Saturday, 14 May 2011

B is for the Bad Guys

I may regret not saving this for villainous V...

You may have wondered if following on from A (for Apocalypse) would be the rest of the alphabet. Or you may have been more concerned over the whereabouts of your TV remote... however, there is more. 25 more. In theory. Which will have to include some days with double posts I guess, since there are clearly not another 25 days left of May...

Where other letters were presenting a multitude of options I was struggling for a B. Books might be obvious, but is way too broad and unspecific. I nearly settled on Bookselling, which is what I do... I am even such a thing as a Senior Bookseller, would you believe? Oh yes, I work for a major bookselling chain, have reviewed for their magazine, have sat on a science fiction and fantasy panel for them.... you care, I can tell... ;)

I could write a lot on bookselling. However, I really wanted to talk about writing, and so bad guys it is.

It's so easy to make your bad guy the clichéd villain, unafraid of hurting women and children; evil to the core; perhaps banished for thousands of years but now returning; the hero's childhood friend, or mentor... Now there's nothing wrong with all of that, but if you want the bad guy, or gal, to be truly compelling, try making them as three dimensional as your hero.

Why is he bad?

What made him that way? Did circumstance turn an otherwise good person into the Hand of Darkness? Is he doing it through some misguided sense of good? Although if he is, flesh that out, that one's been done before, too.

Your bad guy should be as hard to kill off as your hero (for you, not physically). Not because you like him, necessarily, but because you are invested in him.

Now, maybe it's not fair for me to talk of this, because I write flash fiction and, mostly, fleshing out a character involves throwing a few tiny titbits in from their past, it works in the space. Actually, sometimes it's good to use cliché to your advantage... a by-the-book villain does a lot of work for you, people fill the gaps in, it allows you to use your limited space for other things, like story-telling and scene-setting.

You may say, hey, my bad guy has no reason... he's just psychopathic. Well, there's still often a reason people are psychopathic (not a justification, but an origin), but fair enough, I can concede, maybe some people are just built bad.

They make good villains for crime books, the psychological determination of their actions being what the detective needs to suss in order to solve the crime... but wait... we're getting into C now. Because C is for Crime...

(Read more Renegade A to Zs. Or find us on Twitter with #RenegadeAtoZ.)

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