is for villains. You’ve got to love a villain. Let’s face it, they can be great fun! Of course, I’m not talking about in real life. Real life villains are pretty scary and not someone you’d want to meet or spend any time with at all, but in fiction the villain can be a source of thrills, fear, hilarity, scorn, disgust, hatred or even a sneaking admiration. All in a very safe way.
Some of the most memorable characters in fiction are the villains – whether it be in the page of a book or on the screen. Think of Hannibal Lecter, for instance. No one forgets him! Then there’s Captain Hook in Peter Pan, or the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, or Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. They are absolutely essential to the story. What would Harry’s life be without He Who Must Not Be Named? Basically, a boarding school story with spells and the odd game of Quidditch. What demonstrates the integrity and kindness of George Bailey better than the greed and selfishness of Mr Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life? Would Mark Darcy be less appealing to Bridget Jones if she hadn’t suffered the betrayal of Daniel Cleaver?
I have to admit I had a great time creating my “villain”. Harry Jarvis isn’t a villain on a Hannibal Lecter scale, but he is a prime example of a selfish, vain, self-obsessed liar, who puts the heroine through the mill and shines a light on the goodness and integrity of the hero. Harry is a coward. He doesn’t have the guts to tell his wife what’s really going on or how he feels. When the truth comes tumbling out, he’s still not man enough to accept any blame, but tries to pin it all on her, knowing her weaknesses and insecurities and attacking them, making her feel even more wretched. Yet when Harry gets what he wants, he is still afraid, and clings to his old life like a comfort blanket, not caring about the effect it is having on the people he’s hurting the most.
Harry was fun to write because he really is quite tactless and thoughtless and would just say whatever came into his head. I loved his total belief in himself and his vanity, his sarcasm and his total absorption in his own life and interests. Yet Harry wasn’t a pantomime villain and I had to make sure he had some good qualities – at least at the end. He had to be real. If he was completely bad who on earth would fall for him? He had to have something that redeemed him, so for a start I made him funny. Even as I was appalled by his behaviour I was laughing at the way he went about things. I also had to soften him up a little, and I think I achieved that by the end of the book, but you’ll have to read it for yourself to see if you think I succeeded.
Villains really can grab the attention in a way that the nicest hero or heroine can’t. Is there anything more creepy than the evil child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Didn’t you just want to scream at Lizzie Bennet for believing the lies of Wickham in Pride and Prejudice? Doesn’t Moriarty send shivers down your spine in Sherlock? And don’t get me started on Doctor Who! Daleks, The Master, The Cybermen…what would that programme be without them?
Sinister Count Fosco from Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White; cruel Bill Sikes from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist; creepy Mrs Danvers from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca; or the most famous vampire of them all, the title character from Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula...Who’s your favourite villain?
Have a great day xx
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