He’s an arrogant snob, whose only care is himself. His views on women are derogative and his favourite pastime seems to be manipulation.
And yet, chillingly, my villain is becoming the easiest character to write. There was a time when I despised everything he said and did, but now I’m having second thoughts. The cold face of evil is not heartless, but a reflection of love, loss and anger. These are humans we dictate the path of, and humans are malleable, broken shapes; they have felt love and loss so easily.
“Why are you so good at writing, Agatha Christie? You’ve loved, lost. You’ve had your heart broken.” (Doctor Who, the Unicorn and the Wasp)
Perhaps villains are the most multi-faceted of characters. Sure, heroes have their faults, and they go wrong at times, but heroes (as opposed to protagonists, some of whom are anti-heroes, of course) Even when they don’t follow the exact straight and narrow for the sake of their cause, they have an inner mind of goodness – something to conquer at the finale.
The villain has no such thing. I’ve experienced broken people, through real life and the fiction; these people go one of two ways: they lose hope and become catatonic – or they steal hope from others, by way of villainy.
Sometimes villainy is the only way out. That’s what makes a villain fascinating: they have nothing left to lose. And mine is just the same. Everything he has to lose is on the other side of my protagonists – and if he wins, he gains more than if he fails. At least, until the end of the novel.
I’ll add that there’s something more which keeps me watching my villain: his voice. (That is, writing tone, as opposed to literal vocal-chord resonation!) Because of his high society (I’m just gonna steal this phrase, thanks, Jae!), war-based opinions, he has three significant idioms:
1) Never uses request tags, eg. ‘please’. To those younger or lesser than him, he often orders rather than requests.
2) His use of the future tense is strictly ‘will’ even in first person; ‘shall’ is too soft a dictum.
3) He uses no contractions, except ‘don’t’ when annoyed. It’s something that has struck the entire family. Naturally, really, if it passes from one generation to another.
As such, the voice and sentence structure of the villain is deeply controlled.
This is something I’m trying with all the characters. As voice is my weakest characterisation and writing tool, I don’t expect myself to craft a different style for each POV, but I hope that this use of tightness will aid my editing.
After all, as is often said: if a sentence works without a certain word, cut the word.
What do you like in a villain? Have they ever taken you by surprise and become evil in an ‘understandable’ way? Do you think the sadness in life is a good writing tool?
I’d also like to bring to attention the Good Sinful Alliance. I’m not sure who ‘runs’ it, but it’s caught my eye, mostly over at Musings From Neville’s Navel. They talk about the ‘goodness’ behind villains.
Happy writing 🙂