Register Friday | April 19 | 2024
No More Mr. Bad Guy

No More Mr. Bad Guy

Authors always treat evil as an incomprehensible, barely-human force waiting to be defeated—but that’s pure fiction. It’s high time we saw villains as people too.

Illustration by Michael Cho

Like any fiction writer, I work hard to get my characters right. Often this means trying to see things from their perspectives. Are they motivated by guilt, or a lie they half-believe? What I discover isn’t always pleasant. It’s worth doing, however, because it deprives me of straw targets. As a result, I never write about villains, because villains aren’t people.

True, no character in fiction is an actual person. Better explanation: villains are characters that don’t act like real people. They’re plot props. They live in fables, westerns and teen romps, where they exist to do one thing: thwart other characters. Cinderella has her evil stepmother, white-hatted cowboys have the black-hats, and the sweet gymnast in Bring It On has those bitchy girls with no underpants. As in any other writing, this sort of thing can be done poorly or ...

Subscription Required!

Already have a subscription? Try logging in.