Sunday, April 13, 2014

credible villains



For every dark there is a light, rose a thorn, yin a yang, good an evil. In writing, that dark will be the bad guy, the villain, something evil. Now it doesn't all have to be zombie level bad, but it has to be something that presents a conflict. It's what makes the stories zing.

Okay, if you are writing chick lit,  a coming of age story, covering an historical period or cultural time, etc., there might not be a villain per se. There must be obstacles or what is the point of the book? They do not have to be from an individual. They could even be from within the character's own personality.This is where the character develops strength, totally becomes who they are most capable of being-- through conflict and overcoming.

As a writer, developing the character of some villains can be really fun especially if part of the story comes from their point of view. Other villains are just stereotypical villains. They are place holders. Their personalities don't have much significance to the story beyond something for the hero/heroine to overcome. However, creating challenging, interesting and dangerous villains provides the counterpoint to the heroes. 

My mind is on the subject of villains because with the third paranormal novella, I had three different levels of villainy. It really did take me into the depths of what it means to be regarded as bad by a culture. The complexity of this story with a lot of characters and villains is why I began writing it almost immediately after finishing the rough draft for the last historical romance. I thought I'd wait but I began to wonder. How am I going to make this work? Now that it's done, the question is did I? That is something I'll know better when I get back to it in a month or even more so when others see it.

In general, human villains don't look like villains and should not in a book anymore than they do in life. When you look at someone like serial killer Ted Bundy, or I could name a lot of others, you know that villains can be handsome and look very innocent until they have their victim helpless. 

Not fitting a stereotype and being sometimes hard to recognize is the nature of villainy. It should be just as true in books as in life. To get an image for my various villains, I have often gone through the royalty free model photos and picked handsome men. It makes me feel a bit guilty as obviously these look like nice guys, but there is something in the photo that lets me also see them as having two sides.

To do the last novella, I researched Native American monsters, witches and ghosts (one of my levels of villainy). One character that is particularly interesting is a Plains Indian monster called Two-Faces. Some describe Two-Faces as an ogre but others say he appears as an ordinary human except he has a second face on the backside of his head (actually he can also be a she). You though only see that second face when it's too late. 

When I was writing this novella, I kept uncovering new villains like peeling an onion. I'd think I had the last layer and then realize I hadn't seen the actual core. It made the writing a lot of fun as villains are fun to write and to vanquish through noble deeds and sometimes sacrifice of the hero or heroine.

Two-Faces is a lot the way I see villains and what they hope to accomplish in hiding their true reality. Of course, in writing a romance, they can't succeed. Unfortunately in real life they often do-- for awhile anyway. 

The goal of humans is to be insightful regarding true character-- to see behind the image (especially where it comes to voting for leaders). The person who looks like the most danger may actually not be.

The evening sky photo above kind of suits my theme on writing villains. It was March, our last night at Yachats and the dark sky took on a very different look than from the other nights with the layers and light shining through in different places. I have a series of five photos taking it through its stages. Which was the ultimate representation of what we saw that night? They all were and yet none was. I put the first one on my Rainy Day Thought blog for Saturday-- and this is the last one. I've seen a lot of very interesting skies in my many years of being at the Coast, but I'd say this is right up there at the top.

Update: regarding villains, I saw this piece which I think says well what I feel about them.[losing villain too soon hurts] Now I don't watch this show, but my kids say it's based on great books. I have a hard time with shows where you care for characters and then they get zapped. Sorry, but I get enough of that in reality. But this article says what I think-- villains matter to exciting story-lines. Guess they will come up with another villain to hate-- sooner than later. 

2 comments:

Tabor said...

You make your process seem so intricate and well thought out. I am glad that you are happy with your efforts.

Rain Trueax said...

It is a good thing because if I wasn't, I'd be very unhappy when the things I write don't meet with enthusiasm from others. If I was dependent on sales to be happy about my books or in the past an editor to accept them, I would be at the mercy of someone else. I think that's the ticket with any creative work-- do it for yourself primarily then if you don't get a gallery or the public to like it, you have stayed true to your own vision and your joy came from the work itself. I think everyone wants others to like what they do, but we can't control that part of creative work.

I had some trepidation about thinking much about monsters and that was true with 'Sky Daughter' too. I don't mind trying to figure out why a human villain would do something bad, but when it comes to monsters, I don't want to draw that kind of thing to me. It's not that I necessarily believe in monsters but just not taking a chance ;). I don't know how Stephen King does it without it being very disturbing to him. I kind of kept the monsters in the new work a little stereotypical, used personality info from various sites, and didn't try to get into their heads. Them all coming from Native American legends and myths helped.