Saturday, February 1, 2014

Evil Queens and Sister Step-Uglies

Is it just me, or do the bad guys always get the best lines?  

If you have what you say, I'll make you rich. 
If you don't, I'll make you into shoes. 
-Jim Moriarty, Sherlock

Do you hear that? It's the sound of battles fought and lives lost. It once pained me to know that I am the cause of such despair, but now their cries give me strength. 
-Queen Ravenna, Snow White & the Huntsman

It's the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled.
-Loki, The Avengers

I am an inveterate movie junkie, and I adore the one-liners that roll off the tongues of villains like Loki, Jim Moriarty, and every Evil Queen who ever graced the silver screen.  And honestly, my fairytale-loving soul goes nuts over things like this:
But, what makes villains so appealing that we can't stop chatting, pinning, tweeting, and sharing about our favorite baddies?

One word: depth.

The perfect villain cannot be absolutely evil. There must be a back story and a kernel of humanity that keeps the reader from dropping the book on the nightstand or the viewer from changing the channel. Nothing slays interest more thoroughly than predictability. 

Readers and viewers want to see characters facing real-life struggles. That doesn't mean Write What You Know. It means weave truth into that vampire versus werewolf or coming of age wizard story. Make the heart of the battle something real, like the inborn need to find yourself, discover your inner strength, and define your place in the world. Heroes and villains alike must be a blending of good and evil, brilliant and dim, strong and weak. 

When that perfect balance is struck, characters jump off the page, villains capture our hearts, and we can't stop talking about, thinking about, and emulating them.We become so invested with the characters and their adventures that when we reach the last page, we dig through epilogues and acknowledgements, just in case (like the yellow brick road) our efforts leads to something unexpected. 
Writing great characters isn't easy, I'll be the first one to admit that. But I'd love to hear about your favorite love-to-hate-them and hate-to-love-them baddies. Leave me a comment below! And for a word about Anti-heroes, (because how cool are they?) follow the link! 


  1. the evil ones are always more interesting

  2. You know it, they totally drive the plot forward! Otherwise the characters would be all, "I think I'll repot the ficus today!" And actually do that. Bor-ing!