Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Villain

No, not him.

Uh uh. Nice try. Besides, this is the real Barney:

Getting closer...
Yes, they qualify, but....
And yes, Fluffy could be considered a villain, but...
Would you start taking this seriously?

I'll get murdered by the Darcy fans for that....

What did I just say about taking this seriously?

The feline overlords are going to punish me for that....

Now then, getting to it. Every once in awhile, the film League of Extraordinary Gentlemen turns up on television, and for some inexplicable reason, I feel compelled to watch it. I wouldn't buy it, I think it's a profoundly cheesy film. Having had read the original graphic novels, I can honestly say that Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill must have been smoking something when they put them together.

In the film version, Sean Connery spends the entire two hours plus with the same facial expression, as if he's wondering what he did to tick his agent off so much that he got cast in this train wreck.

The villain, of course, is Moriarty, as played by Richard Roxburgh, who's made a career of playing villains, including another literary heavyweight (in another very cheesy film), Dracula, in Van Helsing.

Oddly enough, having had played Moriarty, Roxburgh has also played his nemesis, the great detective Sherlock Holmes, in an adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles. Holmes calls his archenemy the Napoleon of crime. Moriarty is one of the great villains of all time, of course, a truly evil, amoral sort who'll do anything it takes to get what he wants. Not that he sees himself that way. Villains rarely do.

Every hero needs a villain. Abraham Van Helsing needed Dracula. Holmes needed Moriarty. Ahab needed Moby Dick (or the whale needed Ahab, depending on who you think the villain of the novel is). Spider-Man needed Aunt May (you didn't know Aunt May was the most dangerous, evil supervillain of them all?). Without a villain, what is there for them to do?

In my writing, villains play a big part. Terrorists feature heavily in Heaven & Hell. I've written them very sympathetically, very much as human beings. That can be an important touch. Otherwise, one runs the risk of having them wind up becoming a Snidely Whiplash sort of character. Pure bad to the bone, but no depth. They don't have to be sympathetic, mind you... just something human. Unless, of course, they're tyrannical vampire bunnies.

Of course, not everyone writes counterterrorism thrillers, so your book might not contain a villain. Odds are, however, that you might have an antagonist. Someone who's in the way of your protagonist. How do you make use of that in what you write?

In future works, the villain will again feature prominently in my work. One of the benefits of creating an ongoing continuity is that you can seed your current work with characters who'll turn up again down the line. Creating the Irish terrorist Cain Reilly and inserting him into the book is one example. He'll turn up again down the line, doing all sorts of really bad things.

 I've also done the same in writing two other characters. One is the Iranian President. The other is the Ayatollah of Iran. Unlike my current villains that make up the Covenant, there's not a whole lot in these two to be sympathetic about. Yet I've enjoyed writing them in a limited way in the book, and they're two characters who, over the coming books, will continue to pull strings, to manipulate, and cause trouble, until they themselves are front and center.

The following is a brief passage from the book, with a conversation between them.

The old man lived in the Beit Rahbari, the so called House of the Leader, as his two predecessors had before him. And following their example, the old man seemed to thrive on bitterness and bile. His name was Azad Garoussi, and he had been Supreme Leader of Iran, master of nearly eighty million people, since the death of the previous ayatollah. Harandi found him sitting at a desk in his study, writing in Farsi, a television nearby broadcasting Al-Jazeera. The image of the column of fire and smoke dominated the screen.
            He was in his early seventies, his grey hair neatly trimmed and his beard long. He wore a black robe, his typical clothing, and his brown eyes looked up at the man he entrusted as the President of his nation. The pen went down, and the old man pushed away the paper. A smile curved at his lips, and he rose. Coming around the desk, he clasped Harandi’s hands. “Of course you’ve seen it,” he said in Farsi.
            “Of course, teacher,” Harandi answered. The old man liked that.
            “There are already accusations being made against the Zionists.”
            Harandi nodded, careful of what to say. “They would not be so mad.”
            “I agree.” The old man chuckled. “How ironic, Aref, that you and I believe them to be innocent in this matter.” He looked at the television, studied the fire and the smoke. “No, this is the act of a terrorist. Not that we can openly call such people terrorists.” The old man looked him in the eyes again. “Still, there is an opportunity.” He paused. “This has not aired on our television networks?”
            “Of course not,” Harandi replied.
            “Then perhaps it is time.” The old man nodded, his dark eyes shining with an expression Harandi might have thought to be glee. “Yes, it is. It will infuriate our people. When they see these images, they will demand blood. They will demand we act against the Israelis. And so we shall. Someone out there has done us a great favour, Aref.”
Harandi nodded. I didn’t even have to persuade him. “They have indeed.”
“Set the dogs loose,” Garoussi instructed. “The radical groups, the Syrians... set them at the throats of the Israelis.” He smiled, and Harandi noticed how cold the gesture seemed. How amused he is, he thought. Fortunately, Harandi thought along the same lines. He nodded politely to the Leader, and took his leave, wondering what the fools in Damascus would think of being referred to as dogs. It fits, he told himself as he walked down the hall. He’s the master... and they’re the hounds.

Quite the pair, aren't they? Don't they come across like the sort of people you'd like in your own home? Oh, come on, I'm sure the real Ayatollah is a lot of fun once he starts to relax...

In closing... treat your villain as though they're still a human being. Because they are. Unless, of course, they're an evil clown. In which case, call Ving Rhames to come save your butt. Evil clowns are ruthless, don't you know?


  1. *Applause!*

    This is one of your best. But then, I like any blog that features Fluffy!

    (Roxburgh also played a cheesy villain in Moulin Rouge.)(

  2. Usually my villains are my favorite characters. Sometimes they're more of a protagonist than the hero is. But I'm weird like that. I have no patience for the classic good trumps evil story, especially when I'm the one writing it.

  3. Vampire bunnies? Have you read my post?

  4. Oh, vampire rabbits are very different from the rabbits in your blog, Eve!

  5. I truly love a good villian. But if they have no redeeming qualities they loose thier draw. I have written both types. I have read both. Those that lack sympathetic characteristics are less compelling. Unless of course they are very good at being very bad...

  6. A great blog...!

    Maybe you could lighten up the Ayatollah with a game of "Go Fish"...He probably is a very fun guy once you get to know him.

  7. BTW, love the Cheney pic...LOL

  8. I had so much fun writing Bear in my mystery. He was not your typical sociopath (if there is such a thing). I felt that it was important to give him a moral code, even if it was a bit twisted.

  9. Great thoughts on villains William! My money is on that evil-eyed puppy, by the way!


  10. Very nice. I like what you're doing. And you're so right to say treat your villain as though their still a human being.
    I like these two together for villains. You do have some great ideas.

  11. Great post! You are very creative and spot on!

    BTW, loved the Bush/Cheney photos.

  12. Bah! Why'd you have to end with the creepy evil clowns? Have you never read 'It'?

    PS. My cat could totally pass as Dodger the Destroyer of Galaxies... in fact, he might be him.

  13. What a great post! I'm still laughing over the picture of Fluffy, Mr. Darcy and Angry Cat. That clown picture though...Eek.

  14. Okay, this one is the Link of the Week! I love writing a good antagonist! And the best advice I've ever read about it is to not create a "Mwuahaha" villain. To have real layers.
    And of course those pics are hilareous as always.

  15. I'm not scared of evil clowns, I'm just looking for an excuse to call Ving Rhames.

  16. Barney is the devil incarnate. Funny enough, several years ago there was someone dressed up as Barney outside of a local pharmacy. Some dude just walked up to him, punched him, and knocked him out.

  17. Oh, love the pics! And a very creative post, it is tough to create "real" villains...thanks for sharing!

  18. Love cheesy movies. Especially with pizza.

  19. Loved this post! I laughed, I did deep writerly thinking, and then I cried (at the clowns at the end--I HATE clowns!!!!).

  20. Sir Poops-A-Lot would like to know where he can get a Fluffy, Destroyer of the World.

    And, Contessa would like a pet vampire bunny.

    And well, Shelly, liked your post on villains. Yes,they love something, too. Even if it's a machine gun.

  21. I love writing villains. I guess I'm sadistic like that!

    Hope you're having a great weekend...


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