VILLIANS-HOW WE LOVE THEM
Who doesn’t love a villain? I love villains, both to read about and to write, especially to write. We authors can take our hidden aggressions out on our villains, make them do things we’d never do.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the heroes in my books. Really love them, as in fall in love with each one: Tom, Logan, Dominic, Nick, Daniel, Aiden, and all the heroes in my short stories.
Our romance heroes are larger than life - sexy, sweet, tortured, tough, sensitive - but always willing to sacrifice all for the women they love.
Not so with villains. Villains are out for themselves only. They care only about what others can do for them. What makes villains such fun to write is that we can project all sorts of nasty attributes to a villain and get away with it.
However, the best villains aren’t pure evil but multi-dimensional and contain enough humanity that the reader can say, “You know, he’s really bad, but I sort of understand why he’s doing what he does.”
On some level, we all know we have the capacity to slip into the darkness. Most of us don’t, of course. The villains are the ones who slipped. We look at them with a mixture of relief and gratitude, and a little bit of smugness. Thank God we have enough sense and strength to fight the darkness, we say.
Each of us has several sides to our personality, mostly good, some maybe not so good. The most well-known example of good versus evil is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A classic case of split personality where both decency and wickedness reside in the same person. This story has fascinated readers since Robert Louis Stevenson published it in 1886. Why does it fascinate? Because we can all relate to the fight within us, the fight between good and bad.
Remember the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk splits into two distinct personalities - one wimpy, one horrific? A masterpiece.
Villains, no matter how evil, should have that glimmer of humanness that shows through at times. We can relate to a villain who is conflicted because we understand him and, on some level, sympathize.
I’ve never seen the TV show, “True Blood,” although I hear it’s good. I’m afraid of vampires which is why I don’t watch it. When I was talking with one of my writer friends about doing a blog article on villains, she mentioned Eric, the tall blond vampire on “True Blood,” as an excellent example of a conflicted villain. He wants the heroine Sookie for himself, and he’s contemptuous of humans. But he has a tender side. He cries tears of blood for his maker. Viewers watch him and wonder if the love of a good woman can redeem him. But then he’ll turn around and do something twisted, like when he tricked Sookie into taking some of his blood. Good conflict and suspense that keep people glued to the TV or to a book.
I’ve tried to give my villain characters some redeemable values. The villain in my romantic suspense, “Logan’s Redemption,” is out to kill my heroine and destroy her father. But in his mind, he’s feels he’s justified. Decent people don’t commit murder to settle scores. But we like to read about others who take that drastic step. It allows us to touch our dark sides vicariously and to know we’re better than someone who commits evil.
The villains in my romantic suspense novella, “Murder, Mi Amore,” don’t have many redeeming values. These villains are very nasty people, motivated to find a stolen diamond before some even nastier terrorists come after them. I made them bad and violent, driven only by the real human desires for money and power, and propelled by fear and self-preservation.
The villain in my paranormal romance, “Cursed Mates,” is a demon. Now, that’s about as evil as you can get. But this demon fell from grace and made a bargain with the devil because of his love for a lady. As a demon, he cursed his political and love rival to life as a werewolf. My demon loved this lady so much that 500 years later, he’s still tortured by her rejection and determined to kill the man who stole her from him. I tried to give him a flicker of humanity, to make him multi-dimensional. My werewolf hero in that story is dark and tormented too. He’s fought for 500 years to stave off the darkness in his soul, and he’s slipping, but he continues the fight. The demon gave in to the darkness. Most of us, like my werewolf hero, fight the shadows. Still, we love reading about the ones who slipped into the abyss.
Can you think of some classic baddies you’ve loved despite yourself?