Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Bad Guys

How bad do bad guys have to be before they are unbelievable? These days such horrid crimes are committed in real life that almost anything might be considered believable in a fictional character. Not that I want to move into Stephen King territory with my current wip, not at all; but I find that most of my characters qualify for the label villain in some way. I've come to the conclusion that the times about which we write dictate the villainy level of the characters.
Possibly genre matters, too. I would expect a Thriller villain to be a worse villain than a Romance villain. Your average villain in a Regency Romance may need to have some redeeming qualities, but not so with a villain facing Rebus in the grey streets of Edinburgh. Which leads me to wonder about villains filling the pages of historical novels.
Documents list hideous facts, and I turn away from them, shuddering. But if my characters live in those times, then their senses are bound to be less sqeamish than mine, are they not?
I suppose it depends on the mental toughness of the character. Not everyone could be bold and brave. In A Place Beyond Courage, Chadwick has a female character who is an absolute wimp - and very believable.
My latest set of Tudor characters have to be tough to survive in their world, so maybe I'm wrong to label them all villains. But they're turning out to have some villainous qualities. All of them. I will have to sit very firmly my 21st century sensibilities.
Top pic is heather fire on the moors, bottom pic Middleton-in-Teesdale.


Carolin said...

I like your villains :-) Lennox is done beautifully. But that aside, don't we all like characters that are more complex? The goody two shoes are, frankly, quite boring, and rather unrealistic to boot. Just read an article on the vampire craze in current lit and movies (Twilight, True Blood, you name it), and the author of the article postulated that we like our Byronish bad boys. True enough, I think.

Also, realistically, the historical figures we choose to write about, esp. if they lived in less than peaceful times, often had to act in ways that we find cringe worthy. But that really hasn't changed - if you think of what our modern leaders do, what we actually sanction with our votes, then you realize that we're no different. We just call it 'collateral damage'.... And look at our 'entertainment' in video games, on TV, etc. - Roman circus games have nothing on them....

Jen Black said...

What a good way of looking at it. Thanks Carolin. I shall continue to enjoy my particular bad guys.