Well, okay, how many of us have to worry whether the villains we make up are credible? Oh, but many people do like to try their hand had writing a story, so these tips may not come amiss. And fiction can sometimes help us to understand what we see and hear in real life.
My villains all have something in common–they justify themselves to themselves. The elasticity of this approach is limitless. Even Stalin, Mao, or Hitler could have used it, and very likely did.
P.S.–I don’t believe Richard was anywhere near the villain Shakespeare made him out to be. He’s a great example of what happens when your enemies win and get to write the history.
If you’re one of I don’t know how many Bell Mountain readers who’ve wondered, “How would I do, playing poker with Lord Reesh?”, today’s your lucky day!
The reader who accounts for the 400th view tonight will win a chance to play poker against arch-villain Lord Reesh as soon as he can be brought back from the dead. Close watch will be kept on the old guy to make sure he doesn’t have you poisoned or make you disappear.
Requested by Joshua, an excerpt from my award-winning novel, Bell Mountain.
“[I]n a very nicely appointed private study with thick rugs and rich hangings on the walls, the First Prester, Lord Reesh, angrily rattled a sheet of paper in his hand.
“Do you know what this is?” he said. “It’s a letter from the burned fool who’s the prester at the new chamber house in a place called Ninneburky. It’s almost all the way up the river.”
“I know the town, my lord,” said the other man in the room–an unremarkable-looking fellow with a sad face and a little pointed beard.
“Good. Because you’re going there,” Lord Reesh said. “As soon as I explain this.
“Two children from Ninneburky have run away to climb Bell Mountain. You are to find them. If they are still on their way to the mountain when you overtake them, don’t interfere. Follow them. See to it that they get there. I want to know every single thing that happens to them, Martis. If they climb the mountain, climb after them. If they get to the top and find a bell, you are to prevent them from touching it, and no one is ever to see or hear from them again.”
The people of Ninneburky, even the prester himself, would have been appalled to learn that the First Prester had a confidential servant whose duties included killing people. For that is what Martis did, in addition to ferreting out secrets, spying, stealing, and arranging for certain persons to be accused of and punished for crimes they hadn’t committed. Not even the other oligarchs knew about Martis. To everyone in the city, he was only a clerk in the Temple. He even looked like a clerk.
But to Lord Reesh–who considered himself the first oligarch as well as the First Prester–he was a very necessary tool. And because he had served Lord Reesh for years, and never failed him, Martis enjoyed a certain liberty in speaking to his master.
“Do you think a pair of children might actually climb the mountain, my lord?” he said…
To find out how Martis the assassin fared in his mission, read Bell Mountain, the first book in the series, with 11 titles in print–so far. No. 12, His Mercy Endureth Forever, is currently being prepared for publication.
To order any of them, visit the blog’s home page and click “Books,” or visit http://www.chalcedon.edu and The Chalcedon Store.
This is not part of the movie contest–which is still on, by the way–it’s just my non-negotiable demand that Bernard Herrmann compose and conduct the music score. The above is his introductory music for Jason and the Argonauts (1963), one of my all-time absolute favorite movies. It’s got everything a good movie should have–a homicidal bronze giant, flying harpies, a skeleton hit squad–and whatever was happening on screen, Bernard Herrmann had the perfect music for it.
As for the cast-the-movie contest, we have entries so far from (he pauses to count on his fingers) half a dozen readers. Shoot, I was hoping to at least run out of fingers.
I know, I know: you can’t cast the movie if you haven’t read any of the books. I also know I need more readers. Like, lots more.
Let’s keep the contest running a little longer, in hopes of getting more entries. The winner or winners will get a signed certificate in recognition of their wisdom, perspicacity, and good taste. Let’s face it, with only six entries–albeit quite enthusiastic entries which most of us have enjoyed reading–this is something short of the Irish Sweepstakes. I’m sorry I didn’t let Lord Reesh run the contest, but it’d too late now.
This is always provided Lord Reesh doesn’t take revenge on me today by having me murdered during surgery. That’s how they got rid of Lenin’s widow, you know. You could look it up–under “Better Living Through Communism.”
Hi, Lord Chutt here–thought I’d sneak in while no one’s looking.
For those who don’t know, I’m one of the villains in Lee’s Bell Mountain books. It rather ticked me off the other day, when Lord Reesh got a say and I didn’t. He thinks he’s the primo villain in the series. Ha! Even that creep Ysbott is better than Reesh.
I may not be as flashy as some of the others, but I have a very special gift. People who are involved with me, for any length of time, go bad. Real bad. Left to their own devices, they’d be harmless. But I turn ’em into villains.
I admit I don’t know how I do it. It just happens. I understand you have some public figures in your world who contaminate everything they touch. It’s probably the same thing.
While I don’t appreciate speaking to a mostly empty house that I had to sneak into, it’s better than not speaking at all. As long as I’m here, let me urge you to get hold of these Bell Mountain books: there’s a new one, The Silver Trumpet, coming out next month, I hear. Read ’em and decide for yourselves who’s the baddest villain!
[The management now promises there will be no more commercials this year.]
Hi, there! I’m Lord Reesh, the villain in the first four Bell Mountain books–and, if I do say so myself, a jolly good one! Oh, boy, wait’ll you see me get what’s coming to me!
Ah, but you can’t see that unless you read the books. And it’s only nine days till Christmas. Do you catch my drift?
These books, especially the ones with me in them, make fantastic presents for friends and family. And they’re so easy to get, even those simpletons on the Obann High Council could do it. Just click “Books” at the top of the page, and you can order any title either directly from the publisher or via amazon.com. Whatever that is. We don’t have it, where I come from.
If we were all in Obann, I could simply order you all to buy the books and sic Judge Tombo on you if you didn’t. You don’t want anything like that to happen!
People think it’s easy and fun to create villains for your fiction. Fun, yes; easy, no.
Don’t worry, I won’t make one of those political jokes. “I stop one step short of making them as bad as Hillary Clinton.” Oops.
I find that, in writing up villains, the most important consideration is the character’s motivation. What makes him or her do bad things? Here are some of the motivations I’ve resorted to.
The villain honestly thinks he’s doing good. This easily descends into sheer fanaticism, which I don’t think is quite as common in real life as movies suggest. Much better is–
The villain has selfish or personal reasons for doing evil, which he has rationalized into altruistic reasons. This kind of self-deception is easy to find in real life. “I’m doing this for your good!” Haven’t we all heard that a thousand times before!
Burning with lust for someone (or something) that he doesn’t have, and probably can never get, the villain stops at nothing. This was what motivated Lord Reesh in my Bell Mountain books: he had a vision of Obann’s ancient greatness, and the near-fantastic powers wielded by men of those days, and nothing would ever satisfy him but to bring back those times–in pursuit of which, there was nothing that he wouldn’t sacrifice.
The villain is a moral imbecile and simplydoesn’t know any better. According to classical leftist ideology, this is always the case–“It’s the unjust society that’s at fault, not the armed robber!” Yeah, where has the system failed you, sunshine?
Simple greed, simple lust for power–I’m from New Jersey, so I’ve seen how often these sordid motives inspire various crimes.
The one thing I try to do, with every villain I create, is to make his actions understandable and acceptable to himself. I believe most bad guys think they’re good guys, even if they have to engage in almost superhuman mental gymnastics to do it. Really, how many bad guys in real life ever sit down and think, “Gee, I really am garbage”? Much more common is, “I got a raw deal!”
So stay away from two-dimensional, sneering, mustache-twirling villains who tie Little Nell to the railroad tracks and kick poor Grandma out of the farmhouse.
Villains who think they’re good are much more fun to write about–and way more true to life! I’m sure you can think of a couple dozen real-life examples inside of ten minutes.
As I wait for the go-ahead to start writing my next book–and I never know what the “Hi” sign is going to be, the Lord always surprises me–I found myself wondering which characters in my books are the most popular. I also got onto that subject by showing my wife Travis Rodgers’ essay on “Obst the Missionary” (http://travisrodg.com/obst-bell-mountain/)–the only one of my characters who’s ever been written about by someone else, outside of a book review.
If you ask me which are my favorite characters, I can only answer, “Whoever I happen to be writing about at the time.” I think it has to be that way, if I want to make the characters come alive for the reader.
But which characters really are the readers’ favorites? Which are yours?
My youngest readers seem to like Jack and Ellayne the best, and everybody loves Wytt, the little hairy creature with the sharp stick and no capacity for fear. The old rat under the Baroness’ back porch has his contingent of fans, as does Cavall, the king’s big dog.
I know someone who liked Lord Reesh, the arch-villain, best; and I’m sure Helki the Rod, the wild man of Lintum Forest, has his cheering section. As for the old Abnak sub-chief, Uduqu–my wife and my editor were both ready to scalp me when they thought I’d killed him off.
Anyhow, I’ve got lots and lots of characters in my Bell Mountain books, and I’m intensely curious to know how readers feel about them. Besides, this discussion will be a lot of fun if everybody takes part in it.
And somewhere in one of your comments may be the seed of the next book. I never know where that’s going to turn up.