Hey, bad guys are people too!
That statement is more true that you’d like to think.
Look at some of the most despicable people in recent history: Andrea Yates, Gary Ridgeway, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and most recently, Kermit Gosnell. Some would say these folks are subhuman, their deeds were so awful, so evil.
But what’s their story? What were the events in their life that played a part in shaping who they became?
That’s the question I try to get at when I create villains. I don’t want to create just another bad guy doing bad things. That’s one-dimensional, it’s cardboard. There’s so much more to people than just what they do.
There’s the why, the how, the background, the psychological damage, the emotional turmoil.
The villains I create need to be defined by more than just what they do. I want readers to experience who they are. They have reasons for what they do. Those reasons may make sense (in a very demented, twisted way) or they may not. But all the time those reasons are tragic.
In villains I want to show the fallen state of mankind, how low we are capable of going if that self-absorbed, sin nature is allowed to thrive, unhindered, unshackled. But I also want to show the tragic groundwork that was laid to enable that kind of fall.
I want readers to understand that these people, these monsters, are more than what their deeds portray. They’re people, hurting, confused, lost, and warped beyond most of our imaginations. They are to be feared, yes, but not only because of who they have become, but because, as the 16th century preacher and eventual martyr John Bradford said, There but for the grace of God, go I.
You can find a listing of all my books on this site or my Amazon page. And make sure you check out my newest thriller, Fearless. The villain, Mitch Albright, is quite a character and has quite a back story.
So what do you think? Should we portray villains as wounded, hurting individuals? As people and not just heartless monters?