13 November 2010

Villainy

I was blog hopping yesterday and swung by KristieJ's place (Rambling on Romance) just to check if she had written a new post. (Yes, I should really learn how to use Google Reader :) Re-reading KristieJ's last post entitled The Voices In My Head got me to thinking about villains...about the different types of villains and about which types work and which just don't. Previous to...I don't know when...it felt all villains were just that. Villains. The line drawn in the sand was very clear and they were all on the wrong side of it! But now...now I don't think all villains are created equal. Let's see...

* You have the truly evil villains who ooze pure evil. No 'why' about it. They are just EVHUL because they are. A good example would perhaps be the El Mages from CL Wilson's Tairen Soul series. Or the Sith from Star Wars. Hmmm. Maybe it's me, but the truly evil villains seem to crop up a lot in fantasy. Oh, and into this category falls the ever so frequent stalker who makes an appearance in just about every contemporary romance novel I pick up...and a few historical romance novels :) They stalk because they are obsessed and they are obsessed because....let's not detail that, let's just obsess and stalk the heroine, shall we? (Can you tell I'm not a fan of that particular plot device?) I'm becoming less of a fan of the truly evil villain. They feel....I don't know, rather one dimensional in their evilness.

* Then you have the villains with a reason (if one can call it that) behind their evilness. Greed mostly - greed for power, greed for money, etc. Greed. Revenge. Jealously. All those 'wonderful' human traits. I can understand them, but understanding does not mean condoning. The villain in His At Night (Sherry Thomas) falls into this category I think (although I'm only just over halfway through the book so he may move into the previous category as the book progresses).

* And that leads me to villains that aren't...or villains that are, but cross that line in the sand. Nope, I haven't gone mad (well, no more than usual :) Is it possible? Can a villain be redeemed? Such a cataclysmic shift depends completely on the author, whether he/she can pull it off enough that the reader can believe the redemption path. I think perhaps CL Wilson's Gaelen falls into this category. And maybe JR Ward's Zsadist? And can we forgot Darth Vader?

* And last but not least is the pretend villain. For example the (eventual) hero of a historical revenge novel who seeks revenge on the unsuspecting heroine, even though she herself has done nothing to the hero, it was actually her many-times removed uncle by marriage :) Or something to that effect. He's not really the villain, he's just...misinformed....and stupid. As for examples, I can't think of one...but there are many :)

So, have I missed any villain categories? What type of villain do you love to loathe?

11 comments:

  1. I personally love the truly evil villains...especially if they die at any point during the book. lol If they're not gonna die I don't like them quite as much.

    I can't say I'm a fan of the revenge villain as I always think that it blown out of proportion. Maybe that's just the book I'm reading? IDK. lol

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  2. Is it okay to include metaphorical villains? Like people that are representative of a government or society that a character has to fight against.

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  3. Well, I think I prefer the villain who falls in between... the one that falls within those grey areas. They ARE villains, but they have reasons for being so... and (if the writer is a great one), at some point during the story the reader can "almost" sympathize with them, or at least see their point of view. Those are TRULY tough villains for me. The ones that fall under the black or truly eeeevil category are easily hated, but the grey ones? hmm... those always make me uncomfortable and shift on my seat. ;P

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  4. Like Hilcia, I'm a fan of the grey area villains. They seem more realistic to me.

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  5. I personally love the truly evil villains...especially if they die at any point during the book.

    Tracy - LOL! I was cheering madly when the Emperor died in Return of the Jedi. And I'm with you on the revenge villain...the revenge always seems to get way out of hand, like the hero's (or heroine's) ability to think clearly is gone.

    heidenkind - definitely. I didn't think of that type, but I should have. Good call :)

    Hilcia - yup! *nods madly* That almost sympathy...very clever writing to evoke such a response. It makes you uneasy, whereas the truly evil vilains...everyone just loves to loathe them :)

    Chris - *nods* I think that touch of realism is...way more scary.

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  6. Yeah, I get a kick out of the truly evil bastard villains as well, AS LONG as they're competent at what they do, rather than simply being a tantrum-throwing conflict device for the book's protagonist (yes, Mr Goodkind, I'm looking at YOU when I say that).

    The kind of villain I TRULY loathe is the one you mention last... the bad-boy redeemed who turns out to not have been nearly such a bad boy when you get to know him. Z... comes very close to being that for me - I was kinda of disappointed with the way his villain-ness was dealt with over the course of his story. Not nearly as disappointed as I was with how Sherilyn Kenyon tried to deal with the same thing in her Z-precursor, Zarek... but it came close.

    In fact, the only author who's pulled this trope off convincingly to me was Michelle Sagara in her Sundered Lands book. The book itself didn't work for me on a number of levels, but I did like how she took a bad-guy character who was genuinely twenty shades of mad, bad, sadistic and wrong (and competent with it), and gradually over the course of the book, developed him into a semi three-dimensional character who was no longer the bad guy.

    The only one I can think of that you haven't mentioned is the weaselly accidental bad guy who causes a calamity, and is then self-absorbed enough not to want to do anything to fix it (or to just want to hide what he's done, and in doing so, makes things worse) I can't think of a literary example of this, but Gaius Baltar is the epitome of it on TV.

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  7. Ooohhh - just thought of one other villain trope I absolutely love... the villain who's a shadow side of the hero - either an evil twin that the hero can't help feeling guilty about and responsible for; or a genuine Jekyll/Hyde situation where the hero's split in two and the villain is his darker side. This is something that turns up less often in books (barring the original Jekyll & Hyde, of course), although SM Stirling *tried* to do it with the twins Adrienne & Adrian in his latest book "A taint in the blood".

    For me personally, the best way this one's been done is the Angel/Angelus story, but I'm pretty much a sucker for any story with a character who embodies this dynamic.

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  8. Villains...I really like them. To be perfectly evil requires tremendous energy.....

    Thanks very much...I got Nalini Singh's blog and I'm following it. She is from Fiji, where majority of the population comprises of Indians. I really do not whether her books are available in my place(Kerala).I am going to enquire about it....

    Once again Thanks very much Orannia

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  9. Starfire - I totally agree with you WRT competency! No point in having an incompetent villain who can't stretch and test the hero/heroine :) Oh, and yes WRT the weaselly accidental bad guy type and the shadow villain!

    Shalet Jimmy - villains definitely need to have energy. No half-hearted villains need to apply! And if you do manage to track down Nalini's books I look forward to hearing what you think. I love both series she has written. And you're very welcome :0

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  10. Villains of the "shades of gray" variety definitely make some of the most interesting characters in fiction. I love when an author makes me uncertain of my own allegiances with a character.

    Great topic!

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  11. Christine - thank you. And I'm so with you on shades of grey villains!

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