Monday, September 13, 2010

The importance of being villainous

I'm the kind of writer whose characters are all vaguely amoral; both protagonists and antagonists display positive and negative traits that give heroes and villains alike an amorphous quality.

This tendency grew out of my viewpoint that good and evil are, in the real world, usually experienced in this vague fashion; we all do both good and bad things. As Hannah Arendt said, what is so frightening about evil is its very "banality"--that, for example, the Nazis' genocide was implemented by bureaucrats, not sociopaths.

But I've realized that this amorphous depiction of morality isn't an effective device for the kind of fiction I write. At the moment I'm writing a near-future, cyber-punk thriller. The pacing and the action demand a good villain, someone who is capital-E Evil. But after nearly thirty-thousand words of writing, I've noticed that... I don't have one! My villains amount to, at best, guys with "dirty" jobs; at worst, they are simply "cute" characterizations of evil stereotypes.

The resolution? More evil! In an effort to produce some heinous villainry, I'm going to introduce (in no particular order):

• Cold-blooded murder!
• Torture!
• Gross sexual misconduct!
• Monstrous appendages!

That ought to shake things up; and it ought to give everyone a reason to root for my hero.


P.S. You may wonder about that last one. Well, riddle me this: if you met a dude and his hands were crustaceous, would you trust him?

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