Categories

Intro Music by Fretts!

Our intro and our outro music is Your Government Loves You and Wants You to be Happy, by Fretts! If you love it as much as we do, you can find more beautiful music at fretts.bandcamp.com!

Villainy.

Play

20160815_192017What We’re Drinking:

Birthday tequila. My friend Linda brings me a bottle of tequila for my birthday each year. This is the Espolon Anejo, and I hadn’t had it before. I quite liked it. It wasn’t too sweet, it wasn’t too oaky.

What We’re Saying:

Guys, we are spending way too much time playing Pokemon Go.

Bad guys, they’re bad. But they’re also good.

How do you write compelling villains?

The trick to writing good villains is humanizing them. Giving them some weird complicated humanity that readers can connect with and attach to, which causes them to care about the villain’s story while they are at the same time rooting for your protagonist.

It’s a strong brew. But how do you do it?

Severus Snape may not be one of the villains of the Harry Potter series, but he was a bad dude. He took his unrequited love for Lilly, did some creepy stalkery stuff, and as an adult used structures of power to abuse those smaller and weaker than he was as a means of working out the bullying he experienced as a kid.

But it’s the rejection and abuse in Snape’s backstory that makes him so sympathetic that readers are willing to forgive the fact that he’s really awful.

In the film American History X, the character Derek is another really amazing example. He zig zags across the line between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior so often and so seamlessly that you lose track of where the line is. The result of this is that it blends psychotic neo-nazi behavior with what we think of as normal behavior and allows us to sympathize with Derek in a way that makes the rest of the film exquisitely uncomfortable.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not okay to like a villain just for their badness. We’re all kind of terrible, people have awful wants and desires and reactions and impulses that the social contract requires us to not act on. But we can fulfill these desires at least in part by watching a really awful villain. We may not root for the villain exactly, but there’s a kind of enjoyment there in connecting with that evil.

The Joker is probably one of the most beloved villains in pop culture, and he’s also one of the most twisted, inhuman, evil for evil’s sake villains that we have. The nature of the Joker already opens the character up to all kinds of derangement and sick behavior.

Writing terrible behavior isn’t necessarily the same as condoning that behavior, and writers shouldn’t shy away from writing villainous acts because they disapprove of those acts. We may want to step away from glorifying or normalizing those acts, but if you can retain the veneer of horror, I say write it. You can write about horrifying acts without sacrificing your humanity.

And as long as  your sympathy with a villain and their actions doesn’t carry over into the real world, I wouldn’t say you’re a bad person for relating to villains.

Everyone has different thresholds for offense; people who find what you write to be too much for them aren’t your audience. And that’s okay.

As authors, sometimes writing a villain is tantamount to an admission that we’re capable of crafting evil, and I think sometimes that’s really uncomfortable. I also think that villains can be a ton of fun to write.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>