11 November, 2011

Villains Are Fun: Guest Post by Ty Johnston

Today I have the honor of hosting author Ty Johnston here on my blog, as part of his blog tour running from November 1st-30th.

Villains are fun

Heroes are not only the stuff of legend, but generally they’re also the stuff of fiction. If one searches or just happens to read a lot, eventually you could come across a novel that does not contain a true hero, but these are rare and usually involve a protagonist of a rare, other sort.

People tend to like heroes. Many have their favorites. Some like the spandex-wearing super heroes of comic books while others enjoy the dashing love interest of many romance novels. There are a lot of different types of heroes out there, but they all share one common trait, their heroism. In some form or another, at one point within a story, the hero must become heroic, must stand up for what is right or face down some evil.

On the other hand, villains tend to be much more diverse than heroes. Can one truly say all villains share in villainy? That simply wouldn’t be true. Many villains of fiction often aren’t really all that bad. They’re not necessarily evil. They simply are opposed to the hero at large of a given tale.

Obviously some villains do seem to be out-and-out evil, but if one knows the past of most villains, generally there is a story there that brought this character to the point of being a villain. Otherwise, it’s usually a boring villain.

For example, where would Darth Vader be without his tragic past? He would be a rather flat character. Even in the very first Star Wars movie, in which the original viewers knew nothing of Vader’s personal past, there were still hints that Vader was not always the great big bad guy he appeared to be on the screen. Kenobi talked a little about Vader’s history, and Grand Moff Tarkin hinted here and there of some knowledge.

As a writer, I tend to love villains. Often times I love them more than heroes. Perhaps that’s one reason why many of my own heroes tend to be more of the brutal sort, almost villains in their own right.

Why do I love villains so much? Several reasons. You know a hero is sooner or later going to do something heroic, but you can never be sure exactly what a villain is going to do. Also, villains tend to act while heroes tend to react.

I’m being overly simplistic, of course, because there are all kinds of heroes and villains who don’t fit into the cozy little definitions I’m tossing out. In those cases, readers often discover a pleasant surprise, though sometimes it’s not a nice surprise. It takes a skilled author who can create truly unique heroes and villains.

Another reason I love villains so much is because they are fun to write, at least for me. I love writing scenes in which my villains appear. Villains can get away with a lot more than can a hero. For instance, a hero usually isn’t going to seriously harm someone they simply find annoying, but a villain can do all kinds of nasty things to such a person. Again, there are exceptions, but often enough they fall flat unless there’s great storytelling and/or a truly iconic character. Batman could get away with such, for example, but Robin? Probably not.

In much of fantasy literature, heroes tend to follow a path. I call it the "farm boy" syndrome, and it generally follows the outline of a hero given by the famous Joseph Campbell. Basically, the hero starts out as someone seemingly unimportant. He or she is offered a chance to become a hero, initially refusing such an opportunity before fate somehow forces their hand. Eventually, the hero saves the day.

Fantasy villains are not weighed down by such restraints. The only requirement for a fantasy villain is that the villain must oppose the hero. Otherwise, the villain can follow a million different paths, even creating his or her own path.

I like that. I like characters who can make decisions without simply always reacting to something. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to villains.

They can get away with so much more.


About this blog tour:

Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of RoguesBayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook, and online at Smashwords. His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.

-----The Golden Eagle


Charles Gramlich said...

I always try to remember that no one is the villain of their OWN story. The villains always consider themselves heroes at some level.

Shirley Wells said...

Great post!

I love writing about villains. They're fascinating. How many times do we hear people say of a convicted killer "he was a quiet man, friendly and helpful, normal"?

Old Kitty said...

Yay for villains!! My favourite outright villain a la comic book is Ming the Merciless - cos he does exactly what is said on the tin!! LOL!!

One of my favourite psychologically complex literary villain is Mr Ripley!

Love these villains!! Take care

Ciara said...

I love a great villain! I love the characters your not sure which way they are going to go. Great post.

Paul Tobin said...

I often think that if I was an actor then it would be more fun to play the villain. Villains are fun to write, although I think, you have to give them realistic motivations because everyone is trying to do their best even if their logic is very strange and leads them to act in such nasty ways.

Anonymous said...

I put together a villain series last year. Much more fun than a good guy series. I had a blast with it. Villains are fun, no doubt about that!

Ty Johnston said...

Eagle, thank you so much for hosting me today.

Charles, that's pretty much how I look at it, too. I try to keep in mind that no matter how horrible something is that one of my villain's has done, he or she sees it as the right thing to do at the time, and they don't see themselves as an evil person (and may, in fact, see the hero as the villain).

Shirley, I think those "quiet" ones can be the scariest.

Kitty, Ming is one of my favorites, too, though I remember him more for the serial programs on TV than the comics.

Ciara, that's one of the fun things about villains, that they can do so much more than the hero.

Paul, I feel the same way about acting. I once met Vincent Price when I was very, very young, and he was the nicest man in the world, but he played great villains. I'm sure he loved it.

Stephen, I'll have to look into this villains series of yours. I've a few ideas for something maybe similar, taking one of my already known villains, giving him a trilogy told from his point of view.

Susan Fields said...

I love writing villains, too - they definitely make things interesting (if they're doing their job right, that is).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Villains are challenging! There are some really awesome ones out there in literature and movies, so lots of pressure. Still haven't created a pure villain character yet.

Anonymous said...

I couldnt agree more with this. I am always the villain lover. However I am not the black and white reader. I like the villain who has some depth to them.

Mark Noce said...

Villain are fun! Sometimes we get so wrapped up in creating a hero we forget to really flesh out the villain:)

JKA said...

Agreed. I read Batman for The Joker, not because of Bruce Wayne's unquestionable moral fiber. :)

Flying high in the sky.... said...

WoW!! what an interesting insight!! loved the picture of ghosts of asylum! thanks for sharing

Jennifer Groepl said...

Like you, I find the villains intriguing. They don't operate under as many constraints as the protagonist. My favorite characters are often those that we are unsure of throughout the story. Is this a good guy or a bad guy?

Stuart Nager said...

As a performer as well, it IS more fun, most times, to play the bad guy. There is something about it that is just so freeing to act out.

Really complex at times if done well and can carry the book too.

Thanks foe guesting.

Now I want to read "A Clockwork Orange" again. Villain? Misspent youth? hmmmm :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Charles: Good point!

Shirley: It's a bit chilling, isn't it?

Old Kitty: I've never heard of Ming the Merciless, but he sounds like quite a character! :)

Never heard of him, either . . . I'll have to look into those villains.

Ciara: Me, too. :)

Paul: True. I'd like to play the villain if I was an actor as well; at least some of the time.

Stephen: I remember that series!

Ty: You're very welcome!

Susan: Yup--villains who don't do a good job can be pretty boring. :P

Alex: Well, there's a challenge for you. :)

Cestlavie22: Same here. Villains have to be 3D, not 2D, as it were.

Mark: I know I do that sometimes. :P

JKA: I've never read Batman, but I've come across books where I couldn't wait to find out what the villain did next. :)

Sushmita: You're welcome! Thanks for coming by.

Jennifer: Those definitely keep the reader intrigued.

Stuart: I've never read A Clockwork Orange--I really need to get around to that book . . .

anthony stemke said...

Villains are fascinating, moreso than heroes.
Great post.

Belle said...

A good villain can make a book or movie twice as good, such as the villain in Die Hard. Darth was an excellent example. When he repented in that last movie, I have to say I was shocked. I don't think I had ever seen a movie where the villain changed his mind and went to the good side.

Anonymous said...

That's a great cover.

Villains are fun to write, read about, and watch.

Talli Roland said...

Great post! I agree - villains are great and they're so much fun to write!

....Petty Witter said...

Ooh I do love a good villain. Thanks for a great post Ty.

Arlee Bird said...

A poorly drawn villain can greatly diminish the effectiveness of a hero.

Ann Carbine Best visits Wrote By Rote on Saturday 11/12/11

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Sometimes it's hard not to fall for the villain. When you see a glint of good or vulnerability you just want things to turn out good for them.

Aguilar Elliot said...

i'm with you on your affinity for villains. the joker is my personal favorite.

Ty Johnston said...

Ha! Glad to see I'm not the only one who likes villains.

Naina Gupta said...

I love that line... "villains tend to act while heroes tend to react"

Such an interesting post.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I totally agree! Villains are so much fun to write. And they're so fascinating!

Laila Knight said...

I like the guy who starts out as a villain and makes a complete turnaround by the end of the story. :) I also like my heroes without the tights.

Madeleine said...

Great post. I like villains too because they are colouful and add that sense of intrigue to a plot. I also like well fleshed heroes who are gallant and cunning despite all odds.

M Pax said...

Congrats to Ty on the new release! Villains are very fun to write. So, I've found.

The Golden Eagle said...

Anthony: They can do a lot more than heroes can. :)

Belle: Neither have I.

Medeia: I like the cover, too. :)


Talli: Yup. Sometimes I think I might live a bit vicariously through my antagonists. LOL.

Tracy: Same here. :)

Arlee: Indeed!

Sharon: That often happens to me. Even if they do something terrible, I'll still have hope for them, in some way. :P

Aguilar: I'm beginning to think I really should read Batman sometime.

Thank you for coming by!

Ty: Nope. :)

Naina: Definitely

Peggy: The more complex, the better.

Laila: I once tried writing a character like that--I never did finish rewrites for that book. :P

Madeleine: Cunning; now that's an interesting trait for a hero. :)

M: Me, too.

Samantha Vérant said...

Like a good man, a good villain is hard to find. So when they're done well, they're so very interesting. Like Hannibel Lechter...

MISH said...

A great and insightful post!
At the end of the day, villains are human too... and every character has the dichotomy of good versus evil inside. With the hero, the good dominates... with the villain, it could swing whichever way, dependent on circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I love the decision making process of a great villain. Not into gratuitous violence. Theres has to be a reason. Collateral damage is okay and sometimes expected. But overall, there has to be a reason to kill people or do their heinous crimes.

Sangu said...

Such a great post. Villains ARE fun! I love the Darth Vader example: I find him so much more interesting than Luke. (Though not the prequel-version. Hayden Christensen is just annoying.)

The Golden Eagle said...

Samantha: Agreed! Though, I can't say I've read anything with Hannibal Lecter . . .

MISH: And it makes it even more suspenseful.

Stephen: Hello again. :) And yes, they must have a reason for committing the crime.

Sangu: I need to see Star Wars sometime. :P

Damyanti said...

I'm trying to stop my villain from stealing the show in my current novel. Villains are fascinating. Great post.

The Golden Eagle said...

Damyanti: They have a tendency to do that, don't they? :)