HH Com 142

Jeremy Krubbs’ mother is as crazy as the Red Queen.
And Jeremy’s infected with her schizophrenic genes.
He hears her voice advising him on things from the mundane to the insane.
Now “Mom” wants him to kill his highschool rival for the girl he loves.
Yes, there is one desperate hope to escape—and it’s crazier than anything else.

Ok, I guess this is a hook but it's a little sketchy.
Is schizophrenia genetic?

"desperate hope to escape" implies he knows he's unbalanced.
Most people I know who are mentally ill think they're just fine. It's one of the hardest problems to solve.

Plus this has overtones of Psycho.

Plus, I'm really down on mental illness as the motivation for violence.


Anonymous said...

As you imply Jeremy's mother is alive, I was confused as to whether he 'hears' her voice in his head or hears her real voice when she talks to him.

If you're going to write about schizophrenia, you need to study up on it. The vast majority of people suffering from it are not violent - the voices are far too busy attacking them to bother telling them to attack anyone else. It's a very, very difficult and sad illness, whose sufferers get burdened with an unfair reputation for violence. In 1940s pulps, perhaps, you could get away with using it as a catch-all generic tag for 'crazy', but nowadays you'll be expected to portray it accurately.

Really, I wouldn't throw words like 'crazy' around if you're talking about mental illness. You certainly shouldn't write about it carelessly. That's offensive. Too many people have friends or family who are genuine sufferers, and too many nice people are having their lives ruined by mental disease, and you owe them all the courtesy of knowing your subject rather than just using it as a plot device.

Anonymous said...

Yes and No! An assessment on the background of the family must be proven before it can be said that gentics runs in a family.

Steve said...

I am trained in psychiatric diagnosis and, yes, medical doctors believe there is a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. What that means is, your mother can be as batty as George Bush's attic and you have no trace of the disorder, but you carry the defective gene. So if you have descendants and they do likewise, eventually someone is going to bingo on the defective gene and become a mom-clone.

That is the theory. What that means in practice is, schizophrenia and loads of other disorders, including antisocial personality disorder, tend to run in families. If you adopt a child who comes from a thousand generations of horse thieves (= antisocial personalities) and give that child the idyllic upbringing, the child is likely to end up dead or in prison anyway because APD has a genetic component. Now THERE is a book hook.

What is NOT true is the common assumption that most schizos are violent. Schizophrenia is associated with flattened affect, whereas violent people tend to be passionate. You may not have to be passionate to be dangerous. Paranoid schizophrenics could act in what they believe to be self-defense against people who mean them no harm. Hannibal Lecter was of course not passionate (or at least not in fiction.) But he was not really violent in the mean mean sense. Just hungry.

Anonymous said...

It's a fascinating and prevalent area of mental illness that affects our society. And, yes, it is genetically linked, as per the DMS-IV Diagnostic Criteria. Echoes of Psycho. Yeah. Bring it on.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Also, 'Mom' would be as real to Jeremy as your morning cup of coffee. If this story is told from his perspective, it could be years before he has even a surface understanding that Mom only happens between his ears and isn't sitting across the breakfast table from him.

Rei said...


Yes, but schizophrenia usually does have a genetic component. If you have a parent who has schizophrenia, odds are still pretty low that you will have it (even if you have two parents, your odds are better that you won't than that you will). However, your odds are much higher than the general population.

BuffySquirrel said...

"Yes and No" is exactly the answer I was going to give.

Gottesman & Shields (1966,1972) gave a concordance rate of schizophrenia for MZ (identical) twins at 0.54, whereas the concordance rate for DZ (fraternal) twins is 0.18. Hoffer et al (1968) had concordance rates of 0.155 and 0.044 respectively. There are other studies, but the pattern in the studies is consistent, which is that the concordance rate for MZ twins is always higher than for DZ twins.

Heston (1966) found that adopted children whose natural mothers were schizophrenic were five times more likely to be diagonised schizophrenic than those of non-schizophrenic natural mothers.

Kendler (1985) found that first-degree relatives of schizophrenics are eighteen times more likely to be diagnosed schizophrenic than first-degree relatives of non-schizophrenics.

However, there are a number of other theories that would point to a non-genetic cause, or a cause that triggers a genetic predisposition. What all of these theories have in common is that they agree schizophrenia almost certainly has an organic basis. The most convincing and generally agreed organic explanation is that of abnormally high levels of dopamine, although what causes this abnormality could be various factors.

Bet you're glad you asked!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'd want to know if he can function day-to-day, maybe if he takes his medicine. Also, I think you're going to have to add the next sentence in your hook, if you want to grab their attention; that sentence will reveal the option he has.

Anonymous said...

Mental illness isn't usually associated with violence. However most violence is domestic and it is usually associated with some form of mental illness. Well adjusted people don't beat/shoot/burn themselves, or their lovers and relatives, or stangers.

I spent many years working in the criminal defense field and ended up convinced the good/evil theory of behavior might work in some bronze age mythology but in real life, major violence doesn't happen without some form of mental impairment. Unfortunately we're still following the bronze age model and primarily deal with impaired behavior by doling out punishments that mimic placement in Hell and only make fragile people who can't cope more psychotic, instead of providing better therapy. Which is why prisons and jails have become our new "mental health institutions". Denying that mental health problems could cause a person to do something horribly inappropriate is not helpful. If you read the newspaper, you can see it happens daily.

I believe the latest theory on schizophrenia is that it's partly genetic but also requires some exposure in utero, probably to influenza, which is why it's so important for pregnant women to get flu shots.

Writerious said...

Discussions of a genetic component aside, "infected" is the wrong word to use here. Infections are invasions of a disease-causing organisms or agents that are not part of the host: bacteria, viruses, fungi, prions, or protozoans. Jeremy's genes are not an infectious agent. He has inherited his mother's genes and may (or may not) be affected by them, but he's not infected.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to those few who assumed correctly that the research was done on this before I wrote the book.

Angus Weeks said...


That word has negative connotations. It refers to the spreading of disease.

I have schizophrenia. I am not diseased. At worst, I have a 'disorder'.

Schizophrenic people as a whole group DO NOT have any more predisposition to violence than anyone. That is a myth perpetuated by fiction.

Please don't make your fiction yet another perpetuation of this horrible myth.

HawkOwl said...

As to the philosophy of it, I'm with the criminal defence anonymous.

As to the literary aspect, I want to read the psychiatrically-trained anonymous's book on APD (which if it is genetic, that casts the world in a whole different light to me).

As to the political correctness of your treatment, I'm not up in arms about it, but the first anonymous speaks for many people who will be very displeased with you if this is published, and it is what it sounds like.

As to the "is this hook any good" aspect, meh. I found the comment trail way more interesting than the hook. Also I read a novel about schizophrenics recently (by Wally Lamb - I can never remember the title correctly) and it wasn't worth it. So, pass. Good conversation piece, though.

Demented M said...

I grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic. My MIL is a paranoid schizophrenic. I had a schizophrenic (minus the paranoia) friend in college. Any unmedicated schizophrenic whose 'buttons' have been pushed can be violent. I've seen it.

Read enough of the ER doc blogs and you'll find quite a few anecdotes of violent behavior in the mentally ill.

The mentally ill aren't monsters,
but I wouldn't assume all their repsonses to the world will be pacifistic either.

As for the hook, points for brevity but it didn't capture my imagination.


Anonymous said...

Most of the problems with this as schizophrenia have already been addressed. Since you claim to have researched, author-of-this-hook, I'm going to go on faith and say that this means the main character may not truly be schizophrenic.

If he doesn't actually *have* schizophrenia, even if he thinks he does, and so all these things really make sense in the context of what's really going on... then some explanation should go into the query or hook. I'm not going to have any interest in reading on as long as it looks like this is a story about a fictionalized version of a mental illness. On the other hand, a story about someone who's been lead to believe that they're crazy by some method might be interesting.

Knowing what genre this goes into would help. If it falls into fantasy or sci-fi, for example, I'd assume that all is not as it appears and would want to read on.

Or, if you do understand how it really works and he really is supposed to be schizophrenic, you might not have communicated it well. The whole hook could be improved considerably with more detail and tighter phrasing. If you're going to base a novel around a mental illness, you're going to need to go for nuance, not quick-and-snappy.

Angus Weeks said...

"Any unmedicated schizophrenic whose 'buttons' have been pushed can be violent. I've seen it."

Any 'normal' person whose buttons are pushed can be violent. I've seen it.

To the other person who is talking about the association of violence to mental illness as a whole - this may be your field of study, so I shall defer to you there. However, may I emphasise that schizophrenia (which is my field of study) is but one of the many mental illnesss out there - 'schizophrenia' is merely a subset of 'mental illness'. To repeat what I said, people with schizophrenia *as a whole group* are no more violent than anyone else.

To 'demented m' - I am aware that a certain subset of schiophrenic persons, generally being those who are acutely psychotic and suffering paranoid ideation/delusions or hallucinations are slightly more prone to violence than the average 'normal' person. But this is balanced by the subset of schizophrenics who are actually far less violent than the average 'normal' person (hence why I used 'as a whole group' in my original post).

It depresses me that the only time anyone wants to represent a person with schizophrenia, it has to be in association with violence. This merely perpetuates the cycle of stigma suffered by those with schizophrenia.

To the author - I am not commenting on your story, as obviously I haven't seen it, I'm only commenting on your hook. If you have truly done research, then I hope you welcome this POV from someone with schizophrenia and can see by now how your hook would come across as offensive and lead to all sorts of connotations which you probably didn't intend.

Demented M said...


Thanks for dismissing my experiences that forgot to subscribe to your data.

I'm sure the cop my grandfather assaulted would be pleased. And my MIL will stop breaking people's windows because 'they' are 'listening' to her because the data says she should be 'far less violent than the average person.'

And the hospitals can just get rid of all those pesky restraints they use in the psych ward.


HawkOwl said...

Demented M - the point Angus is making is about STATISTICS, not about YOU. YOUR experience is an anecdote. Many people's experiences make up a statistic. Chill out.

I wonder if the way some people take everything as being strictly about themselves is a mental illness, or just the natural byproduct of our cultural outlook.

Anonymous said...

as author of hook & book, I'm grateful for those commenters who point out their experiences and give advice. Thanks. On closer self-examination I realize that the book is indeed closer to being a fantasy, but I don't like categories and genre...