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.
Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’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