A to Z Challenge 2013

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vile Villains

Continuing with a previous post about heroes, it's time to talk about villains. Villains for me are just like heroes. They cannot be omnipotent, incredibly charismatic, and perfectly evil. A proper villain however, shouldn't be ignorant either. After all, if the villain were really as stupid as is so often portrayed by Hollywood, anyone could catch them. The truly diabolical villains appeal to me greatly. The people who hide in the shadows, surprise me by being behind the master plan without me suspecting at any point. A perfect example is the villain in Angels & Demons (which I will be reviewing tomorrow). I won't spoil the story because I think everyone who enjoys that type of book really needs to read it. But the major villain in the story is someone you would never expect. I didn't have even a hint of it as I was reading, so that when it was revealed, I was stunned. That is what I call a great villain.

Another villainous type I enjoy is the truly evil. Sometimes writers seem to find it difficult to describe someone who is pure evil. Homicidal destruction all wrapped up in a cannabilistic rage. There are lines that many writers will just not go beyond, but I'm not so naive as to think there does not exist vessels of pure evil out there. I also don't think it's a terrible thing to examine this facet of humanity in literature. Call it a morbid curiosity towards an aspect I personally could never (nor would I, of course) experience. Stephen King is one writer that consistently explores these deeper wells of evil, and obviously he does a great job of it. If you haven't noticed by now, King is definitely one of my larger influences. Whether I'll ever be able to write as well as he does remains to be seen, but let it be known that I purposely drink from his well whenever possible. The man is pure genius for drawing out the diabolical.

I don't think it really matters to me whether the villain is human, space alien, or an insect. It doesn't matter. What matters is how well the author creates an understanding between the written work and myself that I am in the presence of evil undeniable. Don't give me hordes of simplistic goons in zoot suits or the Supreme Overlord in black. The more unique and interesting the villain is, the more likely it is I'll be entertained.

So how about yourself? What makes a great villain? What makes a poor one? And when was the last time you truly felt afraid of a villain being real (figuratively, of course)?

7 comments:

Weronika said...

Eric, I promise I've been following along--I just tend to not find a balance between blogging and commenting.

"What matters is how well the author creates an understanding between the written work and myself that I am in the presence of evil undeniable. Don't give me hordes of simplistic goons in zoot suits or the Supreme Overlord in black. The more unique and interesting the villain is, the more likely it is I'll be entertained."

I absolutely agree, though I worry that some of the "fresh" and "unique" stuff is becoming the cliche. Sometime writers just go too far.

As for the questions you posed, a villain is someone who is 120% against the positive growth of the hero, be that a very basic conflict or a huge moral dilemma.

And the last time I was afraid of a villain? Oh, a while now...Probably one of Stephen King's or Dean Koontz's horrors/thrillers. Most of the stuff I read tends to pose the "villain" in emotional internal form, something that I tend not to be afraid of.

Good post. :)

Cheers!

Liana Brooks said...

Most villains don't bother me. They don't creep me out. They aren't really evil.

The ones I love are the ones who are in the gray area. You can *almost* see their POV. They are *almost* right. I like charismatic and charming villains who have class.

Barring that I'll settle for a villain you don't suspect. But I don't like it when the author just randomly chooses a minor character and pins the crime on them. There have to be clues, motive, and means for everything. I want to be able to reread the book and see the sinister plotting layer the second time through.

Nisa said...

I have to agree with Liana's comment. The villains that are persuasive and can hook people with their logic are interesting. I would hope that the ones you don't suspect are doing this all along so when you look back at it, you can smack yourself on the forehead and so duh!

beth said...

To me, what I most want is a villian who's clear motivation is there and who thinks whatever it is he's doing is RIGHT. Best example: the agent from Serenity.

Justus M. Bowman said...

I think you nailed it when you said unique and interesting villains are entertaining.

Cindy said...

A lot of times my villains are the "demons" within the MC. I make it believable with the characters struggle between "right and wrong" or "good and bad". I give them obstacles to get around. As far as writing truly evil villains in human form...that would be a challenge. But I DO like and HAVE written antagonist with redeemable characteristics. Those are my favorite.

I like what Beth said above. The villain thinks what they're doing is right--that's what makes them so diabolical.

The Screaming Guppy said...

Love villains. :) It's just fun to write someone evil. Like in my new WIP ("the dark book"), my cannibal is about as evil as they come. It's just damn fun to right.

word verification: chili <-- omg people chili? :O