Friday, September 28, 2007

Sympathy For The Devil

Okay, I admit it. I have a villain problem.

No, not in the writing department. I'm pretty sure my villains are fully-functional, three-dimensional baddies. So what's my problem, you might ask? Well, here's the thing. I'm a romance writer. But the character I often find the most intriguing (um, especially if he happens to be both evil AND good-looking) is the guy who's working very hard to wreck it all, who thinks it would be the greatest thing ever if he could just thwart all of my beautiful, hearts-and-flowers-filled plans.

That's right. I suffer from villain love.

Snape's going to Avada Kedavra someone? Oh, I'm so there. Vic Von Doom's run off to blow up half the city? Out of my way, ladies (as long as he keeps looking like Julian McMahon, anyway)! Nasty things are afoot, and there's a villain who desperately needs my attention. Commodus needs a cool hand to soothe his fevered brow. Boromir could use something to distract him from that darned Ring. Lucius Malfoy so obviously just needs someone to talk to (and possibly toy with all that gorgeous hair).

I know I'm not the only one who's ever been ensnared by the character who by all rights ought to be the "anti-catch." Come on, now...who among you really thought Christine should end up with boring old Raoul? It's not the good guy we're meant to root for there, not really. It's the tortured soul in the basement, the one with the voice of an angel and the ever-increasing body count. He's fascinating. He's magnetic. He's beautiful.

He's also homicidal.

But do I still root for Eric to win every time? You bet. Hey, one of these days, it might just happen. Even when I'm not exactly rooting for the hero's number one problem, though, I'm often deliciously intrigued. What makes him so twisted? How does he justify his means to an end? And, in my case, there's almost always a "Hmm...I wonder if all he really needs is the love of a good woman?"

It's that pesky "romance writer" thing again, you know.

As we were blogging about characterization last week and the one before it, there was some discussion about the power of redemption, about how that arc is so wonderfully appealing when we're dealing with our characters. That, I think, is what draws me to the baddest of the bad. The possibilities for redemption are endless, and make my romantic's heart go pitty-pat more often than not. Would love change him? Could he be made to see and regret the error of his ways?

Can we somehow get around that little issue of his possible psychosis?

I tend to pick up my pen (or my laptop) and try to find out. The allure of the villain, for me, is in the challenge of taking all of the strength that makes him such a formidable adversary and turning it in an entirely different direction. I already know that the next book I tackle is going to feature a villain who becomes a hero, not the easiest path by far. But no matter how much fun I have with my knights in shining armor (and I do love them, don't get me wrong!), there's always going to be the part of me that wants to head for the black knight with the broken sword, help him up, and give him a chance to discover what he might have been.

So now it's your turn to confess...who are your favorite villains? What about them do you find so fascinating? And who would you redeem if you could?



  1. I like fictional villains too especially when they get the good lines. It's hard to pick a favorite, but if I were pressed. Hmm. I'd say Dr. Evil, Austin Power’s adversary, because he's evil and funny.

  2. Might also be interesting to list some villains who WERE redeemed (without having to die for it, exactly) like Angel and Spike from the Buffy series. I don't know who my favorite unredeemed villain is, though. Would some of the villains in my own fiction count? (mainly because I can remember them right offhand and not others!)

    Jody W.

  3. Brenda, evil and funny always does it for me:-) Like the Sheriff of Nottingham as played by the scene-stealing Alan Rickman (can you tell I'm a fan?)! Jody, that's a tough one...I think my faves tend to die, redeemed or not. They wouldn't if I were running the world, of course, but no one seems to have figured out what a wonderful thing that would be yet:-)

  4. I'm a romantic at heart so I want love to win matter who it is, the villian or hero. Guess it depends on what I am reading. The series I'm reading now, definitely the hero!

    I tagged you on my blog today, if you care to play...I don't normally do meme's but this one is fun.

  5. Bwahahahaha!!!!
    Does that say it all?

  6. What attracts me about villians or antagonists? If they are well-written and developed, a reader or viewer sees that they are not one dimensional. They have a soft spot and we can see that they are the hero's of their own story. From their POV they are completely in the right.

    The fact that they are yummy or have the best lines is pretty much icing.

    And from my acting days, I can tell you that playing the evil step-sister is a ton more fun than Cinderella.



  7. I adore Alan Rickman. In anything he does. His portrayal of Severus Snape is just so spot on. I think he and Maggie Smith should be in every scene and to heck with the rest of the cast :)

    But I think for me, my favorite villain has to be Cole (Julian McMahon) from Charmed.


  8. I am SO glad I'm not the only one who thinks Lucius Malfoy is hot. LOL I admit it, I love a bad boy. In fact, I've got it so bad the hero of the medieval/paranormal I'm working on right now started out as a villain. Yup, I intended him to be a scumball, but I just couldn't do it. Those bad boys are addictive. Great Post, Kendra!

  9. I have always been the most attracted to villains and underdogs in the movies and on TV. In books, the author is able to get into the hero's head so that the reader sees his complexity and depth, knows his turmoil and how hard it is for him to earn his hero-ness. You don't get that as much in movies where we can't "read" thoughts, you know? Have you ever seen The Saint? The hero is a thief. What about The Thomas Crowne Affair? Yummy. I am so turned on by bad boys redeemed by love. They are the most interesting characters. My kids watch a Disney movie, Sky High, where the main character is a high school kid that flies and has super strength. But the character I think is the most interesting is War and Peace, who had a hero mother and a villain father. Now THAT'S interesting. OK, so I'm nerdy for bringing up a high school movie, but hey, I was thinking about that the other day. I guess kids don't care though. That's why I like to write for adults.