Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Is It More Important to Be Right?
Is it more important to be right?
We’ve been so good on this blog not to mention politics…but I’m going to break the taboo. Wait! Don’t run away in terror—or polite fury. I’m only going to refer to politics in reference to the villains in our books.
The candidate, or even just your neighbor, is often vilified. The individual is suddenly without redeemable characteristics. My cousin (yes, my cousin!) sent me an email at some point during this campaign season (aren’t I being good, you shouldn’t be able to tell which side I’m on if I’m doing this right) in which the writer called my candidate a whore. Now, I might disagree with someone’s viewpoint, I might not even like them as a person, but shouldn’t there at least be some evidence to support the insult?
How does this apply to our writing you might ask? Ah, yes, the villain. Let us continue with my political metaphor. The other side sees themselves as correct for the most part. They truly believe in what they’re saying and doing. Or at least they see what they’re doing as the best course for them at the time. To them, the hero is the villain. The truly best villain also has to be at least as smart as the hero or heroine. If the villain is weak, then the conflict is also weakened.
The villain also needs to have layers. If you can’t respect your villain in the morning, then the resolution won’t be as satisfying. Give the villain a life. The villain has a past. The villain has or at least had a Mama. Opportunity, or lack thereof, can lead to someone becoming a villain. The reader should know at some point why the villain is what he or she is. I have to say so many of the books I’ve read lately have very thin (as in characterization, not as in weight) villains—if I know very little about the villain, then I’m not thrilled when he loses. He’s a stranger to me, and I don’t care that much about strangers other than in a vague humanitarian sort of way.
If the villain actually sees himself as the villain, then they deserve a reward—redemption before they die. Oops, I lost my political metaphor. Maybe because I understand the villains in my books better than I understand my political opposition? I hope not…
By the way, I have an ending thought…does anyone else think the insistence by the writing gurus that every scene has to be relevant to the main plot makes it too easy to figure out the ending? I’m finding this in my reading, haven’t the guts to apply it to my writing yet.