Thursday, November 21, 2013
Villains need love, too
By Gayle Carline
Mystery Author and Lover of Bad Boys
I've started to get a few notes from my beta readers on my new mystery. The positive comments have buoyed me, and the criticisms have been right on the money. In particular, one reader called me out on a character that is unlikeable throughout the book, then gets the "touchy-feely psychoanalysis" treatment at the end.
Although this character is villainous, they are not the main bad person, so I didn't do as much background development with them as I did for the other characters. This was my error. Even minor villains need attention.
Once I realized my mistake, I started thinking about the evil characters that have slithered across my TV screen this season. They are as rich as any villains I can remember, so rich that I wish I had written them. Here are my favorites:
1. Peter Pan from Once Upon a Time - okay, this is a fantasy, not a mystery show, but the characters are both archetypal and real to me. Peter Pan is one of those characters I grew up with as a Disney kid. He was fun, benignly mischievous, and gallant in the clenches. The Peter Pan from OUAT is none of those things, but he makes so much sense. He has been a young boy for too long. Yes, kids can be sweet. They can also be whiny and petulant and selfish. What should be a joyous innocence has been rotted, like being too long on the vine.
What kind of positive trait could I turn into maliciousness in a villain? It sets my mind to spinning.
2. Red Reddington from The Blacklist - here is a master of evil at work. He is, as his creators have dubbed him, "The Concierge of Crime," completely without morals, working on his own agenda even as he claims to be helping the feds catch other criminals. And yet, there is this unexplained soft spot for Agent Keen. What does she mean to him?
(Note: This clip is creepy.)
He reminds me of the parable of the snake that asks a young girl to carry him across the river, assuring her that he will not bite on the way across, because they would both drown. Halfway across the river, she feels the sting of his fangs and asks why he did such a thing. "You knew what I was when you agreed," he told her.
Red looks like a man who may not actually have been born a sociopath, but who has been trained, through tragedy, to become one.
Both of these villains have been carefully crafted and are pure joys to watch. They are also reminders that I need to pay more attention to even my lesser meanies.
Have any of you stumbled upon any villains recently that you'd love to talk about?
P.S. If anyone's interested in a free book (paperback, ebook or audio), and/or free promo stuff (caps, bags, mugs) and/or gift cards, I'm running a contest on my personal blog. Come on over and win a SPAMMY! http://gaylecarline.blogspot.com/2013/11/giving-it-all-away-win-spammy.html