Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to make you angry? I mean things that really don’t even matter – like a news item, where you significant other left his glass, the possibility that your print newspaper will be canceled – everything seems to send you into a near rage. And, it’s on those days, when you may have moments where you could blithely say that the world deserves to end because everything is so lousy, etc, etc, have you ever considered this could be the turning point that makes you into a supervillain?
Okay, probably not. Or possibly, I don’t know.
The thing that I’ve learned about “villains” (or more correctly, the “antagonist”), is that the only way they’re really scary is the more they’re just like us. In other words, what if one of us, relatively normal, happy, suddenly reached some turning point or made the decision to “go bad”? What is it that would make us reach that point? And if we did, what would we do?
I have a confession to make: one of my first antagonists was named “Captain Plunder.”
Indeed, I could make excuses for that fact that I was quite young when I wrote the first draft and named him, or even that perhaps it was supposed to be his self-moniker to relate to other pirates who, as all pirates do, have a reputation to build and maintain. Whatever the case, he was a cardboard cutout of an antagonist, weak, and literally probably went “bwahahaha!” He certainly wasn’t scary.
He was my turning point – and going back and discovering what I’d actually called him (good grief!) – and thereafter I decided my villains needed to be more well-rounded. In fact, they needed to be more like my protagonist(s). They needed background stories, a history, motives, goals, past joys and sorrows. And they needed to find that turning point, that day where they were mad at everything that for some reason, didn’t just go away. They didn’t “get over” whatever deep seated actual frustration and anger they were probably too afraid to face, and instead strengthened the shield of their anger and headed off to for mayhem and vengeance.
Of course villains like this are more interesting. They’re also more frightening the more of ourselves we can see in them. Indeed, sometimes they have a tendency to want to steal the show, and I’ve grown a weakness for redeeming my villains – afterall, don’t most of us deserve the chance at redemption? But at the heart of it, they’re just like us, raging through a bad day when sometimes we’re not even sure why we feel that way. Only they took a step or two further than most of us ever do … or did they?
So, are you feeling like villain material? Have you taken that step, or are you just a protagonist on a bad day?
Thanks for reading, and have a great week.