Now that my book, Only Fear, is out there, available to the whole wide world, I received some unexpected feedback. I was scaring people. My killer isn’t a nice guy—he’s actually pretty gruesome—but I thought I had toned down most of his scenes. I certainly didn’t expect people to say how shockingly scary I was, or that they had to read with the lights on. (That one makes me laugh… of course you’d read with the lights on!)
But moi, scaring people? Am I more unbalanced than I thought? Apparently, editing the story a zillion times took the edge off of the fright factor for me. Or maybe I’ve got a talent for connecting psychologically with the villain’s point of view (let’s not dig too deeply there, shall we?).
So, what makes a truly chilling villain?
I think the answer lies partly in their psychological makeup. When I read about or see a villain on the big screen, I want to understand how they became that way, and why they’re doing what they’re doing. If there’s no good reason, I lose interest.
I also like the villains to be a true challenge for the hero/heroine. They need to be just as smart and strong as the protagonists to give them a real run for their money.
Finally, for me, the most chilling villains are the ones you don’t see coming. The ones you thought were the sweet next door neighbor or the caring coworker. But everyone has a dark side. Apparently, mine was darker than I thought!
Who are some of your “favorite” villains? What qualities chill you the most?