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.
My Take On . . . Villains, Part 1
Hey, bad guys are people too!
That statement is more true that you’d like to think.
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 imaginations. 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?
Two More Days of Giveaways! Be FEARLESS and Enter.
Only two more days of giveaways! Thank you to all who have participated and congratulations to all who have won books.
I’m often asked about the villains I write. When writing villains I try to keep in mind that they are real people too. There is a reason they turned to evil; at some moment in their life there was a decision made, a turning point happened. That’s what I try to explore. I want to dive deeper into the psyche of the villain, show the reader that under the exterior there is a hurting person there. And if the reader feels some sympathy for the villain, then I’ve done my job.
In FEARLESS, Mitch Albright is one such villain. Wounded, he has chosen the path of destruction and is desperate to get what he craves the most.
Enough of that, now on to the winners from yesterday’s drawing:
MIRROR IMAGE: Jason Sessions
THE LAST HUNT: Nancy (@ciclodiva)
DARKNESS FOLLOWS: Annie VZ
FEARLESS: esdluquillo (Betsy)
FEARLESS: Brian Stansell
FEARLESS: Cathy Groover
Now, for today’s giveaway. All you have to do is leave a comment stating your favorite villain of all time. I don’t care who it is or where he’s from. Favorite villain of all time. Let’s have it. Mine? Max Cady, Robert De Niro’s character in Cape Fear. That guy seriously creeped me out.
Books up for grabs are MIRROR IMAGE, THE LAST HUNT, REARVIEW, FRANTIC, and 2 copies of FEARLESS.