Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why villains break writers' hearts.

Why do villains give us such head and heartaches?

I'm nearing the end of my young adult novel.  (Actually I've finished a rough draft and am now dropping in the details that managed to escape the first time round.)  And it reminds me how awful it is to dispense with the villain or villains at the end.  Rarely are they truly dreadful creatures.  They have redeeming qualities.  Wait, we GIVE them redeeming qualities and dimensions so they aren't lightning bolts of bad who storm through our stories spreading the nasty.  Don't we all want to trick the reader into believing they can be good?  But once we do that the questions start to nibble in the backs of our brains.  Can they be saved?  Will they really pull the triggers at the end of our stories?  Or can everyone find his or her aha moment and walk out of the book unscathed.

The answer, of course, is not a chance.

My two protagonists are a pair of misguided young girls coerced to the dark side by a friend and social torment.  I feel for them.  At times they say nice things.  They remember their please and thank you's.  One of them cries.  Often.  But I know they have to go.  The story won't ring true if the end is littered with sunshine and rainbows.  In essence I've already dropped the axe.  I've written the ending, so maybe it's the redeeming details that I'm struggling with.  I want to save them from being mean girl stereotypes, but in doing so, I waiver.  The nice touches come too easily.  As a writer, hurray.  It means that my characters have come to life in a way that we hope and pray for whenever approaching new projects. 

As a human being, not so much.  I'd like to believe that the daily coins of kindness we drop in the karma bank pay off in the end.  Why not give them a chance to liberate themselves from the tag villain and rival the hero of the book in their worthiness?  Can't the novel survive without its teaspoons of evil stirred in?

Nope.  Time to get out the red pen.  Sorry girls.


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