So, today I was really thinking about the concept of heroes and villains in stories. My story, of course has both, and I like the heroes much better. It turns out that some people like the villains better, and I can see how they would be more fun to write sometimes. Certainly I’ve seen actors who in real life are sweet, wonderful people, and yet they do a fantastic job at playing a bad guy in a play or a film.
As a writer, I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons that bad guys and their scenes are difficult for me to write is that I rarely read them. It’s true. I have a terrible habit of skimming through those parts of the stories, trying to get to the part where everything is okay afterward. I do glance through them, but it isn’t a thorough reading.
I fast forward through those parts of movies, too, if I’m watching them at home and I’m alone.
So lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading where I really pay attention to those parts, trying to figure out what exactly it is in those parts that make characters (and readers) tick.
Today the theme that caught my attention is an incredibly common one – somewhere around the climax, the hero finds himself in a position to either kill the villain while he’s down, or save his life. It’s everywhere… almost every single Disney movie, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, many, many stories.
It drove me insane when I was little “Kill him now, idiot! He’s going to come right back and kill you if you don’t.”
Now, especially as I’m writing, and I have to figure out how to deal with my “good guys” and “bad guys” in the grand scheme of things, I have to wonder about some of these ideas.
Is that what makes someone a hero? That they wouldn’t sacrifice anyone (except themselves?) Is self-preservation the definition of villain? If so… which one am I? Would I save my enemy at the expense of myself? What if the stakes weren’t life or death? What about when it’s just someone you don’t like at work, and things would go more your way if they were gone, not dead, just somewhere else, for your benefit? What if it’s your noisy neighbor being evicted? The guy who dumped you in high school getting dumped?
These are the things that keep me from my afternoon naps. 🙂