Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day Eighteen-- My Beautiful Wickedness

Imaginary rep points awarded to the first person to post where the phrase above comes from. (Aside from Diana if she is reading blogs--we talked about this last week as a possible book title--before I realized it sounded too close to Wicked Lovely--in my opinion. Le sigh.)

Villains. Whether they're metaphorical or real, every story has an antagonist or an antagonistic element. Otherwise it's like Seinfeld--a story about nothing. Well, okay, there are those stories, but they usually bore me. I like conflict. I like angst. I like villains a lot.

I know I bring up the subject of YA topics a lot, but I think this spreads beyond that while still being pertinent.

How evil can you/will you go with your "villain"? Does it seem like sometimes that you have to "off" someone to prove your villain is truly evil? Is it to justify killing your villain in the end? Okay, let's play murder by numbers here:

Dream a Little Dream: Serial Killer (12+ body count) Comeuppance- Hero smacks him in the head with a rock-booyah-arrested.

A Little Crazy Talk: Mad Deranged Killer (body count of one) Comeuppance- Hit in the head with a maglight-booyah-arrested.

Someone to Watch over Me: Stalker (proof of abuse) Comeuppance- Suicide

Face of the Phantom: Psycho (attempted murder and assault) Comeuppance-broken face by chick-booyah-arrested.

For in that Sleep: Serial Killer (body count of two) Comeuppance- Nailed in the head with a baseball bat-so satisfying-arrested.

Quality of Justice: Hitman (high body count) Comeuppance- Killed in defense of another.

Parallel Lives: Multiple villains (criminal mischief and body count of one)- Comeuppance-beat to unconsciousness with a garbage can and/or arrested.

Stories and Magic: Multiple villains (attempted murder in the case of two, execution by another, a barrel of hitmen with an unknown body count) Comeuppance-life ruined/sent to rot in a small village jail manned by people who hate you (my favorite comeuppance EVER) and arrested.

Share with me a Lullaby: Multiple villains ( 12+ body count for some ) Comeuppance- killed by other villains or suicide.

My Little Runaway: Multiple villains (body count of one and attempted murder) Comeuppance- tasered and arrested.

Re: Straint: Multiple villains (hitmen with unknown body count) Comeuppance- poisoned or killed by other hitmen or dying slowly from disease

Sheri's Tales: Multiple villains (attempted murder) Comeuppance- killed by crushing them.

I won't go through the Honors (serial killers, skinwalkers, etc) because it would actually be spoilers, but you get the point.

So, Scorched: I've got multiple pyro demons including one sire (criminal mischief and considering the possibility of murder) Comeuppance-banishment to hell. (As you can see--this is a new and exciting comeuppance for me. I even like to say it in a deep voice.)

Still, I find it interesting that all my villains receive their comeuppance in a very satisfying way. Is this a psychological thing--that I need them to be caught and punished in some way? I need it to be "fair?"

Actually--I do. So little of our lives outside of fiction are fair--and I like to see the bad punished and the good win. When I was reading "The Ruins" it left me dissatisfied, because that didn't happen. So, I guess that makes my writing unrealistic, but I don't care. There is something cathartic about everything working out--even if it's not perfectly. I like to see resolution. I love a good comeuppance.

How about you? Spill on your villains... or your favorite villains for the non-writers. What's their body count or infraction? What's their comeuppance? Do you need resolution like I do?

Can evil triumph?

Does a YA book get a different level of villain than an adult book?


  1. This reminds me of the ever present villain comeuppance used pervasively in Hollywood.

    The villain must be dispatched by his own doing, specifically by his trademarked weapon or method of harming others.

    In other words the villain's most obvious strength will be his ultimate downfall. If his strength is controlling his minions, he will be killed by his minions. If he has some special weapon that he constantly flaunting, rest assured it will be his doom.

    I think this is done in order to make the hero unblemished in regards to downfall of the bad guy. Why have Spider-man kill the Green Goblin, when the Green Goblin's own glider can do it for you? Unfortunately, I think this leads to very predictable outcomes that you can see coming from a mile away. I also think it has a way of distancing the story from reality. I know people like their heroes to be perfect and noble, and their villains to be downright nasty, but let's face it, there aren't a lot of full fledged evil villains, and there aren't a whole lot of perfect heroes.

    A well loved villain can have good and noble motives at times. Long John Silver, scoundrel that he was, went to great lengths to save Jim Hawkins at his own expense. Darth Vader dispatched the Emperor (Vader was his most powerful weapon after all) in an attempt to save Luke. Is it unreasonable to think that our heroes might be imperfect enough to take out the bad guy directly.

    Of course I suppose the formulaic bad-guy-causing-his-own-doom scenario is meant to be a sort of ironic, poetic justice. But in the end, can it be ironic if it is so predictable?

  2. I was just coming to mention the Redemption of a villain theme, but the wonderfully geeky husband beat me to it.

    He brought up some good ones, but what brought it to my mind was the Grinch--that's right--I'm going Seuss again.

    Unfortunately, redemption is a little bit harder to pull depending on how villainous you've made your villain.

    Still, I think redemption of the villain is something that really can make or break a book.

  3. I try to stay away from true villains. I'm currently listening to the audiobook of The Lovely Bones and I'm impressed with the way Alice Sebold handled the murdered. I hate him, but he's not a caricature villain.

  4. I definitely dig stories of redemption (i.e., villains due to circumstance more than character), but I've always loved those sweeping good vs sweeping evil stories, too (e.g. Star Wars)

  5. I guess I'm with you--I need good to triumph eventually. My villains still have their small victories (and, well, some big ones) but in the end they get what they deserve. Then all is right in my world/brain. :)

    Great Post!

    Oh and good catch on my contest brain-fart. I meant midnight on the 20th. I originally thought about ending it Thursday but decided that wasn't enough time and I guess I forgot to change the date (duh!) I have made the correction now. Thanks!

  6. Are they all your stories? I mean, did you write them all and they are all finished? Please say no or I fear our friendship may be over...

  7. Stephanie, I really want to read that book. I've joined a book club recently so hopefully I'll be reading more of the recommended books again. Sometimes I need someone to force me to.

    Bane, I like the villain due to circumstances much better than the Disney "I like to be evil" villains. They have so much more depth.

    Shannon, yay for triumph. I don't care if it's realistic. I typically don't read for a good dose of reality. That reminds me of a post on a blog I tripped over via someone else's blog, but I can't remember whose. (If it's you, Shannon, that would be really funny.) Anyway, it's about who we write for: http://www.murderati.com/blog/2008/11/23/comfort-reading.html

    Jade, the voices in my head are telling me to say no. :)

  8. I love my villains... the ones I write in my own stories. Even the really bad ones. Because I know their hearts, what drove them to be who/what they are. As for other villains, the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera comes to mind. You can't hate him once you understand him! Or take Mr.Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. He's not a villain per se, but I love to hate him in the first half of the book!

    What a fun post! It's about time I stopped by your blog!

  9. No one guessed the answer, Wendy! I have to answer or I'll burst! Can I give the whole line? (Movie quotes, how do I adore thee).

    Must... not... hijack Wendy's blog... must... restrain myself... AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Look at all those exclamation points. Am I insane? A person who uses more than four in one swoop is questionable at best).

  10. (I can't figure out how no one guess it, but if you give more of it--it'll give it away, Diana, don't you think?) The parentheses were to make it a whisper.

  11. (I'm glad I was whispering to you when I typo-ed "guess" instead of "guessed"--that would be really embarrassing.)

  12. Jaime (the "little too into Spider-man" sister)November 19, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    I'm shocked no one has given it away yet either! Now I feel like I'll spill the beans if I do.

    Geeky Husband-(I feel weird not calling you by your name since you are my brother in law, but I'll preserve your anonymity.) That is what is so great about Spider-man, he never kills anyone! With great power and all that jazz. That's the difference between a Hero and a vigilante. "Hero"s like the Punisher, Daredevil, and even Batman aren't really heros in my opinion. If you kill someone you are no better than the villain. Maybe you are more evil because you get away with it and the city of New York (or Gotham) praises you for it. Killing for praise. That sick.
    Spider-man does the right thing and gets no praise, true hero.

    Yes...Yes...I know I'm a little too into Spider-man. But "geeky husband" and Wendy understand me.

    So I guess Hero's that are truly villains on the inside are my "favorite" villain. Ohhh, I hate them. (yeah Captain Hammer you're on my list too!)

  13. The Husband--you should have known you couldn't invoke the name of Spider-man without getting Jaime into the discussion.

    Jaime--I've been watching "Castle" and I've got Captain Hammer's portion of the songs tucked into my brain now.

  14. I do like to see a truly wicked villain get his comeuppance, but I also enjoy a good redemption story (a la Darth Vader). In my WIP I've got a little of both going on, but my hero is not so perfect that he doesn't have a hand in at least one villain's demise. But then he helps with the redemption of another, so he doesn't just mete out justice without compunction. (Ooh, I like the word compunction. I should feature it on my blog soon.)

  15. I knew I liked Diana. ;)