As a writer, a big part of my life is reading. I read for craft, for research, and for pleasure. I read true crime stories for ideas for books and characters, and I study others work to learn the nuances of being a great writer.

But television also inspires my work. Criminal Minds is a show I’ve watched since its inception. Most of you probably know it’s not the best representation of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. Even the most skilled profilers couldn’t pin down the bad guys the way the CM cast does, and cases certainly aren’t solved in the course of a few days. Many stretch on for months and years, even decades, and the members of the BAU work numerous cases at once, consulting when they are needed.

Awesome cast camaraderie aside, what Criminal Minds excels at is just that: criminal minds. They have some of the best baddies in the business. Everyone is multi-layered and sublimely twisted, and many of them have sad stories of their own. Here are two of my favorites.

The Reaper

George Foyet is one of the creepiest villains around. C. Thomas Howell played the sexual sadist, and his performance was excellent. Foyet preyed on couples, and years before BAU Chief Aaron Hotchner took over the unit, Foyet posed as a victim of the Reaper, brutally stabbing himself in multiple places. He lived freely for years, and then made a triumphant return, sending the BAU Unit into torment and peril.

I don’t want to give away too much, but Foyet is a true serial killer: a narcissist without remorse. He is willing to do whatever it takes to survive and keep killing, and his escape is one of the most twisted things I’ve seen on television.

Tobias Hankel

Played by James VanderBeek, Hankel is a scripture quoting drug addict with multiple personalities. His technical abilities give him the perfect opportunity to sneak into unsuspecting victims lives, and his tormented childhood is a great representation of what can happen when a child is severely abused.

One of the personalities Hankel assumes is that of the angel Raphael, who Tobias believes is guiding him in his cleansing of the corrupt.

Hankel was the catalyst for Agent Ried’s drug use, and he leaves a last effect on not only Reid’s psyche but his abilities as a member of the BAU as well.

These two men are on the opposite end of the spectrum, but they are written so well they are equally disturbing. A true psychopath, Foyet’s nature ensured he was destined for a life of unimaginable cruelty. Hankel was a happy, well-adjusted child subjected to terrible abuse after the death of his mother.

Both criminals lingered in my head after I watched their episodes, and I’ve studied them for ideas on what makes a bad guy truly bone chilling.

My villain in my debut novel, INTO THE DARK, is a genteel man. He’s well-educated, charming, and intelligent. And like so many of the bad guys on Criminal Minds, he is multi-layered. His torment is shaped by a past experience, and the reader can’t help but empathize with the Taker when the reason for his obsession is finally revealed.

What about you? If you’re a writer, are there shows you watch for work purposes? If you’re a reader, are there shows or television characters that stick with you? Who are your favorite TV bad guys?

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Stacy Green is fascinated by the workings of the criminal mind and explores true crime on her popular Thriller Thursday posts at her blog, Get Twisted.

After earning her degree in journalism, Stacy worked in advertising before becoming a stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. She rediscovered her love of writing and wrote several articles for Women’s Edition Magazine of Cedar Rapids, profiling local businesses, before penning her first novel. Her debut novel, INTO THE DARK, is set in Las Vegas and features a heroine on the edge of disaster, a tormented villain, and the city’s infamous storm drains that house hundreds of homeless. INTO THE DARK is available on all digital formats and paperback.

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