular criminal investigative TV show?  I admit I'm partial to NCIS.  Big Tiva fan. :-)

Groupings Who's Memory Scene/Action Purpose Date**
1 Bob Ogden, Department of Magical Law Enforcement Visit to Gaunt family hovel to notify Morfin of his upcoming hearing To see Voldemort's parents, the situation of his birth, the two Horcruxes (Slytherin locket and Peverell ring) 1925
2a Caractacus Burke, co-founder of Borgin and Burkes Buying the locket off Merope To see the locket ended up at Borgin and Burkes and how bad off Merope had become 1926
2b Dumbledore Visit to Tom Riddle at the orphanage To see how he terrorized other children, scorned death, his penchant for secrets and privacy, and collected trophies, among other traits of his personality 1938
3a Morfin Gaunt Morfin's encounter with Tom Riddle To see how Tom came into possession of the ring, apparently murdered his family and neatly placed blame on his uncle; also Dumbledore's skill at obtaining difficult memories 1943
3b Slughorn's tampered memory In Slughorn's office with Tom Riddle and friends To show Tom Riddle with Marvolo's ring; to start the thread on Horcrux, giving Harry, Hermione, and Ron time to investigate it and see how almost nothing is written or known about Horcruxes 1943
4a Hokey Don't know Voldemort's obsession with collecting remnants of the Hogwarts Founding Four; how he obtained Slytherin's locket and another possible Horcrux (Hufflepuff's cup) 1947
4b Dumbledore (ten years after Hokey's) Voldemort requesting a position at Hogwarts Voldy's interest in Hogwarts as a place to find or place more Horcruxes; to explain how the position of DADA instructor got cursed, and to show Voldemort appearing less human, meaning he's already formed several Horcruxes. 1957
5 Slughorn's correct memory In his office with Tom Riddle and friends To show the magical #7; also discussion afterward revealing Horcruxes used as a weapon as well as a safeguard 1943

**These dates supplied from the Harry Potter Lexicon's timeline

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fan Fun and Writing Conference at Ascendio 2012

Hi All,

Sorry for the couple of weeks absence.  Every now and then I need a break to recharge my blogging cells. :-)

But there's an exciting event coming up that I want you all to know about.  I'm going to be presenting my Writer's Guide to Harry Potter workshop at the upcoming conference Ascendio 2012 in Orlando in mid-July.  I've been talking with one of the conference PR team, Heidi Tandy, who's really excited to get the word out to writers that this conference, which has always included participation and programs for authors, will this year include a special track within the conference especially geared to writers of both original and fan fiction.

The Quill Track will not only include workshops and panel discussions covering the craft and business of writing from experienced authors, but will also host several agents and editors who are Harry Potter fans as well!  It may interest you to know that some of the agents began as fan fiction authors themselves and were moderators on Fiction Alley.

Scheduled agents who will be taking one-page pitches include:

And editors include:

Plus many exciting YA (and other) authors will be attending, presenting, and signing books, including Aimee Carter, Beth Revis, Lev Grossman, Veronica Roth, Michelle Hodkin, and Mark Oshiro.  You can read all their bios at the Quill Track Authors, Editors, and Agents page.

Ascendio will be held at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando from July 12 - 15 and includes many exciting events for both writers and fans of the Harry Potter series, including a special after-hours event in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parkFull registration or one-day passes are available for the conference, and the hotel rate is the best available for the summer months.

Other programs of interest to writers include:

  • panel discussions on hot topics in publishing, including commercial publishing vs. self-publishing, LGBTQ in YA, how to get an agent, and more
  • practical presentations by successful fans-turned-published authors on how to go from fanfic to pro writing, as well as how-tos on self-publishing ebooks
  • workshops on writing (fanfic and original) and critiquing

And for those of you who have ever written fan fiction, there will be a producer attending Ascendio who is filming a documentary on the history of fan fiction and its creation.

I'd love to meet you all in person, and what better place to meet than at a Harry Potter fan and writers conference!  Imagine it -- where else can you go to have both the fun of a fan gathering with the opportunities  of a writers event?  So if you can work writing and Harry in Orlando into your summer plans, join me for some fun!

Also, be sure to check by Jami Gold's blog if you haven't already as she's got some exciting things going on, as she usually does, especially for writers interested in fan fiction.  Jami tackled the ethical questions behind the prior fan fiction Fifty Shades of Grey, which has generated a ton of debate in the comments section as well as being highlighted on GalleyCat.

So, who all is planning on attending a writing conference in the upcoming months?  Which ones?  And, I'm curious, how many of you have written fan fiction?  I know several of you have.... :-)  (friends from the Ukraine, Puerto Rico, California, and Arizona come to mind!)