The Wheel and Axle

The Gray Space

by on Apr.04, 2014, under Geeky, Literature

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I see you.

I see you.

One of the more difficult things in being a genre fiction writer (horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action-adventure, etc.) is how to write believable and three-dimensional antagonists, i.e. villains. Genre fiction, after all, are usually good vs. evil tales at the core.

It’s then rather easy to fall into the cliche trap of the obvious villain: evil is as evil does, and evil does as evil looks. They are identifiable by their cackle, their rants, their singular evil motives, and so forth. Many of them revel in being evil, so much so that they may as well have t-shirts printed proclaiming their evilness.

But if one wants to ground characters in well-rounded reality, one must remember that – in real life – very few (if any) people view themselves as evil. Most real-life “villains” see themselves as misunderstood, even righteous in whatever ends they have set their eyes upon. Do we really think Hussein, Bin Laden, and Marcos thought of themselves as  Saurons, or Voldemorts, or Wicked Witches of the West?

Ra's al Ghul: Good or bad?

Ra’s al Ghul: Good or bad?

Like real people, the best and most complex villains, after all, are those who think they are actually doing good. The likes of Ra’s al Ghul and Magneto in the comics, for instance, or Akasha from The Vampire Chronicles have rather noble intentions – but their evil simmers underneath as their means and motives come into question.

So it is a continuous challenge to create and sustain interesting gray antagonists. Even I am still learning along the way.

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