At one time in my life, I loved villains, specifically Disney animated feature film villains, and best of them all was Maleficent the evil fairy from the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. In my eyes no character can outdo Maleficent for sheer vitriol and spite and few can equal her ability to inspire fear. While Maleficent and her villainous Disney cohorts still hold a fond place in my author’s heart, I have matured in my sense of what makes a true villain.
There is a good reason why I’ve never seen the movie or read the book The Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter (as portrayed by Hopkins) was chosen by the American Film Institute as the #1 movie villain. I happen to agree with the AFI. Good villains, true villains are scary people. They frighten because they (like heroes and heroines) are or began as ordinary people. In every true villain is that seed of goodness and humanity that we all identify with. Unlike the animated villains of the Disney films who are by design caricatures of all that is dark and evil, the true villain (whether real or fictional) is in many ways ‘just like us.’ The traits that distinguish villains from ordinary men and women are extraordinary selfishness, viciousness and cruelty—to a degree often described as ‘unthinkable.’ The acts performed by Ted Bundy are inconceivable to most of us. Those acts are even harder for us non-villains to understand when performed by people like Bundy who outwardly are described as “well known and well liked.” We all aspire to be well known and well liked. That kind of similarity with the cruel, vicious, selfish villains of the world is what makes them frightening.
Since I don’t care much for being frightened, I have difficulty writing villainous characters. I am working on overcoming that dislike because many readers enjoy the chill of vicarious fright. I much prefer giving characters personal obstacles to overcome. My June 1, 2011 release, The Widow’s Revenge, is this kind of a book where both hero and heroine must overcome their very personal demons. Please leave me a comment and tell me which you prefer and external villain or an internal conflict. Yes, I realize a great story will have both, but I’m asking you to choose. Everyone who comments will be added to my mailing list and entered in a drawing for swag. Notice will be sent to the recipient on or before June 15, 2011. Don’t forget, The Widow’s Revenge becomes available tomorrow, June 1, 2011. You can purchase The Widow’s Revenge direct from the publisher at http://www.eredsage.com/store/product898.html.