I am so excited to host a good friend and an esteemed author in her own right. If you recall, a few months back I reviewed her novel, I Am Wolf, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am so excited to tear into the next book in her Children of Nox Series, The Kiss. Welcome Ms. Joann H. Buchanan!
What makes a villain real? What makes you love to hate him and want to hug him at the same time? A two dimensional villain has no depth. We get they are the bad guy and they have no redeeming qualities. The fun villains to read are those who have a certain vulnerability in them. It’s what makes us love Magneto, cheer for the bank robbers in Ocean’s Eleven and even why we all love to read about vampires, werewolves and things that go bump in the night. So what makes a villain fun to read?
For me, it’s all about those simple redeeming qualities all good bad guys have. In I Am Wolf, the bad guy was Ralph. He was a schizophrenic poacher who was bit and from there exploded with evil. What made him fun to write was that his hallucination was a bimbo named Gracie. He is a tragic villain who was abused as a child and never really had any real love in his life. In turn he didn’t know how to love or how to give it. Is that redeeming? No, but it provides an understanding into his psyche. It allows the reader to understand why he is who he is.
What about that so called redeeming quality? In I Am Wolf he wanted to save the world from “aliens” he was sure invaded the planet. Yes, it’s funny but at the same time, he had a heart and every desire to call out what he thought were aliens. He went about it the wrong way, but he did try.
True villains are just as read as you and I. They may not all have the capacity to love, but they do have that one thing they care about the most and that’s what makes them real.
In The Kiss, the villain is Ash, a demon who has been caged under a mountain for centuries. His whole motivation is to escape his cage and get revenge on those who trapped him and those who killed his newborn son. Some would say, “Demons can’t love” and they would be right. However, obsession, something that is often mistaken for love in the twisted minds of our villains—is something they can feel. So there in rests his redeeming quality. The actions of a villain are what make him a villain. They are the ones who don’t care who they hurt. They are also the fun ones to write because we get to do things we have never been able to do out of our own morality.
Villains live on a different moral compass. They are the ones who do things we would all love to do. They are the ones who say what we, the morally in control, wish we could say. Think about this, how many of you have longed to tell your boss they are stupid idiots who don’t know their heads from a hole in the wall? How many have wanted to tell your friends the clothes they wear suck and most people view them as a joke? How many of you have wanted to walk up to a parent on the playground and say control your child or I will? All of us have thought things we have never said.
A villain will say and do those things without giving it much thought. That’s what makes them fun to write and fun to read. We love to cheer when the “asshole” is trampled by life. We love to hate that guy. We love to hate the one who cheats on the character we love the most. We also love to see that villain get what they deserve.
In The Kiss, the other bad guy is a girl. How many of us have had our boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, cheat on us? How many of us hated the person they cheated with more than we hated the one we loved? So in something like this, who is the villain? Is it the cheating lover or the one he’s cheating with? What if the villain thinks what they are doing is right? Now how does that make you feel?
The truth is, any villain worth reading is going to make us think. He or she is going to make us want to hate them even when we understand them. We all want to see him or her get what’s coming to them because we can relate to the wrongs they are doing.
There was a Mel Gibson film called Payback in which he plays a bad guy. What made us cheer for him was his simple directness. All he wanted was his money back. The people he was going after were worse than he was, so we cheered for his character. The depth of the character was cool because we knew we were cheering for a bad guy and that didn’t matter. A good villain will make you feel something for him. In The Kiss, Cleo is such a person I hope you will love to hate but feel for at the same time. She is the bad guy, or girl I should say. She is also being manipulated by an evil. So does that make her bad or do you feel for her? In the end, I felt sorry for her. That doesn’t mean I make it easy on her. She will ultimately get what’s coming to her. Just not the way you think.
The cool thing about writing a villain is it allows us to all touch the dark side. I mean really when you think about it, we all love to be scared, that’s why we go to horror movies. We all like to see Karma take action on the person we love to hate. And we all want without a doubt, for that person to make us feel something for them, no matter the outcome.
What about emotions and villains? Can they love, laugh or even feel joy? For me the answer is yes and that’s what makes them real. Emotions play an even more intricate roll in creating a good bad guy. They are the heart of what makes them tick. They have a twisted moral compass and that’s what makes them more real than some of the good guys in books. No one person is perfect. The more flawed a villain has, combined with a redeeming quality, the more likely he or she will be real to the reader.
That’s my take on villains. They are complex beings who are fun to write. I can’t wait to hear what people think of Cleo. She, the vulnerable twisted soul who makes life a living hell for the Youngling Pack, was fun to manipulate into doing another’s bidding. Will you feel sorry for her or will you just hate her? That is something I’m dying to find out.
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