Love To Hate You Villains.
You can’t read those words without your mind running wild.
As a writer, I am thinking of Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes. Remember her? Misery? Where author Paul Sheldon gets trapped in the snow and then rescued by his Number One Fan…?
NOTE: if you are my Number One Fan, a kind email would be sufficient!
In crime fiction specifically, I think of Professor James Moriarty who, despite being featured in only two Sherlock Holmes stories, is considered to be the Great Detective’s archenemy. Did you know that this fictional character was based on a real-life criminal named Adam Worth?
So what makes a great antagonist?
I think we have to be able to relate to them, which means that, on some level, they have to look like us. In my real-life experiences as a detective, I have learned that anyone is capable of doing anything given the right (or wrong) circumstances. So, the murderer in crime fiction has to, on some level, seem as normal or ordinary as we are. Until they’re not.
And they can’t be all bad.
There has to be some shred of kindness or caring. Even Dr. Evil had Mr. Bigglesworth!
But, most importantly, I think a good antagonist has to be on a mission of some sort. Random violence, even in noir fiction, is just that and doesn’t draw the reader in.
Think of the villians that you’ve loved and how the author makes us see how they crossed over to the other side.
When I wrote 10-33 Assist PC, I included a number of characters who do bad things. Some are just people that we, as readers, don’t feel much sympathy for.
And then there’s Malcolm.
As the first book in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series, we don’t really get an idea of what has made Malcolm into the vicious guy he is, but we do get a sense that the road turned somewhere for him. This is, I think, the making of a good antagonist. As the series progresses, we get a look at the logic and motivation behind his behaviours. We also see that Malcolm is as strong in his beliefs and abilities as Mike O’Shea is in his.
Who are your favourites? Why? Better yet, if you were to write a villain, what would they be like? Feel free to add a comment below. I’m curious to hear your thoughts!
Until next week, I’m 10-7 for shift.
Desmond Ryan – Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction