Friday, November 1, 2013

Villains (Twirl Mustache Now)

I think the actual subject this week is something along the lines of Villain as Protagonist, which just isn't something I really do in my books. Obviously there has to be a "villain" of some kind. I was imprinted young by two very different, old fashioned science fiction classics (as shown on late night TV, badly cut up to allow time for endless used car dealer ads). So on the one hand we have Ming the Merciless whose only motivation seems to be that he feels born to rule the Universe and consort with hot babes...and on the other hand we have Dr. Morbius in Forbidden Planet, who has so many motivations and so much backstory, including being based on a Shakespeare character, that it's hard for one movie to contain it all!

Flash Gordon kinda says "Not my planet and not my hot girlfriend - hands off!" in reaction to "his" villain. Captain J. J. Adams  has to keep Morbius's id from killing them all, rescue the hot lady (and the all knowing robot) and get the heck back into space before the planet blows up.

Entertainment Weekly very conveniently has a story written by Anthony Breznican on this very subject in their November 8, 2013 issue, which I received today. Good thing I got my mail today! I don't know if the article is also on their website at but it's a fun story, including a table of the five Archetypes, including such tropes as The Snubbed Sibling and the Vengeful One, tracing them backwards and forwards in time. Sauron from LOTR is a Power Monger, according to them. I think Ming probably falls into that category too, although I can't recall Sauron paying any attention to women, which was a key oversight on his part. (SPOILER: Remember Sauron's subordinate the Witch-King and what Eowyn did to him?) And we don't know if Sauraon had a mustache, come to think of it.

The article also has this great quote from Sean Bailey, President of Production at Walt Disney Studios:
"The better you make your villain, the better your hero has to be." Mr. Bailey goes on in the article to discuss John McClane of "Die Hard" and how he had to rise to a level where he could defeat Hans Gruber.

Some of my books have a specific villain, as in Escape From Zulaire or Dancer of the Nile, but often this person is working within the framework of bigger events, like a war. So he's on his side, which is the opposite side from that of my hero and heroine. The conflict doesn't start out as personal.  In Wreck of the Nebula Dream the disaster traces back to a greedy corporation more than anything else and the fight during the book for Nick and Mara is just to survive and get off the wrecked ship.

Now I am writing a villain (or maybe a villainness, just to keep you guessing) in Magic of the Nile, which will be out in January, and I'm giving this person more of an in-depth set of reasons why they do what they do, and why they feel what they feel about the heroine and her hero.... no war, no wrecked cruise ships...

But so, if you know that I began with Ming and Morbius, you can probably figure out that I won't be writing any villains on the level of what my colleague James A. Moore talked with such enthusiasm about on Monday.

Although I do have an idea for a D'nvannae Brother* gone bad......never say never, I guess!

(*think Ninja/Monk/Badass/serves an alien goddess - first introduced by me in WRECK)

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