Thinking about villains, I just came across a really great passage on Melisande Sharizai, one of the main villains in Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series. For those of you familiar with the books, but haven’t read Kushiel’s Mercy yet, it’s not really a spoiler, so it should be safe to read. For everyone else: go check them out, start with Kushiel’s Dart 😉
I looked into her.
I saw passion and pride, humor and ambition. Regret and sorrow. A surprising reserve of measured joy, and a chilling amorality. A profound capacity for impersonal cruelty. Unexpected generosity. A lack of conscience, and a growing awareness of that lack. The thoughtfulness. Curiosity.
I was my mother’s fault-line. I was the kernel of vulnerability at her core. I could hurt her far, far more than she could ever hurt me. And she could be hurt through me. What I suffered hurt her. She had loved others in her own way, and there were profound ties there, most especially to Phedre. That bond, I daresay only the gods themselves understood. But I was the only person she had ever loved with all the deep, abiding wonder and ferocity of her mortal soul.
I pitied her.
I suppose what I liked most about this section was the fact that here, we see another one of those villains that aren’t just evil for the sake of doing evil things, but that they are portrayed as individuums who fend for their own goals, albeit morally wrong ones or with the wrong means. Of course that does by no means justify their action, I just personally prefer villains to be more complex characters, characters who have a life outside the box of their ‘devious and utterly evil plan’.
In my opinion villains need to be as fleshed out as your protagonist(s), since they are ever bit as important in their function as antagonists, but also to propel your plot as your main characters are. Besides that there’s the question what exactly defines right and wrong anyway and if a protagonist is still one of the ‘good’ guys when they show a great deal of moral ambiguity. Same counts for the villains in this case.
I guess I’m personally just really bored with the traditional fantasy cliches of ‘The Dark One”, capitalized, who sits on His Dark Throne, pursuing Dark Purposes and plots to overthrow the world and subject it to His Evil Reign. See a trend there? :p
Just my two coppers in that matter. To put it into trivial words: utterly evil characters are boring, give me some of the morally ambiguous and creepy-insane ones 🙂