by Tracy Kiely
I was all set to pound out my answer to this week’s question when two things happened. The first is that I found myself a trifle stumped by the question’s caveat “in the classic sense of the word?” What exactly did that mean? Was Roger Ackroyd a classic villain? If so, then did that mean that Hannibal Lecter was not? Did “classic” mean an urbane, sophisticated killer? If so, then I would argue that Dr. Lecter would most definitely place himself squarely in that category. Did the word relate to the violence of the crime? I mean, murder is murder, whether it be from poisoned tea or having someone literally eat off your face.
The second thing that happened was that on Friday my husband and I went sailing. And, well, long story short, I kind of, sort of, walked into an open hatch while docking and busted a few ribs. I also now have enough bruises to qualify as a girlfriend of an NFL player. I also – and perhaps I should have mentioned this first as it might explain my lengthy debate over the word choice “classic” – am on some lovely pain killers.
So, back to the topic. After some thought (and more painkillers), I decided to skip over the philosophical implications of the question and focus on its intent. Which is…um…oh, yes! Who is more fun to write – a villain or a hero?
Now I remember why I got hung up on the word “classic.” It’s because I would hate to write about a character who actually ate someone’s liver, even if it was “with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” I have trouble reading about crazed serial killers. The idea of trying to get inside their heads and create scenarios for them to prey on and torture innocent victims makes me want to curl up and zone out. Speaking of which – Look what I have! Pain meds!
Anyway. Back to writing villains. As a rule, I enjoy creating and writing about my villains more so than my heroes; mainly because my villains all possess characteristics of real people. People I know, and people, who, frankly, bug the crap out of me. I exaggerate those annoying traits, and then I don’t mind spending time with them because I know that they are about to get what is coming to them. Better still, I’ll have a front row seat when it happens.
Now, my villains aren’t always the murderer. Sometimes they are the victims. In fact, lots of times they are the victim. Why? I don’t know. It’s probably a by-product of Irish Catholic guilt. But the jerks in my novel tend to get their comeuppance. And I like that. Writing a hero is fun – at first. You can imbibe them with all the noble qualities that you admire (such as being able to spot large holes right under their feet and to properly monitor pain medication doses... and to spot large holes right under their feet.) But, after awhile, they can get tedious. I mean who wants to hang out with perfection day after day? Even Christie and Doyle both wanted to kill off their sleuths each claiming they had become insufferable to be around.
I guess the take home message today is that – for the most part – I enjoy writing about villains more so than the heroes that catch them. Creating villains helps me blow off some steam. Creating heroes reminds me that I really need to watch where I’m walking.
Oh, and if you didn’t already know Roger Ackroyd was the murderer – um, sorry. (See “Painkillers” above for a more detailed apology).