My Take On . . . Creating Villains, Part 2
The creation of villains is a delicate process.
You wouldn’t think it would be. You’d think it would be akin to ramming a half-ton pickup through a shop full of glassware. You’d think it would be messy work, all murders and mayhem and carnage and cursing.
But it’s not. Not if you do it right.
Fictional characters are a bit of an oxymoron. They’re fictional, only they’re not. All writing originates from what we experience. What we see, hear, feel, taste. Stories we hear, research we do, memories we have, nightmares we dream. It all derives from our experiences.
So the characters we develop are mostly collages of people we’ve met, folks we’ve observed, and/or bits and pieces of our own psyche/personality/concoctions.
And this is where it gets hairy with villains. You see, I’m not a villain, at least as far as you know. I obey laws, respect other people, follow rules, and basically try to stay out of trouble except those times my big mouth gets away from me. And generally, I try not to rock the boat too severely.
So how do I create villains who are serial killers, psychopaths, narcissistic nutjobs, and all-around bad guys? And how do I create them in such a way that they walk right off the page and urge you to not only hate and fear them, but feel sorry for them and understand the world they live in?
I tap into my own inner villain. He’s in there. In fact, he’s in all of us. That little Adolph Eichmann waiting for permission to show himself.
The trick to creating believable villains is to get in touch with Eichmann without letting him roam free. And it’s a balancing act. Very delicate work.
To give my villains texture and personality and believability I have to see what they see, hear what they hear, think what they think, and feel what they feel. And it’s not a pretty place to be. It’s brutal work, depressing, sorrowful . . . and dangerous. To spend too much time there is to toy with evil and that’s never a safe thing to do.
So I walk a line, that line between doing my best to remain pure and upright and innocent and delving into carnality and selfish desires and murderous thoughts.
The work of creating villains needs to be handled with care. It’s claimed more than one victim.
Post script: Mitch Albright, the villain in my new novel Fearless, is a man tortured by his past and his desire to be respected. He has many sides to his personality and much difficulty controlling any of them. And while Mitch was difficult to write, I believe he’s one of the most pathetic villains I’ve created yet.