Friday, June 12, 2009

It Takes a Villain

What is a villain? I guess you might say they fascinate me, because in their eyes, they aren’t villains. They are motivated to reach certain goals just like the heroes and heroines, but it is their method combined with the main characters' perception of them that causes the rub.

This perception makes a big impact. Using a historical example, here’s a passage about Abe Lincoln from the viewpoint of the South and from the North.

Southerner at the Battle of Gettysburg

Here I sit among my fallen brothers. This war is so senseless. Had it not been for the aggression of Lincoln who had the audacity to attack citizens of his own nation-had it not been for his flagrant disregard of states’ rights. He was elected President of the United States, and what did he do? He only served the ones he wanted to and those with whom he had disagreement he attacked.

Northerner at the Battle of Gettysburg

Here I sit among my fallen brothers. War is so cruel, but this conflict is necessary. Had it not been for the stubbornness of the states which had the audacity to pull out of the Union-had it not been for the flagrant disregard of human’ rights. Had Lincoln not been elected, had a lesser man taken office, we might not have this conflict, yet we forever would be two separate nations. I am proud to serve under his command and glad he had the courage to stand up to those who would usurp the authority of the federal government.

These show very different ideas about this man but are comments about the same situation and the same person. Using POV is an effective tool to “up the ante” of the reader’s perception of the villain.

Villains range in character and motivation. Remember to develop your villain as a character. It’s not enough they do bad things. They need reasons. Based on the type of villain you have the reasons may be different.

Here are a few examples of villainous characters:

The ones who you think are your friends, the Judas type--Brutus in Julius Ceasar, is one we all know. Ike Hawkins, is Bobby’s friend in The Outlaw’s Angel by Helen Hardt, and he trusts the man, but as soon as Bobby’s back is turned....You have Miles in Miner in Petticoats by Paty Jager. Miles pretends to be a friend, he’s only got everyone’s interests at heart, but the man is up to no good.

The ones who suck you dry like a vampire--This would be the wastrel son or brother who bleeds you dry of resources. Always wanting more, never able to live on their own, sapping the strength from those around him.

The psychic, sadistic persona—Several very different characters come to mind for this one. Bubba Buchannan of McKenna’s Woman by Loretta Rogers is evil and sadistic, his cruelty is explained, an injury in childhood changed who he was. Something didn't work right in his head after that. Andrew Fallon in Fire Eyes by Cheryl Pierson is a very different sadistic and psychotic. He beats the hero, Kaed, to within an inch of his life. And he kills another. He lets his men rape and kill for his enjoyment.

The diva-type, selfish and self-serving Helen Pilz crafted a great conniving man in Lord Rochford in With Love, King Henry VIII this is an English Tea Rose. He is greedy for power and manipulates everyone and everything within his path for it. Also there’s the spoiled, selfish daughter Danielle in My Heart Will find Yours who becomes so absorbed with getting what she wants her actions are no longer reasonable. Her desire consumes her.

The downtrodden kid who grows up to seek revenge is someone who easily could be a hero. But instead of turning their energies for good they channel energy into hurting others, making everyone pay for their misfortunes. Again, I am stepping across lines here to American Rose but, Phillip in Meg Hennessy's Shadows of a Southern Moon is a great example. These could be amazing sympathic heroes but their energies focus on self rather than others.

The power mad controller who sees things only their way. Not necessarily "evil" but someone who is strong willed and intends to have their way at all costs. Wonderfully evil mother-in-law, Felicitas Romero, in Celia Yeary's All My Hopes and Dreams is a prime candidate here. She’s so focused on what she wants for her son she’s driven to extremes. She never considers his wishes or thoughts.

Not to oversimplify the villain persona. The villain in Paty Jager’s Outlaw in Petticoats,- Marsh is a composite. He was downtrodden, but he was also spoiled and out for revenge, when you read abouthim you realize, he was a little bit of all of these villains.

Villains come in all shapes and sizes and can be powerful catalysts in your story.

Happy Writing,



Cheryl said...

What a great post! I love villains, don't you? They are so complex and fun to create--kind of scary when you're finished and people read your book and go..."WOW...where did THAT come from?" LOL Andrew Fallon was evil,just "turned that way" as my mom would say. I have a couple of other villains in my manuscripts who had childhood trauma happen that made them like they are, but I also have another couple that are somewhat like Fallon, but have their own quirks.

Thanks for this post--I love reading about and analyzing other people's villains!


Paty Jager said...

Fun post, Eve!

Celia Yeary said...

Thanks, Eve, not only for categorizing villains (I have made note of these--as you knew I would), but for mentioning ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS. I have received so many verbal uplifting comments and very nice, generous compliments about my novel--but the one character everyone loved to hate was dear old Felicitas.They "couldn't wait to see what she did next." One classy lady at church whispered to me--"I'd like to wring that woman's neck!" I laughed to myself all during church.Nice job--Celia

Mona Risk said...

Good post. My villain is a little different. His official motivation for hating the hero is that hero married his daughter against his wishes. Now real motivation is that both are in the army and the young son-in-law got the promotion the older one wanted. I guess you could label it: power seeking.