Evil is as evil does…

Creating evil characters is fun. It is. It gives you freedom to pour all your anger, your angst, that dark ugliness you don’t want to share with the light of day, let alone your near and dear into a character both foul and fearful.

That being said, I disagree with other writers’ tendency to write purely evil characters with no redeeming value whatsoever. (A la Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort and Lord of the Rings’ Sauron.) I think every evil character out there should have a small tidbit of goodness somewhere inside. To me, it makes them more…balanced.

I read a book once where the main character (a writer) was being stalked. Throughout the novel, he kept receiving postcards that said ‘I’m coming closer.’ Finally, the person broke into the writer’s house and held him at gunpoint. The writer begged and begged for his life, and for mercy. The intruder finally looked down at him and said ‘You never gave me any,’ and killed the writer.

The intruder was the writer’s creation; a man of pure evil, with no redeeming value whatsoever. That’s always stuck with me, and as a result, I’ve always tried to give each ‘bad guy’ in my novels something that makes them human. My first antagonist wanted to save the Europe of his future, my second was in love with a woman (though he loved power more), and my third isn’t quite what he appears to be.

Whether it’s a love of flowers, of pets or the fact that he or she collects something, you must give them something the reader can connect with. I had difficulty with ‘The Dead Zone’s Stiltson, because in the first chapter, King showed him kicking a puppy to death. Now, I knew he was a bad guy already. King had made that abundantly clear. But when Stiltson killed the pup, I realized he had zero redeeming value whatsoever and I couldn’t connect with him emotionally on any level. Don’t get me wrong, The Dead Zone happens to be one of my favorite books… I’m just using the example to prove the disconnect that can occur. Nor am I in any way claiming to be as talented, or even a 1/4 as talented, as King. But I think if Stiltson could have been more human in his failings, I would have enjoyed him more.

Evil is as evil does… and sometimes, adding that bit of humanity makes us enjoy the evilness more.




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4 responses to “Evil is as evil does…

  1. Excellent point! I think the same can be said for the hero of your book…if they don’t have any sort of flaws, then they go stale after a while. Who cares about someone who isn’t real? We all have good in us, as well as evil, and characters should reflect that or they could come across as flat. My favorite books have main characters that make mistakes all the time, and have you yelling at them for their stupidity, but at the same time, you’re still reading– because you want to see what the dummy is going to do next. 🙂

  2. I agree. If the villan is nothing but evil, I find myself disinterested in the story. You’re right–the right balance is essential.

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