Who doesn’t love a good villain?

5 08 2014

This isn’t a throwaway title. Carefully weighted and judged.

Villains come in many shapes and sizes. I have written before about “black hats” and “pencil moustaches” in the traditional baddie but the thing about most cads and rotters you read about or see in films and on TV is that they have a redeeming feature. Something to hook in the audience.

Is it a tale of an abused childhood to elicit some sympathy and possible empathy?
Is it a love of stroking long haired cats? How can a cat lover be all bad?
Does he love his old mum?
Carry a terrible secret?
Walk with a limp? (A limp what?)

Most villains are written with something good on the side. Something that either gives the reader or the hero some pause to consider the person behind the balaclava mask, the motives for evil.

However, sometimes you find someone without that redeeming feature. You find a villain written as a villain, pure evil, self-centred, careless with the precious world and all else in it. What does the reader do then?

Typically, they will look to empathise, look for something to help understand this bad guy. And if they cannot find it they start making excuses,
…perhaps he???
…surely he must have???
… he’ll be redeemed in the end – just wait and see.

penguin

As a writer I try to give my villains something for the audience to hook in to. Not necessarily something big or obvious since no-one likes being led by the nose! Sometimes however, sometimes, the villain fights back. Sometimes the little bit of good you give them turns out to be a con operated on you as the writer.

Sometimes a bad guy is just that. Bad!

Advertisements




White hats, black hats, masks and pencil moustaches – who’s the baddie?

14 10 2013

I don’t write children’s books where, for the very young, an author has to make the baddie obvious. They cackle rather than laugh, they lurk rather than wait, they are sly rather than cunning. And they often wear a black hat.

In the world of adult literature the role of the baddie isn’t so clear cut. Nor should it be. There are bad people out there – people without redeeming characteristics, without a care for the social convention. But they are pretty rare. Most of us live in shades of gray – not 50 necessarily, but quite a few and those shades can lighten or darken depending on what we are doing at any one point in time.
Ask anyone not locked up in my cellar and they see me as a good man, someone with obvious flaws, attractive ones of course, but nothing which would put me on a register or lead to imprisonment. Ask me, and I might give you a bit more background about hidden motives behind good deeds which may cast shadows on your perception. Does that make me a baddie? How would I portray myself as a baddie in the written word to put the reader on notice or should I leave it to them to work out for themselves?

The latter is the obvious answer. Leading my reader by the nose is not how I see the contract between us. Every one of us has had a bad day, most of us succumb to the darker urges to varying degrees at some time in our lives. I think it is my job to show by actions, by written thoughts, by implication that this is the villain of our show. If you, dear reader, are worse than the bad things I illustrate him or her with then I rather imagine you will keep it to yourself!HH Coventry wears many hats but does not have a pencil moustache!





Swearing your way through life – are there any shocks left?

24 09 2013

I used some swearwords in my last two posts. B**stards and B*ll*ocks to be exact. I used them deliberately, for effect, where the context supported their usage. I could have rephrased the blogs, restructured the context and made the points less impactful and the words would have become more gratuitous? In the second case though, I was already thinking about this next blog.

“B*ll*ocks!” you say. “You probably got some comments and wanted to respond.”

Swearing remains quite a sensitive subject. Even in this modern world when it seems every other phrase in modern TV post-watershed drama is F-that, C-this, sh*t, w*nt, b*gger the other. Half the music charts have words you wouldn’t want your pre-teen to hear – even if they are spoken in Korean!

Some web-filters will see through my use of aster*sks and hide this and preceding blogs but some will remain ‘innocent face’ and let readers fill in the blanks. For this reason alone I will continue to only use swearwords in context, not for impact.

But should I care? Should anyone care what language another writer uses? Does language use limit your readership? Do writers find themselves in a box if they use difficult, contentious, slang-ridden or just plain bad language?

Probably yes. Definitely – who knows? Questions lead to more questions. And any answer you get from one person will differ from the next.

This is one of the reasons I love writing. It is so subjective. One man’s meat …Back to the point though – in dialogue, when writing in anger, swearing is present. Ever-present. Sometimes writing for the baddies I even wish my keyboard came with a little shortcut – the F*** button. It would definitely speed things up!