1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Welcome, visitor! Litopia is the oldest & friendliest community for writers on the net. If you are serious about your writing, we cordially invite you to join us.
    Dismiss Notice

Favourite Fictional Villains

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by Paul Whybrow, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

    Buds:
    813
    Buds:
    813 (0 Banked)
    I noticed that most of the characters chosen in the Favourite Fictional Characters thread were goodies. There were a few bad boys and girls, but many of the rest could be called role models.

    Today's Daily Telegraph has an article listing what they consider to be the 51 greatest villains in literature.

    The greatest villains in literature

    I scrolled through them, and the only two which struck fear into my heart were Mrs Coulter, from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and Bill Sykes, from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

    When I consider terrifying antagonists in the novels I've read, I think of John Connolly's Charlie Parker stories, in which his private investigator is haunted by the evil of a depraved and demonic serial killer called The Collector.

    A very different style of crime novel comes from Florida author Carl Hiaasen. His stories contain a lot of humour, based on the absurdity of life in the Sunshine State, but he also creates some truly scary criminals. Chemo was disfigured in a freak electrolysis accident and killed the doctor at fault. He's horrific in appearance, resembling “breakfast cereal, like someone had glued Rice Krispies to every square centimeter of his face.” He's helped out by a plastic surgeon, in return for killing the state prosecutor. He bungles an attempt and in fleeing the scene by swimming, a barracuda bites off his hand. Rather than opting for a conventional prosthesis, Chemo fits a weed whacker to his forearm and continues his mayhem.

    What scares me about such characters, including Bill Sykes, is their unpredictability and capacity for immediately turning violent, without any thought of the consequences. In real life, I've known some aggressive criminals, including murderers and members of organised crime, and they rule by fear. They know where the bodies are buried, for they killed them!

    Of my own creations, the most intimidating baddy behaves in a calm, considered and logical way. 'The Watcher' appeared in my first Cornish Detective novel The Perfect Murderer, where he was selecting victims on the turn of a dice, as part of an online role play game. He fought as a boy soldier in the Bosnian War of Independence, so has been killing from the age of 10. It means nothing to him—people are targets to be eliminated—he's totally without empathy.

    Which of your own evil characters do you like? Simply being naughty and trouble-making will do.

    Who scares you in famous works of literature?

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Andrew Okey

    Andrew Okey Fledgling - be nice to me!

    Buds:
    15
    Buds:
    15 (0 Banked)
    Paul - the Telegraph's list tells us, if nothing else, how fuzzy the concept of "villain" is (Moby Dick? Milo Minderbinder??). But that aside, I was pleased to see Cormac McCarthy's The Judge make it in there. Like all of McCarthy's 'villains', he is much more an idea than a person, and I guess most readers start off interpreting him as The Devil. But by the time he's recreated the Last Supper with gunpowder rather than bread and wine, you start to think he might be rather higher up the spiritual food-chain! Only not in a good way. But, Gods [of War] aside, I'd settle for Mrs Danvers, because her wickedness is based on core human emotions such as love and envy, and is applied in the kind of spiteful and manipulative ways we've probably all been on the wrong end of at some point in our lives. That has altogether more impact that some cackling nasty who's evil without clear motivation, introspection etc.

    As for my own writing, well, as the setting of my first novel is East Germany, notions of spite and manipulation were similarly at the forefront of my thinking (though right now we seem to be living in times where political decision-making seems as much driven by spite as by expedience [mentioning no names] so maybe nothing ever changes in that regard). That thinking shows itself in several characters of mine, but the one I'm really quite proud of is David Manzer, a Stasi informer who is partly based on the real historical character Sascha Anderson (an apparent "radical dissident poet" who routinely informed on all his fellow dissidents - this only became public knowledge when the Wall fell: when challenged about his vile behaviour Anderson was entirely unapologetic, simply stating that he needed the favour of the Stasi to further his career, so who wouldn't have behaved like him in the same circumstances?). However, Manzer is also partly based on the most toxic colleague I have ever worked with. This may not sound very sinister, but his tactic for bringing you down was to over-praise you at a ludicrously hyperbolic level, until your only choices were to agree with him and look like an egotistical crazy, or to denigrate yourself. It was astonishingly effective and deeply unpleasant and manipulative, and was (frankly) an open goal when I set about trying to create someone who is knowingly nasty, without ever being violent or (openly) dominant.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

    Buds:
    813
    Buds:
    813 (0 Banked)
    Manipulative people are disturbing to be around, with many being psychopathic. Sometimes, it can take years before I've worked out what someone's secret game really was; I like to think that I'm worldly-wise, but occasionally I've been too trusting —still, I'd rather be that way than forever looking for deceit.

    I briefly worked with an East German woman, who remained haunted by her years behind the wall, finding it hard to trust that anyone was who they said they were. She kept everyone at arm's length, believing in her own truth, but doubting everyone else. One of life's givers, she found it impossible to take anything from others, thinking they were after something.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Love Love x 1
  4. Andrew Okey

    Andrew Okey Fledgling - be nice to me!

    Buds:
    15
    Buds:
    15 (0 Banked)
    Paul - spot on. I can only hope I managed to give some sense of that in my writing!
     
  5. MaryA

    MaryA Active Member

    Buds:
    105
    Buds:
    105 (0 Banked)
    This is a more difficult thread, because for me the most convincing villains are a mix of good and evil, tipping over into evil.

    The first 'evil villain' I encountered was Cathy Ames/Trask in East of Eden. I was far too young (10 years old) to read such a book and it made a lasting and erroneous impression on me; for years I worried that I or my little sisters would turn into monsters. Steinbeck set out to create a fiend in the shape of a pretty woman. Looking at East of Eden now, I think it says more about misogyny and the pathologising of troubled or difficult women than anything else. Powerful language all the same.

    ' I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. Some you can see, misshapen and horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies. . . . And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?'

    The most repellent and brilliant portrait of a paedophile has to be Humbert in Nabokov's Lolita. This again is a book I don't think I could read now. It is all too easy to see the grooming and victim-blaming. What I found compelling though was how the charm, the confiding candour, the wit and 'lovability' of Humbert is offset by his objectifying indifference to Lolita as a person. It breaks through 'lonely men in raincoats' stereotypes of paedophiles.
     
    • Like Like x 3

Share This Page