The other day, I saw a post in a writer’s forum. The writer wanted to know what the allure of villains was. She said she didn’t particularly like any villains, let alone the one she herself was writing.
It gave me pause, because writing and reading villains is one of my favorite things to do. Although… I am a psychology nut, so perhaps my views should be taken with a giant heaping of salt. Still, I say villains help us see deep into the writer’s soul; far deeper than the heroes do. What does the author consider despicable? What does the author think the world will see as unforgivable? And also, why is the villain the way he or she is? In other words, what is the “excuse” the writer gives for the villain’s behavior?
Ask those questions as you read your next novel. I guarantee you’ll be seeing your author in a much more intimate light than before. And if you’re a writer, ask yourself those questions before you write your next novel. What is your villain’s motivation? Why is he a rapist/child killer/spoon thief? Diving deep makes for a fascinating study of the human psyche, and a much more three-dimensional book.
And just for fun, here are some of my favorite bad guys: Anthony Hopkins in the movie Hannibal (isn’t this one on everyone’s list?), the Commander in the book The Handmaid’s Tale (talk about a three-dimensional antagonist!), and Ashley in J.L. Bryan’s Jenny Pox series of books (pure evil in such a lovely form).
If you love villains as much as I do, who are some of your favorites? I’m always looking to add to my list!