Baddies have been much on my mind this week as I’ve been trying to come to terms with the challenges of writing fantasy instead of contemporary romance. The stakes are much higher for my heroine and I’m trying to get my head around writing a world where her liberty and her life are at risk, instead of her creative ambitions. In particular, I’m trying to decide how bad to make the baddies.
In real life, I don’t think I’ve ever met a truly evil person. I’ve met creepy obsessive types and strongly driven ambitious ones, self-centered people and sociopaths, but I’ve never encountered a James Bond style Big Bad, someone who would deliberately hurt another person for the fun of it. I know there are people like that out there, but I’m not sure I want to create that kind of character, let alone spend time in their head. I’m more comfortable writing someone who is completely consumed with his (her) own agenda, who would throw absolutely anyone to the wolves or sell their granny without a second thought if it would help them to achieve their ambitions. I’m also a shocker for protecting my heroines, which makes me wonder if I should push myself harder and see what happens.
When I’m looking for inspiration, I usually like to read and see what it sparks in my subconscious, but a quick flick through my Kindle reveals that I don’t read a lot of books with strong villains.
One of the most powerful antagonists in my collection is Bill, from Jenny Crusie’s contemporary romance Crazy for You. He’s delusional and he tries to ignore and then block the heroine’s decision to break up with him in an increasingly desperate spiral into madness. I hated him because he was so creepy and convincing, and so clearly the hero of his own story. Good lesson there.
Most of the bad baddies I have read are from romantic suspense, which lends itself more naturally to criminal types. Elizabeth Lowell’s Innocent as Sin pits a principled young banker against a scary, manipulative money-laundering Siberian gun-runner. I think I’m going to give that one a re-read this weekend.
Fantasy would be even more helpful, and there I’m going to fall back on two early Patricia Briggs duologies, Raven’s Shadow/Raven’s Strike, and Dragon Bones/Dragon Blood, both of which feature powerful, evil-for-its-own-sake wizardly mages.
I don’t believe I’m ever going to write a mass-murdering world-dominating supervillain, but I think I should try to push out of my comfort zone and see how far I get. I can always retreat again if it gets too scary out there.
It looks as though I need some help with this, so any suggestions of fictional evildoers who hit the spot for you, and good examples to read or watch would be very much appreciated.