Tuesday, November 16, 2010
When the Bad Guy isn't as Bad as You Thought
I was just listening to a story where the soldier had come back with the notion in mind to kill his best friend off for carrying a wounded captain from the battlefield who had been one of the most hated officers in the regiment. And leaving him to be taken prisoner. But the man looked like he was ready to die with a wound so severe, and the other wounded officer had only a broken leg. So the friend, who'd become a prisoner of the Russians, came back to kill the hero. And the captain who was so despicable, who had wanted all the glory and received none of it, returned to warn the hero of his friend's madness, as much as he hated the hero.
In both cases we have two bad guys--one who is evil throughout the story, but shows a bit of humanity (to pay his debt for having been saved, although he hates the hero to the end), and the other who was good throughout until the end (and is brought back to sanity by his friend).
I try to remember this as I'm creating my villainous characters. To make them real, we have to show a more in-depth character. No one is all good or all bad.
My dad always claimed he was perfect and he made no mistakes. He did so tongue-in-cheek, and we always had a good laugh when he made a mistake, and we'd remind him of it over the years in a good-humored way. Like the time he tried to put the pop-up camper up, after we girls had practiced and practiced on how to do it right at home while he worked. Finally, he arrogantly motioned to us to do better, and we had it up in minutes. :) No one is perfect, right every time, never making mistakes, ever. So creating a character who says and thinks they are, then showing how they aren't and how everyone around them reacts and the way the character himself acts when his imperfections show, is the fun of writing characterizations.
Well, this is what happens to me sometimes as I'm writing. If I distance myself from my villains, I tend to make them bad without any good graces. But if I'm kind of growing to like them, darn it, I have to show they have some humanity or morality to them. And that makes it difficult for me to kill them off. :)
I was having trouble with that when writing about my evil vampires in Killing the Bloodlust. My critique partners were falling in love with my vampires. LOL But they were the bad guys! *sigh* So I had to show them in a worse light. Even so, I killed off one of my vampires and my critique partner would not forgive me for it. So in the rewrites, he lived. :)
So there's a fine line between giving the bad guy some humanity and making him more "real" and making sure that he's still the bad guy in the end.
Unfortunately, this has happened to me with The Wolf and the SEAL. All of a sudden (and I can never force these scenes) it came to me last night--what one bad guy character is all about. His motivations for what he's done. And now, the whole story is falling into place. But now I don't want him to have a bad end. :)
And that's the problem when the bad guy isn't as bad as you thought!
Ever read a story where the bad guy turns out not so bad after all? I think of Serenity where the assassin listens to reason at the very end of the story. He's still not a good guy, but he shows some sense of humanity.
Just a note: Wolf Fever arrived!!! Let the party begin! :)
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."