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.


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!


Homophobe or Racist – which do you prefer?

18 09 2013

As a writer you have to live inside other people’s heads for much of your life. I’m a bloke, have been all my life, but I find myself inside the minds of my heroines. The creative mind sits inside someone I will never be – but women (obviously) face many of the same issues as men and I can empathise with many of the others!
In much the same way I sometimes find myself inside a bigot, a rapist, a killer – trying to understand them, trying to make their voices plausible, their actions consistent. And I don’t always know if I am doing it right!
If a bigot hates gays does it follow that he/she also has to have a problem with black people or Jews or the Welsh? If they don’t ‘have to’ be universally bigoted is there somewhere I can go to find out the correlation. Do 90% of KKK members regularly protest against vegans or is it only 5% or not correlated at all? Does the national census track this? Do Which? produce a report? Who knows these things?
I’m being deliberately flippant about this because it is all in my head. If I want to make my baddie even worse I will throw some casual racism into their dialogue because I see that as a bad thing in a person. But if I make them racist can they also be gay – do people with one unjustified subjectively dodgy bias automatically have to have more? Does a homosexual racist criminal have to hate straight people?
Sometimes I think it is better to steer away from such questions but sometimes a writer just can’t. Characters develop with a story and sometimes they aren’t consistent and sometimes, to be blunt, they turn out to be complete b**tards!