My Take On . . . Villains, Part 1


Hey, bad guys are people too!

That statement is more true that you’d like to think.

Gacy as "Pogo The Clown".

Gacy as “Pogo The Clown”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Look at some of the most despicable people in recent history: Andrea Yates, Gary Ridgeway, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and most recently, Kermit Gosnell. Some would say these folks are subhuman, their deeds were so awful, so evil.

But what’s their story? What were the events in their life that played a part in shaping who they became?

That’s the question I try to get at when I create villains. I don’t want to create just another bad guy doing bad things. That’s one-dimensional, it’s cardboard. There’s so much more to people than just what they do.

There’s the why, the how, the background, the psychological damage, the emotional turmoil.

The villains I create need to be defined by more than just what they do. I want readers to experience who they are. They have reasons for what they do. Those reasons may make sense (in a very demented, twisted way) or they may not. But all the time those reasons are tragic.

In villains I want to show the fallen state of mankind, how low we are capable of going if that self-absorbed, sin nature is allowed to thrive, unhindered, unshackled. But I also want to show the tragic groundwork that was laid to enable that kind of fall.

I want readers to understand that these people, these monsters, are more than what their deeds portray. They’re people, hurting, confused, lost, and warped beyond most of our FearlessCoverimaginations. They are to be feared, yes, but not only because of who they have become, but because, as the 16th century preacher and eventual martyr John Bradford said, There but for the grace of God, go I.

You can find a listing of all my books on this site or my Amazon page. And make sure you check out my newest thriller, Fearless. The villain, Mitch Albright, is quite a character and has quite a back story.

So what do you think? Should we portray villains as wounded, hurting individuals? As people and not just heartless monters?

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About mikedellosso

Mike Dellosso is an author of wide-eyed suspense. He writes stories that not only entertain but enlighten.

Posted on May 23, 2013, in Fearless, Writing craft and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I think both villain types can work depending on the story. I do love it when a villain has a deep back story and you know why they are the way they are. It makes them more human and vivid to the reader. Yet, there are times when I enjoy a well-written monster that has no reason for the carnage it causes. Something about the monster intrigues me because I know the hero can’t reason with him, so it’s going to come down to something messy. You also get a feeling that anything is possible with a monster, which brings up some tension. Though, it really depends on the story. A monster has more genre/story limitations than the human villain.

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    • Agreed, Charles. Monsters are so much better when they operate out of pure hatred or evil. They don’t necessarily need a reason for what they do, it’s very animalistic. That’s why they’re so fun to write 🙂

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      • Very fun. Though, a bit scary at times when they go too far for the author sensitivities. I’m dealing with that now. The character is pure, sadistic evil and everything he does fits him. I’m just really disgusted with him and find myself looking forward to when he gets killed.

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  2. One thing I have noticed in your portrayal of villians, while I am reading about them, their backgrounds or the reasons they do what they do, is that I start to feel the pain, anger, resentment, struggles, etc. As much as I hate identifying with them, in the end (and not just the end of the book!!), I am glad I have as it enhances my enjoyment of the story and increases my understanding of why people do the things they do especially in those who I don’t understand their actions/motives.

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  3. Being a person that has read extensively on what makes a person snap, I agree that usually there is something, abuse of some form, etc, that led to their becoming evil. Now that being said, there are a lot of them that had a normal background that I truly believe were just born evil. Also a lot of people suffer all types of abuse, and I know quite a few of them myself, but they did not turn into a monster. I don’t think any of us will ever truly know what finally makes someone snap and start killing but it seems once that line haas been crossed, it get’s easier for them as they go along. Just my personal opinion here. But I can understand from a writers pov trying to build the character!!!

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    • You make a great point, Vicki. We don’t know why one abused person turns into a psyopathic murderer and another turns into a caring social worker. There’s no blueprint for these things. Makes it all very interesting.

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  4. Mike, Can I repost this on my personal site and on Writers Advance? Cin

    On Thu, May 23, 2013 at 6:36 AM, MIKE DELLOSSO

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