Monday, April 5, 2010

Modern . . . Villains vs. Antagonists

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Ann Shorey's The Promise of Morning from Friday. And if you're still waiting for a copy of A Stray Drop of Blood, try the giveaway on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog or the new one up at Krista Phillip's blog. She asks some hilarious questions, so you'll definitely want to read that one for a good laugh. =) There's also a review and interview at April Gardner's you ought to check out!


Now, let's talk bad guys. Those of us who grew up adoring fairy tales are probably well acquainted with the Villain--a bad guy who's out to destroy our hero/heroine at any cost, to stop them from doing good, who often openly seeks evil. The kind that earns a dun-dun-dun-duuuuunnnnnn every time they enter the screen or page, right?

Then there are antagonists--people who might be doing something wrong and who are set against our good guys, but who aren't necessarily evil. They can (and sometimes are) redeemed later in the story. Maybe it's just a snotty snob in a high school story, out to steal the protagonist's boyfriend. A crooked cop out to foil the hero from solving a crime that will point his way--a crime he did to protect his own family. That sort of thing. Antagonists tend to come with reasons and excuses and a lot of depth.

Villains . . . I like to think that they're distinctive because they come with Evil.

In most of the contemporary stories I read, villains have gone out of style. I'm cool with that, usually, because I enjoy the deep characterization necessary to make an antagonist really stand out. We're even taught that our villains or antagonists need to have some good qualities too, to make them human.

The thing is, in my contemporary Seized, I have a bad guy that I see absolutely no good in. Now, I'm not saying something couldn't develop--I write my characters as they come and don't always plan for the depths that emerge. But this morning I was pondering whether I could and what I would give him to add a hint of good to the bad.

I got nothing.

The thing is, I've got two bad guys in this story. One is an antagonist--he's mean as all get out and certainly out to thwart the good guys. But he has a heart (however shadowed) and will end up saving the day, ironically. Because he's also pitted against a villain. I'm talking a true, black-hearted villain. And Mr. Villain . . . he's so dark that even the good things he does are for bad reasons, to control those around him.

So I guess I'm wondering what we as readers like. It depends on the story, obviously, but what say you, O Readers who haven't read this story and probably have no clue what I'm talking about, LOL. Do I need to try to find some redeeming quality in this guy I don't actually intend to redeem, or is it okay, on occasion, to make a character pure evil?


  1. Roseanna, in that book I recently reviewed, Angel's Den, the antagonist has no, and I mean NO redeeming qualities, even though he is physically gorgeous. And I think that his character is brilliant. Not everything is tied up in a pretty bow, and as a reader, I find it refreshing to see evil characters, real evil humans not demons, because we can, and do, encounter evil in the world. To have the literary world assume that books all have to have a "happy ending" or a neat tidy conclusion some times makes me, as a reader, feel insulted that I cannot handle reality represented in literature.

  2. Well then, Tiffany, you're going to love (to hate) my Andre character. =) Assuming this book ever gets finished. And published. LOL. But I totally agree. I think there are times when we need someone genuinely evil in our books.

  3. Yeah, I agree. Evil & good need to balance. I caught your comment where you said your character, what good he does is for bad reasons. That's still good in him. So you've already have that in this one. :)

  4. I personally like to read a character who is just not going to get it. It makes the story more interesting I think. Maybe not in every story, but once in a while it's a good agitation that gets my attention.

  5. Hi,
    I think it's great sometimes just to have a pure evil character. It can really add to a story. I like to read books by Ted Dekker and he has some evil characters, so I think it's fine.
    BTW I have an award for you at my blog. I think your blog is neat.
    Trinity Rose