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Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Hardest Character to Write - Good/Bad Villains

Snidely Whiplash - Wrongdoer_by_pengabob
Writing villains, writing 'good' villains, can be difficult, because even in reality not all villains see themselves as villains. In one of my books the villain definitely doesn't see himself as the bad guy, he's convinced that he's doing the right thing. In another book, the concept of right or wrong simply doesn't occur to him, he's at best a sociopath and probably a psychopath, before there was a term for either.

I've always seen myself as a pretty nice person, but a good villain requires the writer to put themselves inside the head of that kind of person.

When I wrote a particular character, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of him, but an even harder time trying to understand why people would follow someone like him. It was too easy to paint him as some unknowable individual, I wanted readers to understand him and those who went along with him. *laughing* It wasn't until I watched an episode of Survivor that I really understood. The 'villain' there wasn't truly a villain, and certainly didn't see himself as this monomaniacal individual - which he was - and the people around him didn't either. He was their social leader, and he was the means to reach the possibility of a million dollars. For both those reasons, they were willing to follow him.

It's even harder, though, when the villain isn't a villain, per se, but a product of his time or culture, as in my current work in progress. He does allow terrible things, but he excuses his actions by dehumanizing the people he harms, and he does it under the cloak of his own personal beliefs. He doesn't see himself as the 'bad guy' - and there's one of those, too, although he doesn't see himself that way either - but justifies what he does because he doesn't see the people he harms as being people, certainly not as people equal to those with him. That's something we've seen time and again throughout history. And still see to this day.

Mean people may suck, but those who don't think they're mean suck even more.