Monday, March 14, 2011

Real Life Villains


As a romantic suspense author, I charge myself with creating chilling villains that become real to me and hopefully to my readers. The smarter the villain, the more difficult he or she is to outwit.


But in real life, villains are rarely members of the intelligentsia! I get some great insights into bad guys from my husband, who knows many of them well. He's worked for our county jail (one of the largest in the US) for the past twenty plus years. He's had conversations with some of the worst.


A particularly unsettling thought is all the mentally off-balance people in our midst. Someone we know personally can be a sadistic antisocial, someone who sees himself as above everyone else and takes pleasure in hurting other people. Dependent personalities feel that they need something or someone so much that they will cross any boundaries—including committing murder—to get it.

Many murderers are mentally ill in one way or another but some of the most frightening killers are perfectly sane. They don't grab a lot of headlines. They don't have a group of misguided fans who hope to marry them before they are executed. The most chilling villains are those we don't hear a lot about. They are the thugs who don't think twice about killing a mother and her young children. They are the gang members who challenge their new recruits to knock off a passerby as part of their initiation. And most scary of all, they can be the man or woman next door.


In my upcoming Carina book, Protective Custody, the villain has a Narcissistic Personality. He thinks he's above everyone else and has a total lack of empathy. When the heroine gets in his way, he decides she is disposable. But he enjoys toying with her, so he doesn't want to just kill her quickly and be done with it. I think he's pretty darn frightening.


Who are some of your favorite villains? Do you prefer mentally off balance bad guys or perfectly, chillingly sane ones?







12 comments:

MaureenAMiller said...

Chilling to think about, Wynter. As readers we want to be stimulated by the villain, in the fact that we want them to have more substance than just "a bad guy with a gun".
I think we all like to be challenged by the villain, and we all want to overcome him/her. In this respect we get to live vicariously through the characters.
I'm definitely looking forward to Protective Custody!

Wynter Daniels said...

Thanks, Maureen. Definitely want our thrills vicariously;-)

Toni Anderson said...

I generally feel pretty attached to my villains. Possibly because I gave them the crappy situation they grew up in--or even the genes--that made them who they are and I understand what makes them tick. To me, the ones who just don't care are the scariest. I've written one true sociopath and she scared me more than anyone.

Elise Warner said...

Felt a shiver making its way down my spine, Wynter, thinking about your villain. I liked my villain in Scene Stealer--so much I had the crime commintted by someone else but I dislike and fear two I've written about in short stories.

Wynter Daniels said...

I gave one of my villains a tough past, too, Toni. In fact, I felt so sorry for her I made another character even worse than her.
Glad to hear I'm not the only writer who does that, Elise;-)

Kathy Ivan said...

It's sad to think that so many people out in society could be classified as villains. But its definitely fun to torment our fictional villains, giving them horrible pasts which shape them into the characters they become, directing their ultimate acceptance of the "dark side." Great blog post.

Wynter Daniels said...

It is fun to torment our heroes and heroines - good point;-)

Marcelle Dubé said...

They don't all need terrible pasts to be bad. Sometimes they're bad just because they like it. Or because they desperately want something that's the opposite of what my hero/heroine wants. Those are the villains that most interest me!

Wynter Daniels said...

That's true. We hate them more if they have no reason for their cruelty.
BTW - I just finished On Her Trail and really enjoyed it!

Marcelle Dubé said...

Well, aren't you sweet, Wynter! Thanks so much!

Shirley Wells said...

I sometimes quite like my villains. The ones that have had a rough deal in life or have been driven to kill can be quite endearing in an odd sort of way.

Can't wait to read Protective Custody!

Wynter Daniels said...

Thanks, Shirley! I sometimes like mine too much;-)