Crafting The Crafty

Villains. 

We love to hate them, and sometimes we hate to love them.

Either way, whether as readers or writers, we forge a connection to the villains in our novels.  From way back, I discerned that I embrace a certain affection for the villainous, the crafty, the bad-guy, if you will, in many a story and movie.  It perplexed me, and downright troubled my poor parents, I imagine.

It’s no well-kept secret that I harbored a preference for Ramses in the Ten Commandments, his declarations of, ‘So Let It Be Written, So Let It Be Done,’ raising the goose-flesh on my bony arms as I ridiculed the silly Nefretiri for chasing after Moses, who didn’t want her anyway!  Likewise, in the novel and the subsequent movie, The Last Of The Mohicans, Magua fascinated me with his devilish war paint, brutal depiction, and harsh countenance.  And who could not love Doc Holiday, a known drunkard and gunslinger, who taunted those he deemed inferior to himself, holding loose morals but possessing a wit and charm sufficient to curl your toes?  Dare we have this discussion (at a paranormal site, no less!) without mentioning Bram Stoker’s Dracula?  One can not help but be beguiled – even knowing what he is, what he inflicts on his victims.

Now, let me say that there are villains wholly unlikable, utterly irredeemable.  We don’t have to think long to conjure the likes of serial killers and war criminals – which are in a category completely outside the one I speak of.  Those…well, we’ll leave that for another discussion.

So, what is it that creates the villains that I, and many like me, dare to adore?  I’ve pondered the question myself, and have come to an interesting conclusion.  It’s their redeeming factor.  Can we find a redeeming quality that sparks in us the want for them to mend their ways, to turn away from their vile behavior, to succumb to love, faith, or mercy?

The event or emotion that motivates our villain is often the very thing that draws us near; likewise, the lack of these leaves a void, impressing a sense of unrepentant evil.  A man bent on revenge after losing his lover, wife or child in brutal fashion…a woman manipulating men in power to gain her own in a culture that oppresses those of her gender…a lover enraged at a betrayal committing a crime of passion…  Within these, we can forge a connection and empathize, we can share in their sorrow, or cry out with them for an avenging.  Even if we balk at and protest their actions.  Even if we wish them to change course and walk a different path.

Crafting a villain is a careful, thoughtful endeavor if we wish our audience to love to hate them – or hate to love them.  Ha!  In The Third Fate, I decided to craft a variety of villains.  In the character Gwendolyn, I wanted the audience to ‘love to hate her’.  She’s downright malevolent!  Wielding her sexuality much as a gladiator would a sword, she cuts down any in her path, hacking mercilessly at the egos of many.  She harbors no loyalty, no love.  In short, she is completely self-serving, and makes no apologies for it.  In contrast, the three child-like Fates, are likewise bent of self-gratification.  But their innocence tips the scales, sliding them into the category of ‘we hate to love them’ – even though we do.

What traits endear a villain to you?

~ Nadja

For The Love Of Characters

Characters.  A word with multi-faceted meaning if ever there was…

My, but he’s a character!

This is my favorite application of the word.  It says so much, yet leaves a great deal to the imagination.  Ha!  In writing, authors strive to capture the essence of that sentiment, morphing a set of typed characters (Ah!  There’s that word again) into a personality that draws you, excites and amuses, puzzles, leads you forward within the story, attaching you seamlessly to their emotions and deepest desires. Becoming more than two-dimensional names printed on a white background, our favorite and best-loved characters capture our hearts and minds – are as real to our mind’s eye as a friend, an enemy, or a lover.  Well, that’s the goal, anyway.

One fun way to reveal a character’s character (Okay…I’m taking it a bit far with my use of the word, but I cannot help myself.  Really. *snorts with delight at own perceived wit*  Apologies extended.) is through dialogue.  I’ll share a back and forth exchange between sister-like characters in my latest novel, a paranormal romance titled The Third Fate.

Being one of four sisters (and having four brothers) I love including sibling relationships in my novels.  The dynamics between siblings allow for quirky interaction – siblings say to you what no one else would dare! (At least mine do…)

Paige Kinnell, speaking on the phone to her twin cousins after a mysterious, dream-like adventure of the night before….

‘What is it, Brooke?’

The cheery voice on the other end ignored her rude beginning.  ‘You have something to tell us?’ her cousin, Brooke, teased wickedly.

‘What would I have to tell?’ Paige questioned, having no idea what her cousin was about.

‘Don’t you dare play the shy little virgin this morning, Paige Kinnell!  We want details, woman!’

Brooke’s voice carried overly well through the line, and Paige held the phone away from her ear, protecting her eardrum.  ‘What in all of Hades are you about, calling me in the morning asking me silly questions?  Details?  Of what?’

Brooke screamed in exasperation.  ‘Of that beautiful man you went on about last night on the phone!  You know, the one with the black hair?  The icy blue eyes?  The body built to make a saint sin?  That’s who!’

Oddly, Paige did not remember that; however, she did remember the man.  The man from her dream.

Oh Bother!  How can I explain this?

‘I must have been dreaming or something.  Sorry, but there’s really nothing to tell, girls.’

‘Paige, honey…if those are your dreams, I need to know what you were drinking before you went to sleep!’  Brooke laughed, relating the conversation to Lara, who guffawed in the background.

Paige smiled, her first of the morning.  They made her crazy, but she couldn’t imagine life without them.  ‘All right, you two.  I’ve got to get ready for work.  Call me later.  Maybe I’ll get out of there on time for once.’

‘You should come out with us tonight,’ Brooke invited.  ‘We’re going to Jinty McGinty’s…It’ll be fun.’

‘I don’t know,’ Paige hesitated.  ‘You know I don’t drink much, and sitting around while everyone else does is not all that fun.’

‘Oh, come on!  It’s been an age since you let your hair down.  All work and no play make Paige a dull girl.  You’re too timid, Paige.  How are you ever going to land a man if you…’

Someone or something interrupted Brooke’s sage-like lecture, saving Paige the trouble of begging off the line.

‘Sorry, Paige!  Gotta run!  I’ll call you at seven sharp.  And for the love of Henry wear something more risqué than a turtleneck.’

The line went dead, and Paige heaved a sigh of relief, muttering as she readied for work.  ‘What’s the matter with my turtleneck sweaters, anyway?’

The Third Fate © Nadja Notariani, 2011

 ~ Nadja