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Friday, February 24, 2012



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?


Harlie Reader said...

Darth Vadar to me is the most tortured villian out there. He loved his mother and Padme but the need for power and being seduced to the dark side was greater.

Of course, his son redeems him in the end but watching Anakin/Darth Vadar is fascinating.


Harlie Reader said...

BTW, I've never watched True Blood, either.

Adele Dubois said...

Cara--Good post. Heath Ledger's masterful performance of The Joker makes that character a memorable (and very scary!) villain.

Best of luck with your releases!


Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Marika and Adele. Darth Vader and Heath Ledger as the Joker are great examples of conflicted villains. Thanks for posting.

Tina Donahue said...

I find the most intriguing villains are the ones who are sociopaths - that is, without empathy because of faulty wiring, bad genetics, or whatever causes it. They're charming on the surface, but can change in a flash, becoming deadly. Gene Hackman in Unforgiven is a case in point. He looks harmless, smiling benignly, then wham - he'll cut you down in a flash. And it's not because he had a bad childhood or his mommy didn't love him, it's because he's a sociopath - no empathy. They walk among us, just look at the horrible crimes committed against the Petit family in Conn, and what happened to those two little boys in Washington State at the hands of their father.

Those are the villians I like to see taken down in stories with justice prevailing at least in print. :)

Much success with your novels, Cara. Your covers are amazing.

Vicki Batman said...

Hi, Cara! Very good post. I had a hard time thinking of a villain to talk about. Usually, they are hurt in someway and become obsessed in making others hurt, think Wicked Witch. As Harlie pointed out, Darth Vadar. Hated him, but we grew to understand him. I'm going to be thinking about this some more. Congratulations on your book, sweetie!

jean hart stewart said...

Interesting post, but sll thr villains I love have already been listed. Lots of food for future thought here....

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

Interesting blog, Cara. You've given me a lot to think about.

Cara Marsi said...

Tina, thanks for posting. I got goosebumps from your description of Gene Hackman's sociopath character.

Vicki, Jean and Sue, thanks for posting. I'm glad I gave you something to think about. Villains are endlessly fascinating.

Susan Macatee said...

Great post, Cara! I can't think of any classic villains right now, I but did enjoy writing the villains in my three historical romance novels.

My favorite villain to write was Jake Wagner, in my Civil War time travel romance, Erin's Rebel. He was out for himself, but felt justified in all the havic he wrought.

Janice Seagraves said...

Your post make me think of the elf Prince Nuada, in Hell Boy II the Golden Army. He was tough, brave and unyielding in getting his way, but there was something noble about him too. He believed that what he was doing. I actually got annoyed at Hell Boy in this movie and rooted for Prince Nuada.


helene tompkins said...

my first villian I hated was bela logosi dracula, then when I read the book I feel in love with him , then it was darvad in stars wars then saw more of the movies and loved him , lastly J.R EWING gotta say not in love with him lol I seem to love the misunderstood and torured souls , whats that say about me ? lol

helene tompkins said...

oh I forgot one my ex tho I don't hate him now I sure am not sending him any birthday or Christmas cards lol:)

Cara Marsi said...

Thank you, Susan, Janice and Helene.

Susan, I love time travels. I'll have to check out your villain.

Janice, I've never seen Hell Boy, but what you said about Prince Nuada is another example of a conflicted villain we can learn to love.

Helene, Bela Lugosa scared me. I didn't know Dracula was so different in the book. And I have to say JR had something very seductive about his evilness. LOL about your ex. I have named a few villains after my ex.

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