What a terrific bunch of posts about villains! And if the books are as good as the excerpts, (I’m sure they are!) I’m going to have some great reading ahead of me.
One thing I’ve noticed is that more and more writers are giving a tiny bit of background to their villains (at least to the human ones) that gives an insight into the psyche of the villain, the ‘what made him go bad’ factor. I was watching a movie the other day and one of the villains, a woman, inadvertently showed her scars from being beaten over the years by her boyfriends/husbands. She wanted money so she could be powerful enough to protect herself. Another villain grew up ignored by his father while his brother was the apple of his father’s eye. He turned to villainy just for the attention, a way to shout to the world that he was indeed here. His reasoning wasn’t as profound, to me, as the woman’s because...well, he grew up. Act like a man for pete’s sake and get over it.
The woman, on the other hand, was far more sympathetic in her reasoning. And, in her own way, far more cruel than the male villain. She was, after all, fighting for a more important reason–to stay alive.
While we may not agree with her methods, I think we can all understand her to an extent.
Someone mentioned Darth Vader. Vader was an extremely strong, powerful villain but it’s not until Episode III that we see how he became that way. He was trying to protect the life of his love but his methods, his choices if you will, are the very things that caused her death. Sadly tragic, isn’t it?
Of course, he redeems himself at the end of Episode VI by turning on the Emperor to save Luke’s life but one has to wonder...what path would he have taken had he never realized that Luke was his son? Would he have continued being the Emperor’s henchman? Or would he have eventually usurped the Emperor and become the Evil Overlord himself?
Personally, I believe he would have become the Evil Overlord. Why? Because he’d set himself on that path by believing the Emperor’s lies. And I think he knew they were lies somewhere deep inside him. It was just an easier path to take. Easier and less emotionally traumatic. In other words, it was a way to make sure the galaxy and everyone in it couldn’t hurt him again.
How close is Darth Vader to our heroes who fight them? Pretty close. Most often we see the hero as fighting for freedom, justice and the pursuit of happiness. In reality, I think they’re fighting–just like Darth Vader–to protect their emotional and physical selves, to keep from being hurt by forces outside themselves.
In romance, that fight often reflects itself in trying to avoid the heroine because she can make him vulnerable (bad thing) and yet, it’s her love/acceptance/whatever that often gives him the strength to avoid that downward slide into villainy.
Darth lost his princess and became evil. But, if in the following years, he had found another love--someone who accepted him and who could make him a better person--would he have become a hero?