By Tracy Kiely
“Come, come, Mr. Bond. You disappoint me. You get as much fulfillment out of killing as I do, so why don't you admit it?” - Scaramanga
Villains, as we all know, are bad, nasty people. They cheat, steal, lie, and kill with nary a bit of remorse. Many times this reprehensible behavior can be traced back to an abusive upbringing, such as the one experienced by Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil: “My childhood was typical: summers in Rangoon ... luge lessons ... In the spring, we'd make meat helmets ... When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds — pretty standard, really.” In other cases, their evil stems from some genetic mishap, such as in the case of The Incredible Hulk’s Emil Blonsky, the power hungry soldier who becomes the Abomination after deliberately exposing himself to gamma radiation.
But no matter what their childhood woe or genetic mishap, they all seem to share one important trait and that, to paraphrase Martin Blank, is that their psych profile fits a certain moral flexibility that lends itself well to killing.
Personally, I think it would be a blast to write over-the-top characters like Dr. Evil. How could you not enjoy writing for a character who says things like, “You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads! Now evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that cannot be done. Ah, would you remind me what I pay you people for, honestly? Throw me a bone here! What do we have?” (I’m not really sure what the Abomination said. He mainly seemed to grunt and make Liv Tyler scream a lot.)
Although my books are humorous, the villains, while very bad, aren’t in the same category as Dr. Evil. Very few could be. However, I do have fun with my bad guys because I can make them say and do all the sorts of outrageous things that one can’t do in real life. And up until the killing part, I think we all have moments when we’d just love to let loose on someone. Another nice part to writing a villain is that I can then have my protagonist respond to them in kind. And since most of the time my villains are composites of annoying people that I’ve encountered over the years, it’s somewhat therapeutic to tell them off and have them hauled off the jail.
But, I can only deal with a certain level of evil. I remember reading Thomas Harris’ The Red Dragon in college. I also remember not sleeping for about a week because every night I would put that book down and then turn over in my bed so I could watch for signs that my doorknob was moving – a clear sign that serial killer Francis Dolarhyde was about to break in. I only spent a week with the unspeakable evil of embodied that character. God only knows how long Harris had to deal with him as he was writing the book. I simply couldn’t sit down every day, month after month, and put myself in a brain that demented and devoid of humanity.
So, to sum up my thoughts on writing evil characters, I will paraphrase Jane Austen (oh, please, you knew it was coming) and say that “of some delights a little goes a long way.”