Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guest Author Colleen Thompson




Oh, The Villainy!

First off, thanks for inviting me to guest-blog on Riding with the Top Down! I'm happy to be visiting.

With so much attention given to our books' heroes and heroines, I thought I'd take a few minutes today to talk about villains, the characters that oh, so often make the story. After all, what would STAR WARS be without Darth Vader? Or SILENCE OF THE LAMBS without Hannibal Lecter? What would any of my books be without some no-good-nick trying to do in, impede, or otherwise make my protagonists' lives hell?

Flat. Lifeless. Boring. In creating obstacles for the hero and heroine to overcome, the villain serves to jumpstart the plot, enhance the pace, and inspire the protagonists to grow and change to keep up with the escalating challenges.

That's a lot of responsibility for a character who gets so little credit. No wonder villains are so often out of sorts.

So what does it take for an antagonist to be Hall-of-Fame worthy. In my opinion, a truly great villain has the following duties:

1) Compelling motivation: no character should just wake one morning wanting to be evil. (Except maybe Dr. Evil of the Austin Powers movies!) For the most part, even the worst human beings justify their actions somehow. Often, they feel forced into the choices they made, or they're performing unworthy acts to reach a worthy goal.

2) A 'dark arc'. Like the hero, the protagonist should have the capacity to grow and change. Often, the greatest difference between the antagonist and the hero is that the hero makes the tough move toward the light, while the villain doesn't have the spine.

3) A true challenge: the villain absolutely must be a worthy adversary, in some way stronger, scarier, or more formidable than the hero. Unless he/she is, the hero has no need to dig deep--and the audience has no real worries about the story's final outcome.

So who are your all time favorite villains? Post a comment and I'll send a copy of my brand-new book, DEADLIER THAN THE MALE, (a Silhouette Romantic Suspense 2-in-1 pairing my novella "Lethal Lessons" with Sharon Sala's "The Fiercest Heart") to a name I'll draw on Saturday! Or you can choose a book from my backlist instead, if you prefer. (You can check it out at

31 comments:

Jane said...

Congrats on the new release, Colleen. Besides Hannibal Lecter, my favorite villains are The Joker from the Batman comics and movies and Kevin Spacey's John Doe from "Seven." Kevin played another great villain in "The Usual Suspects."

Laurie said...

The Leader of the Empire in Star wars! The Emperor!

Lex Luther in Superman

Heath Ledger or Jack Nickelson as The Joker in Batman

Steve "Frankenstein" in Karen Robard's Walking Past Midnight story has a lot of twists and turns, surprising who is good vs evil ending

White Lies by Linda Howard also showcased questionable lawmen, not knowing the good guys vs the bad guys

Laurie said...

Oh there were several Southern bad guys in the movie Deliverance.

Colleen Thompson said...

Such a nightmare-inducing lot! Yea. Thanks so much for sharing!

Meljprincess said...

Jack the Ripper, Hannibal Lecter, Charles Manson, Lizzy Borden, "Baby Jane" Hudson played by Bette Davis in WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?

Meljprincess AT aol DOT com

KylieBrant said...

Thanks for being here, Colleen! Hannibal Lecter, as you mentioned. The villain in Red Dragon (by the same author). The villainess in Nora Roberts' Divine Evil.

PAdoglady said...

Hannibal Lecter and the Joker

Karyn Gerrard said...

All the best for your release!

One of my fav villains is from Last of the Mohicans, with Daniel Day Lewis. Magua! He was so bad~

Leanne said...

Welcome Colleen! And congrats on your two-fer!:) Fave villian? The Queen in Sleeping Beauty.:) There's one on The Mentalist. Red Jon? He's so creepy I can't watch that show anymore!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Welcome, Colleen!

Congrats on the new book! Stroke of genius, pairing you with the wonderful Sharon Sala. Double the delicious suspense!

Definitely Hannible Lecter. Robert De Niro in "Cape Fear."

Two of my all-time favorite classical villains are Iago, of course, and Lady Macbeth.


Disney has given us some delicious villains. Dustin Hoffman was wonderful as Captain Hook, but I think my all-time favorite villain is the original Cruella De Vil. Murdering a king is one thing, but a puppy killer? Now that's evil.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oops. That would be HannibAL.

Linda Henderson said...

Well, most of mine have already been named. Hannibal and the Joker, but I also think of Mallificent from Sleeping Beauty, she was really evil.

Cindy Gerard said...

Welcome Colleen and congrats on the new release and what a fun pairing with Sharon!
Villains .... hum ... there are so many and most of my favs have been mentioned.

I'm kind of with Leanne - the evil queen in Snow White probably tops my list:o)

lois greiman said...

Hey Colleen, thanks for joining us in the convert.

I enjoyed Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham. An interesting character study.

Del Lonnquist said...

Ahh yes they are bad indeed. But can't compare with the Zane Grey real life villain SIMON GIRTY! in the 1700's he was the most hated man in the country. Check it out. http://www.essortment.com/all/simongirtybiog_rbzy.htm

Colleen said...

Thanks for the kind words, Kathleen, and to everyone for playing. Love (to hate) these villains! Cruella D'
ville's a favorite of mine, too. I have a couple of newer ones to add: Alan Cumming's evil campaign advisor, Eli Gold, from The Good Wife, and if you've never read Chelsea Cain's Gretchen Lowell thriller series (beginning with Heartsick) you are missing a female serial killer like none other. REALLY creepy!

Del, I used to love Zane Grey. Will have to check out your link!

petite said...

In the movie Gaslight, James Mason was the best of the best. What a villain and creature.

Minna said...

Black Adder!

traveler said...

Villains abound and my favorite one would have to be Uriah Heep.

Colleen said...

Oooh! So many good ones. This is so much fun.

And then there's Snape from Harry Potter. And let's not forget that arch-villainess, the one, the only Nelly Oleson (from the TV series Little House on the Prairie.) I read that she and her on-screen (and equally hateful) mom were set upon by nine year olds during an appearance. LOL!

Helen Brenna said...

Welcome Colleen and congrats on the new release. I met Sharon Sala for the first time down in Orlando this past summer. She's such a dear lady!

When Kathy mentioned Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, I shivered. Every villain he plays is a favorite!

Fun topic.

Colleen said...

Hi, Helen, and thank you.

Sharon Sala is one of my favorite people ever. And she writes some dastardly villains, too. :)

catslady said...

First person I thought of was Saruman in LOTR. Of course there was Gollum but I really didn't consider him a villain. And of course there was Voldemort from Harry Potter.

JackieW said...

I don't have a favorite villian but Jack the Ripper was a bad dude.and Hannibal Lecter...I can't remember reading any other mystery book that stayed with me for so long afterwards than Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris.

Suzan Harden said...

The creepiest villain was Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She was so sure she was saving the world!

Maureen said...

Congratulations on your new release! My favorite villians were Boris and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Anytime I hear someone speaking with a Russian accent I am tempted to ask them to say moose and squirrel.

Colleen said...

So many more great evildoers! Dolores Umbridge really was a classic. That punishment she gave Harry still makes me shiver to think of.

Colleen said...

You do that, too, Maureen? (Moose and Squirrel!) LOL! You've gotta love Boris and Natasha.

And then there's Mojo JoJo from the Power Puff Girls. lol

Christie Ridgway said...

Congrats, Colleen! Thanks for riding with us. I get sooo creeped out by villains. Those that eat flesh are probably the creepiest to me (Hannibal Lecter...eek!).

chey said...

Congrats on the new book!
Lex Luther and Hannibal Lecter.

Colleen Thompson said...

Linda Henderson,
You're the winner of my book drawing. Please e-mail me from my website www.colleen-thompson.com to let me know which book you'd like. Please include a mailing address, too.

Thanks to everyone who shared a favorite villain!