Although I’ve outlined my next WIP with crimes and plot twists, the villain is not yet clear in my mind. So far, the villain or villains seem motivated by greed but I want the sustained viciousness to be more personal. Perhaps, if I keep writing the first draft, the weaknesses of important characters will show me where they and the villain collide.
Most writers have heard the advice to make the villain a smart opponent so the protagonist pulls off a worthwhile victory. This advice makes more sense for a novel-length work where the villain has to plot and manipulate others to achieve his goal.
In short stories, villains can more easily correspond with the majority of bad guys. In her book, WHAT COPS KNOW, Connie Fletcher reports that officers and detectives working the streets often see offenders as not too bright. They kill relatives or friends and they are sometimes still holding the knife or gun when the police arrive. They might cut off a man’s head to make identification difficult and then leave the man’s business card in his jacket pocket. That could never happen for a fictional sleuth. Where’s the conflict and challenge? In real life, a victim might need brains and knowledge of how people think to escape harm. A man with a gun on a dark, lonely street doesn’t have to be a genius to shoot you. You have to think real fast to escape that bullet.
There are the rapists, killers, sexual predators, and stalkers who get away with repeated crimes because they don’t know their victims and they leave the scene before the law arrives. Real FBI profilers have written about these characters. John Douglas and Mark Olshaker wrote MINDHUNTER and OBSESSION. Stephen G. Michaud and Roy Hazelwood wrote THE EVIL THAT MEN DO. Sometimes, even people who live in low crime areas and wouldn’t usually spend time reading crime reports are fascinated by the psychologically disturbed criminals described in these books. What makes these criminals give up their tickets to the human race and perform acts that show their total lack of empathy? When a psychologically disturbed person is portrayed in a novel pursuing a victim or victims with whom the reader identifies, the writer can create a compelling and disturbing story. The reader can’t wait to have the criminal imprisoned or dead.
Hannibal Lecter is one of my all time favorite villains. Cannibalism is primitive behavior, or at least I think so. Yet Lecter has brains, an ethical code, and charm. Contrasts in a personality make it interesting.
I like to explore good guys turned inside out—the doctor who performs inhumane experiments on people, the angel of death who kills her helpless patients, the mother who destroys her child, the father who loves his daughter so much that he rapes her. What makes a policeman join the crooks? What makes a woman hate her own sex and seek to harm other women? What makes a priest prey on the innocent? What makes me dwell on these questions!
I see plenty of villainous characters waiting in the wings to step into my WIP. I just need to shine the light into the right patch of darkness.
Do you have favorite villains you love to hate?
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Carolyn Mulford on 5/25 and Liz Mugavero on 6/1. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at email@example.com.