Sunday, September 10, 2006

7 Degrees of Separate Villians

I have to say, I really love to write villians. There is a certain freedom in writing them that I don't necessarily feel with my heroines and heroes. In my fantasy opus, Prophet's Promise there is a character who is a tavern whore...I only intended her to be in one scene, maybe a few...the bitch has continued to thrive throughout all four books. Having a lack of scruples and no morals made it so incredibly easy to write for her. There were no filters, no worry about if people were going to like her or be sympathetic to her plight. I just didn't care either way. And yet...she is not the typical 'evil overlord' type villian. Her motivations and actions are very human with flaws a mile wide. Her direction changes faster than a weathervane in a whirlwind. And she feels perfectly justified by switching sides as often as she does. Her path to villiany started by simply loving the wrong man, a man she could never keep. There are at least three villians in that story and none of them have exactly the same reasons for turning...please forgive me for the Dark Side.

In Immorati (available from Triskelion March 07 & Oct. 07) my villian is the Jersey Devil (beings I call the Corpesetti) ...however, instead of only one lone devil haunting New Jersey's Pine Barrens there is an entire lair of them. But sometimes villians aren't always straightforward. I prefer to have villians that are questionable...a little more subtle than your average Darth Vadar or Ming the Merciless. I like the one's that all the way through the book you're thinking "Ok, this guy or gal can go either way." That's the way I've presented my Corpestti. They are definately of two different mindsets.

My novel By A Silken Thread (Triskelion release date TBA) I went more toward the mystery angle and have several 'suspects' that could be the villian and don't reveal the real one until the end of the book. That was a real fun and challenging book to write. I needed to weave in enough red herrings and suspicions for the characters who are not the villian in order to make them look as if they could be guilty and also be able to write in plausible explanations for their actions that the reader could go back and say..."Oh,, I see it was staring me right in the face."

In my novella Fatal Error (available in Red Sage: Secrets Dec. 06) my villian is a sentient computer that has taken over the government. In that case there are no motivations, only programming codes to overcome. It's definately a man against machine conflict. And not just the machinery of the computer, but a metaphorical one of government involvement of citizens daily lives. I went for an Orwellian feel and hope I managed to pull it off.

From a creative standpoint the inner conflicts of our heroes and heroines can sometimes read like a villian's dissertation. My hero in Fangdango: Dance of Death, a vampire novel, is a hitman. He gets paid to kill people, but his own moral code will only allow him to kill those who prey on the innocent. All other people are safe from him. He even uses his money to help put underpriveleged kids through college and gives regularly to charities. At the core Tristain St. Blaise is a good man, a tortured man, but having the heart of a killer is definately getting into the relm of being a darker hero than the standard good guy in the white hat. But the real villian in the story believes he is doing everything out of love. Very twisted psychologically speaking.

Then there are the villians who turn into good guys. What, you haven't heard of this? Let me explain. I think I posted this story once before, but I'll post it again to illustrate what I mean. In By A Silken Thread there is a background background in fact that he's only mentioned in passing, but he is the catalyst for feelings of inadequacy and inner conflict of the heroine. One day, I'm in the shower and this quasi-villian steps in with me and says, "Kat, you gotta tell my story. There's more to it than you could ever believe." I'm thinking, he's good looking, he's invaded my shower, the least he could do is scrub my back. But no, I get the guy who wants to tell me his life story. So....I had to hurry and dry off and run to the computer to dictate his story..and what a whopper it is. It's a story of redemption and self-realization. (I'm still outlining it so I won't give any details here as to how my character gets out of the pickle of his horrible reputation with the ladies.)

-- Sci-fi and Fantasy novels and movies are filled with villians who see the light and fight for the side of good. It's fun to explore the other side of villians and turn them into good guys. Or for good guys to tread the slippery slope of right and wrong.

And what about the good guys who turn into villians? The one's who are nice and normal throughout the book but then turn out to be the bad guy or the victim of very bad circumstances that push them into villiany? I'm exploring that possibility with my current WIP, Idolatry. Though I'm not too subtle about the turning of one of the good guys, I did want to see what happens sometimes when push comes to shove and push wins.

I guess for me, using the same type of villian every time is not something I like to do. I never really realized that until writing this blog how all over the map my villians are. I guess that's a good thing. It illustrates that villians and heroes can be found in all different forms and in varying degrees. I think the key element is how they mirror each other. How do your villians and heroes fit together? How well do they oppose each other? And how far removed are they from one another's personality? Are they diametrically opposed, or is your villian willing to take that one extra step over the line that your hero isn't?



Skylar Masey said...

Fabulous post MK/Kat!

Warning: spoiler for The Island!

Talking of bad guys gone good, I immediately leapt back to the 2005 movie The Island. In the movie Ewan McGregor (Lincoln) and Scarlett Johansson (Jordan) are clones being chased for extermination by Djimon Hounsou (Albert Laurent). In the movie there's a complete about face when Albert starts helping the two escapes because he can finally totally identify with their plight after the evil doctors monolgue about why they were created. To me it was one of the most resounding and powerful moments of the entire movie.

Xandra Gregory said...

I love turning villains around. Maybe it's a function of a "save the world" complex, or deep-seated naivete that thinks that everybody can turn around with the right motivations, or just the thought of reformed bad boys.

Angela Verdenius said...

I love a bad villain. I mean a really bad villain. I have one who can do nice things - but only to get what he wants, otherwise he'll leave you bleeding to death in the dust without a backward look


Lynda K. Scott said...

Great post, Kat! You've raised some interesting questions that I'll have to think about.