Saturday, March 22, 2014

Villains

In fantasy and scifi stories, wizards and aliens who seemed all-powerful were de rigueur for a long time. While these type of characters are scary, there is a problem. No character, either villain or hero, can be all-powerful. If characters are truly all-powerful, it means nothing and no one can overcome them, and this power then preordains the ending; therefore, each character has to have a weakness or fatal flaw. Even in 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose time has come and gone, HAL, the seemingly omniscient computer, had fatal flaws including paranoia.

Lately villains have become genius ne’er-do-wells, serial killers whose evil it takes a whole team to overcome. This is another form of the all-powerful character: the one seemingly too smart to get caught. Some of these character’s perversions scare me silly, but is this type of character realistic or just a fad that comes and goes? Seriously, how many genius murders have been arrested? If we had actually developed the brain-implanted computer, it might be reasonable, but that hasn’t happened yet. Where they lose me is why would there be so many evil genius and so few good? It doesn’t make sense. Usually such intelligence makes the person more perceptive, not less human.

Still, what I learned from this is that in a powerful story, the heroic character must find the villain’s flaw and play on this weakness while overcoming his or her own defects. This also seems to prove true in all other genre of fiction.

Despite fiction trends, the villains I find most scary and horrifying are those who seem a direct threat to me personally from the horror stories I hear every night on the news. These are the unrelenting variety of normal and not-so-normal humans: rage enveloped individuals; those who carry out unreasonable vendettas, or have antithetical beliefs or misunderstandings with those around them; those who have psychological problems, and those who do something stupid or illegal and try to hide it without worrying about consequences. I read recently where sociopaths make up 1 to 3% of our population, not that all sociopaths are bent to evil endeavors, but the statistic gives the writer a believable base to develop their malevolent character, and the reader a reasonable excuse to suspend their disbelief and fall into the story. These include manipulating, mesmerizing cult, religious, or governmental leaders, enemies disguised as friends, scoundrels who only care about their own advancement, suicidal egos willing to take anyone and everyone in their personal Armageddon, and profiteers who gain from others’ suffering – the world is full of them. Since everyone has heard stories about such miscreants and knows this evil exists, characters based on this reality can easily instill terror, especially when dressed in the persona of neighbor, friend, or family.

For other views on villains, visit the round-robin topic starting with author Anne Stenhouse. Be sure to visit all those listed!
A.J. Maguire
Marci Baun
Diane Bator
Fiona McGier
Ginger Simpson
Geeta Kakade
Connie Vines
Beverley Bateman

8 comments:

  1. Hi Robin, thanks so much for including me in the round robinners.
    I have enjoyed reading the varied posts up so far this UK morning. Hope to catch the others later on.
    Anne Stenhouse

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  2. Thanks for hosting this every month, Rhobin. I actually learn from reading the posts of my fellow authors. I think the genre one writes and the story line dictates the type of villain that is needed. As I said in my post, I tend to use obstacles rather than people, but I was wrong. After seeing the definition and perspective of my fellow authors, I realize I have more villains in my stories than I realize. They just aren't the obvious ones that appear only at night, require a stake to the heart, or make lunch out of their friends. :) To me...villains are the numbers I have to enter in order to have my comment recognized. My eyesight is poor and it usually takes me more than two tries.

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  3. "Usually such intelligence makes the person more perceptive, not less human."

    Ah, but you're forgetting that given a genius IQ, many humans would begin to regard the rest of the world as inferiors that need to be either removed, or treated like children because they don't know any better. This is the pattern in so many sci-fi stories, where we create computers/androids/robots who function better than us on every level, then stand back in horror and wonder WHY when they decide that we're a biological infestation crapping up the planet, so we need to be removed.

    We need those at the highest level, those who create new technologies, to be sci-fi fans! Otherwise we may actually see something like the Terminator-view of the future happening.

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  4. Ginger, Thank You for participating! I find what everyone has to say very interesting.

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  5. Great post Rhobin and very thought provoking. I agree about the omniscient power. It's the not really normal but totally believable things that happen almost daily in the news. Those are the tings that really scare me too.

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  6. Rhobin, as always your posts are very thought provoking. Villains in day-to-day life, probably the most frightening of all.

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