Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Burning Question

How much attention to you give to "bad guys" in your
books? Talk about your best villain.


Betina Krahn said...

It's a lot easier for me when I'm writing historicals to objectify the villain and make him a dyed-in-the-wool, over-the-top kind of baddie. Somehow, when I write contemporary, I feel I have to be more realistic and tone it down a bit. Some part of me knows this isn't really necessary, but I do it anyway. Which may account for why I haven't published a contemporary yet.

I think it has to do with my philosophy of evil. . . which is that in rational, ordered societies evil goes underground. . . disperses into smaller, but ultimately more corrupting areas of influence. It's less visible, and all the more insidious for it. (The "I was just following orders" school of moral blindness.)

It's the little evils that we have trouble rallying ourselves to combat and eventually that can defeat us. Gossip, pride, envy, greed, spite, indolence, apathy. . . we in civilized countries are more in danger of succumbing to one of these than-- say-- vengeance and murder. At least I'd like to believe so.

A little "light thinking" on a rainy Wednesday morning!

Michele said...

I have a tendency to fall in love with my villains more often than my heroes. My favorite was Christian Lazar from ONCE A THIEF. Fans wrote to me, asking for his story. I want to write his story!

My theory on villains is that no one is born bad. And even the baddest of bad guys are often misunderstood little boys who just need the proper care and loving. I like to give them faults that any woman would at least consider, for just a moment, grabbing him for a big healing hug.

Christian was a maniacal svengali-like thief who kidnapped the heroine when she was a teen and trained her to steal for him and to answer only to him and he used sex to reward and punish her. Not a very nice guy, eh? But his fault was that he really did love the heroine, he just had no education in kindness or how to express his softer emotions. And when she meets him years later in the story, a stroke has changed him. He's suffering now, and (though she's a tough Bombshell of a gal) she can understand why he did what he did. But trust me, she still kicks his butt in the end, cause, heck, he IS the villain.

Kathleen Eagle said...

The bad guys in my books don't get as much play as characters as they might if I were writing pure suspense. I'm interested in sympathetic characters challenged by social threats and interior doubts. One of my favorite villains appeared in NIGHT FALLS LIKE SILK. Not so much a question of who he is--you're not sure what he is until the end of the book. As always, it's about the relationships more than godd vs evil in my stories.

More later. I'm off to teach my Loft class. Blog on, guys!

Betina Krahn said...

So who is your favorite villain in book or film?

I happen to have an answer handy. Alan Rickman in Prince of Thieves. He was so marvelous as the Sheriff of Nottingham. . . beset by the incompetence of his minions. . . feeling impending failure in his very bones. . . snarky and pushed to the limits of his pride and passions. He was so much more appealing than the wooden hero of that movie.

Al Pacino's role in The Devil's Advocate is also masterful. . . though I've long suspected it wasn't much of a stretch for Al. He creeps me out regularly. (He played much the same character in HBO's Angels in America.) Also how creepy were those people crawling around inthe frescoes on the walls like doomed souls? Ewwww. I had chills walking out of the theater. I've seen it several times since and it still gives me the willies.

Christoper Walken is another particularly cerebral and interesting bad guy. Kevin Spacey has done spectacular turns as villains, from The Usual Suspects to the recent Superman Returns.

I guess these guys fit with my view of good vs evil. . . that they're precariously close to each other. . . always within handshaking distance. One small step can take us either way at any time.

So, who's your favorite uber-villain?

lois greiman said...

I like villains who are a little weird...a little unexpected. They need to have their own personalities. Their own foibles to set the stage for the protagonists. I agree with Betina--the Sheriff of Nottingham was fantastic. But if you've ever seen the movie, Serenity--the spinoff from the Firefly series, you'll see a different kind of villain. He's the government man sent to find River and Simon--our heros. He's terribly interesting, so pragmatic, so controlled and thoughtful...knowing he's a monster. Really an intriguing character. So interesting, in fact, that the viewer actually wants to him again. I'd love to be able to achieve that with my own characters, but right now I'm just tryinng to finish up a book. Due October 1st and still has a few (gulp) little tiny problems. Come to think of it though, the villain is kind of interesting. He's been alive for a couple hundred years....hummmmm.

Betina Krahn said...

Wow, Lois. . . great call!The guy in "Serenity" was fabulous as a refined and improved villain-of-the-future.

And a two hundred year old villain... is he a vamp?

Helen Brenna said...

My favorite villain in my books is the one I had to write out of my 2nd book, THE SUN HUNTER (yet to be renamed), when I had to cut 125 pps from the ms!!

He redeems himself in the end and I actually have another book started with him as the hero. One of these days ...

I loved Alan Rickman in Robin Hood. I'd go so far as to say that the ending scene where he's tryin to ---- Maid Mariann is one of my all time movie favorites!! Alan Rickman as any villain is wonderful, like the first Diehard movie.

I love Gary Oldman as any villain too. Oh, and what about Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Car. Deadman's Chest? Who is that anyway?

Michele said...

kdAnd cancel Christmas! Who doesn't love Rickman's sheriff? Though, I have to say Sir Guy of Gisborne (played by my favorite bad-guy actor, Michael Wincott) stole the show for me.


Betina Krahn said...

Davy Jones was played by the marvelous British actor Bill Nigh. . . who has played roles from an evil greedy hairdresser in "Blow Dry" to a jaded rock star in "Love Actually."

Also of note was Jack Sparrow's nemesis in the first "Pirates of the Carribean" movie. . . the treacherous captain of the Black Pearl, Captain Barbossa, played by the always slightly sinister Geoffrey Rush. (also of "Quills"/Marquis de Sade fame)

Golly, there are some great villains around these days. And who can forget that nasty white haired dad in Harry Potter, Lucius Malfoy. . . played by the handsome but deadly Jason Issacs.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Best movie villains--two words: Glenn Close. Two more: "Fatal Attraction." Ultimate two: "Dangerous Liaisons." Watched a good movie on DVD recently with Glenn giving another really good performance, interesting character--"Heights." Has anyone seen it? Good stuff.

Yowsa. It's almost 11 pm and there's a fox barking outside in my woods. Haven't heard one in a while. Talk about a sound that creeps me out...

Debra Dixon said...

Bill Nigh was a *fabulous* jaded rock star in "Love Actually" which is a fabulous movie as well.

I love Rickman. Love him. He was great in Die Hard. Heck, he's been great in everything.

One truly great villian of book comes to mind from one of C.F. Friedman's (sp?) fantasy trilogies. One of the books is "Black Moon Rising." Gosh, wish I could remember the title. It's been a while. ANYWAY, one of the protagonists is first introduced as he has just finished eviserating his wife and children in a black magic spell which will cure his heart problem and allow him to basically live forever.

This guy was mesmerizing. And by the end of the third book you were quite attached to him. He'd owned his crimes, suffered, burned in hell, and come out the other side a changed person in important ways.

Villians have so much growth potential. It's like getting in on the ground floor of an investment. You've got nowhere to go but up.

Helen Brenna said...

Nowhere to go but up, that's cute, Deb!!

I've seen Love Actually, but can't remember Bill Nigh. Will have to see that again.

Oh, and Betina, you brought up some good ones - Goeffrey Rush and Jason Isaacs - he was the villain in The Patriot too.

Kathy bringing up Glenn Close made me think of John Malkovich. Keifer Sutherlands a good one.

We do love our villains, don't we??