Today we're talking about the villain.
What's the classic we're discussing? None other than Shakespeare's Othello!
Now, I'm sure most of you writers out there aren't working on tragedies. We're very much a happily-ever-after bunch, I'm thinking - or at least a satisfying, warm-feeling conclusion. Not so keen on the everyone-dies-and-no-one-is-happy ending.
So what does Othello have to offer us aspiring and/or published authors?
Well, while this isn't true of all books, sometimes the villains just aren't complex. They're evil, sure. But sometimes the villains we create are lacking a certain depth. Cue Iago.
Iago is a dastardly villain if ever there was one. So if you're looking for some ways to make your villain more...well...villain-y, look no farther than Iago! He's definitely "bad to the bone." Let's take a look at what makes him so terrible (in a good, villain-y way):
- He's intelligent. Let's face it. We've all read those books with the incompetent villains who are just asking to die. Seriously. Iago is not that guy! In fact, Iago's got all the other characters in the palm of his hand - playing them off of each other, getting into their minds, deceiving them completely, all while still maintaining an innocent facade. Unless we're writing tragedies, we don't necessarily want the bad guy to win...but we do want him (or her) to be a real challenge to the hero/heroine, right? We don't want no cardboard cutouts! (Excuse the double negative...)
- He's intriguing. Iago has his reasons for seeking to bring everyone down around him. Of course, some of those reasons can be debated since we aren't given all the specifics. However, he's a motivated man. And he has a wife, which certainly adds some interesting dynamics! So, when we're creating our villains, we should keep in mind that they have a past, family and/or friends, and a depth to them that leads to their thirst for revenge, etc.
- He's indisputably evil. My first draft of my first manuscript is missing a villain. (My second WIP has one right now, but that's beside the point right now...) A close relation of mine suggested to me that perhaps a villain is in order. While I don't think all books need a villain - sometimes the villain isn't a specific person - I think they can add a lot to a story. It's the classic good vs. evil theme, where readers are cheering on the good guys. In Othello, we still cheer on the good guys, despite the fact that it's a tragedy, and that means there isn't a happy ending... (Although happy endings are not required for meaningful stories!) But I digress... The point is that while we want our villains to be three-dimensional and authentic, my close relation reminded me that having an obviously "evil" figure really involves the reader. When you read Othello, you really, really want Iago to get his comeuppance and to leave all those other poor characters alone!!