Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pick A Villain Day!

Step right up and spin the wheel of villainhood!

I do love a good villain, no oxymoron intended. To me, a good villain has no redeeming qualities. I’m a black/black/black villain sort of writer. I don’t want anyone looking on my villains with anything but hard eyes and worry about what they have in mind for the helpless populace (seeing how I tend to write end of the world stories.)

No namby-pamby oh, he had a father who beat him stuff. Poor guy! It’s not his fault he visits animal shelters to find puppies he can train his pit bulls with, he was scared by a Chihuahua when he was a toddler!


Nope, my bad guys are bad guys. I might toss in a sidekick who isn’t all bad. I’ve even visited alternate worlds where villains redeemed themselves, or future lives where they had a chance to do good.

But in the present? Nope, bad, bad, bad. I like a good nasty villain. I’ll make him smart, wickedly intelligent and diabolical. And I love the ones who aren’t technically breaking the law but who are nevertheless doing massive damage. And I love going totally apocalyptic on their asses.

A real nasty villain deserves a h/h who will deservedly and without reservation beat them senseless. None of this ‘we’ll let justice take care of him’. Uh uh.

In the movie Taken, Liam Neeson is on a race to find his daughter, adducted by white slavers. He finds the man who just sold his daughter, who pleads for his life, “It wasn’t personal, it’s just business.” Liam replies, “It is to me.” Then blows the guy away. I cheered.

Yup. I figure it’s hard on h/h to do terrible things but as far as I’m concerned, wreck vengeance.

It helps if villains are totally black, like mine!

Now, your turn, how do you like your villains?


Hellion said...

I like both kinds of villains. *LOL* But I think I prefer the kind of villain that is "understandable"--the one you can end up pitying right before you blow his brains out for all the evil he has done. The villain who is evil for evil's sake is so baffling to's not as satisfying to me. I don't like the explanation of: "There's no understanding some people." You can *always* understand people--at least that's what my heart says, or brain, I can't figure out which organ is screaming at me--but I think it.

Yet, I know there is pure evil in the Universe, just like I know there is pure goodness in the somethings aren't explainable, they just are. *shrugs*

But in fiction I still prefer my villains understandable.

Which means therefore, Voldemort is not my favorite villain of all time. J.K. Rowling had a bit of a crappy childhood for Voldemort, but it did not explain his pure evilness. Voldy was evil for evil's sake--but J.K. Rowling's pre-writing careers gave her a firm understanding that there are people who are evil for evil's sake, and it's never bothered her to write them just that way.

2nd Chance said...

When I was chatting about this with the Bo'sun, I mentioned the Sheriff of Nottingham as played by Alan Rickman... Some villains take that childhood and dance with it, make it theirs with no apologies. They take delight in it... That's one of my fav sort of villain.

I agree that there are usually explainations...even the most evil will have an explanation for what they are doing. A rational that makes sense to them!

It just doesn't make sense to the rest of us, because we don't have the villain brainset!

Quantum said...

I do like the James Bond villains, but I guess they are caricatures of pure evil, so I can laugh at them.

The Hannibal Lecters of fiction revolt me and I never read that kind of horror story.

The best villains are the rakes of romance who can be reformed by the love of a good woman. I can almost see myself as one of those .... on a good day *grin*

Marnee said...

I am like Hells, I want there to be at least a hint of a reason.

I know that in RL, they've found people who are just sociopaths. No explanations known (at least not to the great population) and I find those people the most frightening in real life. But in fiction, when there's a villain like that, I find them illogical.

Even Voldemort, while irredeemable evil, had the underlying desire to be immortal, both physically and in legend. His little vulnerability, that piece of him that makes him sympathetic or would have before he took it and twisted it into something horrible, is his fear of being insignificant. He takes that fear and embraces it, allows it to consume him.

I agree that villains who show a bit of a marshmallow center can be annoying. Especially if an author seems to be beating me over the head with it in a "see, he's not all bad, he likes his own kids" kind of way. I like my villains to take some vulnerability or past pain and instead of letting it make them stronger and growing better because of it, they let it rot inside them.

Hellion said...

His little vulnerability, that piece of him that makes him sympathetic or would have before he took it and twisted it into something horrible, is his fear of being insignificant.

Oooh, I hadn't thought of it that way. That is his fear, isn't it? I can understand that; I can even sympathize with it--it makes a nice cautionary tale that way.

I mentioned the Sheriff of Nottingham as played by Alan Rickman… Some villains take that childhood and dance with it, make it theirs with no apologies.

*snorts* Yes, but Alan Rickman didn't take that role seriously. I love that movie, but it wasn't what you'd say is a faithful adaptation of the story. *LOL* He had fun with it because the whole story was a farce. Those villains are amusing, but I don't usually think of villains in a comedy role. I suppose they exist, but they're usually someone's old aunt who ruins everything--and loves it or something.

Donna said...

I'm not a fan of evil villains either, I guess. Too close to real life, and my reading is an escape from all that. :)

I like when characters -- heroic and villainous -- have layers to them, so that even when I think I know them, they have little surprises to throw into the story.

Scapegoat said...

I love that movie Taken - really great and part of that is that there is no thinking about "but oh maybe the bad men shouldn't be killed becuase they aren't all bad." Watched it at least 3-4 times.

I really do love a pure evil vilian. And yes, I agree something made them that way but most of the time I really don't want to hear it. They are making the choice to be evil when there are tons of other people bad things happen to and they dont' turn that way.

It's been said many a time that your hero must be as good as your villian is bad - so maybe the right balance in writing your villian is all about how you want to portray your hero?

If you want your hero to ride that line between right and wrong morals, then maybe your villian does too.

Hellion said...

It’s been said many a time that your hero must be as good as your villian is bad – so maybe the right balance in writing your villian is all about how you want to portray your hero?

If you want your hero to ride that line between right and wrong morals, then maybe your villian does too.

Never heard of this, but it makes sense. I usually prefer my heroes to be more anti-heroic, not the Dudley Doright type. :)

2nd Chance said...

Quantum, ah, then they aren't true villains in my book. They are flawed heroes.

While I like the occassional flawed hero who is in need of reform, there is something delightful in the straight villain. I'm not a fan of the Lecter type - the real sociopath, though the elan in which he enjoys his calling can be a bit entertaining. IRL, such men and women are beyond redemption.

I guess the wonderful thing about fictional villains is the clearcut conflict. I like me some clearcut conflict, since, IRL, nothing is ever that easy.

2nd Chance said...

Marn - Yeah, I'm with marshmallow inside. Now, the pure rot of letting something simple and human poison them? That I'm not a massive fan of...but if they let that simple thing drive them to do diabolical, over the top things?

I so enjoy that!

"In my quest to rid the world of Chihauhuas, since they are annoying little dogs, I first must become the supreme ruler of all things. It's my calling!"

I don't know, I'm just a fan of overthetop. ;-)

2nd Chance said...

Hellion - Yeah, as an actor, he took it over the top and had fun. And it wasn't historically accurate. BUT! To those he was terrorizing, to those he ordered killed or who starved due to his orders...he was all that is evil and horrible.

The idea of a villain who doesn't apologize or attempt to justify that it was a bad mood that drove him to order the invasion of Mongolia...I just gotta love that aspect.

For one thing, it allows the H/H to totally obliviate him and there is something so refreshing in that, writing or reading!

2nd Chance said...

Donna - I guess when it comes to RL, I don't believe in the super villain. The mastermind of global proportions doesn't exist. (Yes, I know Hitler and Pol Pot and all, but I'm thinking the sorts who release a virus so they can make money on the cure.) The thirst for power doesn't have the same nasty flavor to me.

In fiction, I can create him and decimate him and that is so much fun!

2nd Chance said...

Oh, Scape! Good point! I know for my heroes, it's not that they are pure as the driven snow, but the steps they take to win the day are in balance with the villains.

I can imagine a totally over the top villain finding a pure as the driven snow hero quite boring, but add in some willingness to kickass and forget about letting the system do it? ;-)

I admit, I'd never seen the movie until it showed up on TV, but I so enjoyed watching Liam tromp across everything in his quest to find his daughter. I do think that is the man we all want coming after us, period. And leaving no survivors to continue their 'just business' evilness behind.

2nd Chance said...

Hellion - I think the hero has to have a hard line in them. Again, if you see the movie, Taken, what Liam will do to find his daughter...there is something so endearing in that. He takes on the burden of doing terrible things in order to save what is purist in him, his daughter.

I suppose it's like the addage, it takes a thief to catch a thief... Perhaps.

It's why when I write pirates, they are pirates. They aren't privateers and they aren't actually good men who fell into the life to avenge their families. Nope, they are pirates. My pirates don't murder willynilly or rape, but they do rob and steal and go after nice plump hens. They have standards when it comes to the level of mayhem they will wreck. Nope, not historically accurate pirates, but they are my pirates.

Nancy Northcott said...

Hi, Revengers--

Maureen, I naturally can't think of an example when I need one, but I like the villain to have a reason for what s/he does. It doesn't have to be a reason I support--in fact, it's better if I don't buy it--but I'm more drawn into the conflict if the villain is, as the saying goes, "the hero of his own story."

Okay, got an example. In Batman, the Joker does what he does because he's nuts. He's essentially one-dimensional to me. Whereas Magneto, in X-Men, kills out of a desire to protect himself and others like him from persecution. Now, some mutants deserve to be hunted, but others, most, don't. The X-Men, otoh, think there's a better way to accomplish the same goal.

I still root for Batman, but the X-Men make me think about something beyond the story. Enjoy both types, but I prefer a Magneto style villain

And I hate super-hero movies wherein the villain is campy or, by reason of being played by a big star while the hero is portrayed by an unknown, gets massive chunks of screen time. Just a little pet peeve.

2nd Chance said...

Nancy - You make a good point. I totally agree that villains have their reasons and rational and I dig when they chat about them. I'm more likely to enjoy ones with a 'rational' reason.

I'd almost say Magneto, who has a 'humanitarian' reason (or is that mutantarian?) is more the anti-hero than the villain. And that is very thought provoking by itself.

Which begs the the anti-hero the same as the villain?

P. Kirby said...

Rickman's Sheriff was the one bright spots in that movie, the only reason I've seen the movie many times.

As a rule, I dislike the ultimate evil, out to destroy all that is good and fluffy archetype that is seen with fantasy and horror. Take the Lord of the Rings for instance. What's Sauron going to do once he's enslaved everyone and destroyed everything? (In the absence of arable land, all his slaves are going to die anyway.) Yeah, after a while, he's going to be bored, bored, bored. Also, vampires, et. al, who are going to eat or turn every human. Then, what're they gonna eat? The only mindless evil that appeals to me are zombies. Because...zombies!

I'm not wild about the poor, little, abused child who grows up to be a psycho archetype either. Possibly, because it's vaguely offensive to the majority of abused children who don't grow up to be serial killer nutbags. Some people are born sociopaths. While abuse may exacerbate the issue, ultimately, crazy is as crazy does.

My own villains vary. The villain in my first book was driven mad by a magic spell, so his/her villainy is actually caused by a kind of accomplice villain/antagonist. In my upcoming release, the villain is an apologetically evil. He knows he's a psycho. He revels in it. This is the first time I written this "simple" a villain. My steampunk WIP, however, is more epic in scope, with various political machinations, so there isn't a clear, "bwah-ha-ha-ha" kind of villain.

In general, I prefer either a complicated villain or one that's flat-out funny, like Rickman's Sheriff.

2nd Chance said...

Pat - I prefer the thinking villain, who realizes that if he enslaves the world and destroys it...well, no more slaves! In my steampunk work, the villainous world never totally destroys those they invade, they know if you kill the goose that lays the golden egg, there will be no more eggs.

I honestly see that as more villainous than Sauron. He was just antilife.

I'd probably like your psycho villain...revel in the illness! Embrace the madness and make it our strength!

Donna said...

I think the villain has to fit the type of story you write too. I don't write the kinds of stories that could include an evil psycho type -- it would look like central casting f*cked up. LOL

2nd Chance said...

True, but a villain is still necessary...they might not have the huge megalamania rational, but they still have an agenda...that runs counter to the hero's.

Sin said...

Nice. Can I have all the whole wheel?

I'm a bit like you Chanceroo, I like my villains completely without redeeming qualities. That way when they die it's a really satisfying end of them.

2nd Chance said...

Oh, so glad you're in agreement with me, Sinister. I worried you'd consider a nice non-redeemable villain nothing more than romantic fodder. ;-)

Donna said...

True, but a villain is still necessary…they might not have the huge megalamania rational, but they still have an agenda…that runs counter to the hero’s.

I agree that a villain is necessary. (Not sure where I said they weren't.) I just think there is a spectrum, and the kind of villain that works in YOUR story would be totally out of place in mine. LOL Although I do have a villain that tried to kill his nephew when the poor thing was only ten years old. . . Yeah, he had his reasons. :)

Janga said...

What an interesting topic, Chance! I'm with Q. I prefer redeemable villains. No surprise there, right?

I also think Donna's right about the villain fitting the story. Epics need epic-size villains, romantic suspense needs villains whose need to kill and destroy are greater than anything else in their makeup. The closest I'm going to come to creating a villain is a character whose greed and selfishness render him/her myopic. Eloisa James once said she had never created a villain, but I think Poppy's mother in An Affair Before Christmas with her self-absorption and twisted ideas about sex possesses the kind of villainy that I've seen. It's not villainy on a grand scale or villainy ripped from the headlines, but it is villainy that wounds hearts and scars lives.

Janga said...

That should be "whose need to kill and destroy is greater than anything else in their makeup."

2nd Chance said...

Okay, I concede your point, Donnaroo... Though that could be fun...toss in Alan Rickman's Sheriff into a madcap romcom... ;-)

2nd Chance said...

villainy that wounds hearts and scars lives ... ah, real world villains that we all deal with everyday.

I totally get those, Janga. They are like personal villains that tend to wreck havoc on a personal level, I think. Though anything that rends tends to be personal to the one rend-ed.

World destroying villains for world destroying stories...

Even on a personal level though...I tend to think worlds can be small or big.

Maybe I need a secondary wheel of everyday villains... Hell, my worst scars came from people who didn't know they were villains.

Donna said...

Hell, my worst scars came from people who didn’t know they were villains.

True that. :(

Bosun said...

Great discussion. My first thought was that I don't really write villains, but the bad guy in my first MS was pretty nasty. Had the town thinking he was a fine upstanding citizen when he was really a slimeball. The "they walk among us" kind of villain.

Love the idea of the hero being as good as the villain is bad. Current villain is just shrewd, uncaring, and selfish. Hero tries to act like he doesn't care about things, but is actually quite generous and caring. Didn't plan it that way but feeling good after reading these comments. LOL!

I don't seek out the books/movies with the really evil bad guys. Rickman again the Die Hard movies. Professor Moriarity would be an evil villain. Though there might be some backstory on him I don't know that explains his evil-hood?

If the bad dude/dudette has a reason, even a psycho, irrational one, then I can follow along. But I do like to learn a secret about the bad guy that is shocking. Anyone seen American Beauty? Remember the secret of the dude who shot him?

2nd Chance said...

Yeah, the sort of secret that the secret-keeper thinks is massive, that the rest of us find more annoying that it was used as rational for a dastardly act... Least that was what I got out of American Beauty.

I think the trick with making the hero as good as the villain is to not end up with a real carboard hero who isn't terribly interesting. I prefer making the hero willing to be as bad as the villain to win the day...not so much the ends justify the means, but if you do biblical damage then biblical damage is what you reap.

2nd Chance said...

I do love a good villain discussion...but the dog? She's doing the walkies dance and I'll be her hero if I grab the leash and head out with her!

Don't trash the bar! Be back in a bit!

Bosun said...

I just wrote a really good comment and it's GONE. Grrrr....

2nd Chance said...

Must have been the ultimate blog villain!