Here’s the next post in this series where I discuss TV shows and movies and the knowledge that we can gain from watching them. We can apply that knowledge to our writing. As always, I never pretend to be an expert. I just like exploring my own thoughts on the matter as I write these blog posts! I welcome all comments and would love to hear what you think about this topic.
Make sure you check out my previous post, titled, “How to write a strong female character, with Emma Swan.”
The last post in this series was also about the TV show Once Upon a Time. Most of the time I don’t like repeating topics or shows back to back like this, but I felt like it was necessary with this one. As you may or may not know, the series premiere of season 2 of OUAT aired last night. AND I’M SUPER PUMPED! (Sorry.) I knew it would be a great time to explore something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now: villains.
Villains are an important part of any story, and they’re often as complex and interesting as the heroes. Some bad guys are just evil – like Voldemort. I’m a Harry Potter super-nerd, so I have nothing bad to say about any of the characters in that book. BUT it’s important to note that Voldemort is evil, plain and simple. His soul is in pieces and he displays no emotions other than insane glee when things go his way and an all-consuming rage when they don’t. And hey, that’s okay.
But if you’re looking for something a little bit different in your villains, check out Rumpelstiltskin and Regina from Once Upon a Time.
First, Rumpel/Mr. Gold.
Rumpel’s fatal flaw is that he chooses power over everything – over doing what’s right, over love, and even over family. But he does have two weak spots, even if they’re very tiny. The first one is his son, Bae. Through a series of unfortunate events (that have nothing to do with that series), Rumpel chose his power over his own son and his son was sent away to another land. Where exactly he was sent, we’re not totally sure. But Rumpel still feels guilty about it and he wants to see his son again – more than anything.
The other person Rumpel cares about is Belle. (Yeah, that Belle.) He loves her. And she loves him. So what’s the problem? Well, true love’s kiss will take away Rumpel’s power and he can’t have that. He’d rather live as a monster than live without magic. When he gets to the real world, he also feels extremely guilty about this. He loved Belle, and he let her be ripped from his grasp. He’s got a lot to feel ashamed of, but he’s also got a lot of rage running through his veins. The second season sets us up with the question – will Rumpel finally do what’s right? The guilt and the anger are running in opposition of each other and I honestly don’t know which one will conquer and rule his actions.
Cut to the Evil Queen/Regina.
She was living the high life until Snow White ruined everything. I don’t want to give anything away about her back story, but let’s just say that she’s got good reason to blame Snow (although everything Snow did was unintentional). When Snow and Charming kicked Regina out of the castle, she sacrificed everything to come back out on top.
Now that she’s in Storybrooke, she has a pretty good setup for herself. She’s mayor and everyone is afraid of her (as they should be). She’s adopted a son that she genuinely loves. He…doesn’t feel the same way. He knows that she’s the Evil Queen and he does everything he can to help break the curse that she’s placed on this little town in Maine.
Would you ever catch Voldemort caring about his true love or his son? Not a chance. Does this make R&R any less evil? No way. If anything, it juxtaposes just how evil they really are. They’re willing to sacrifice the really amazing things in their life for power and control over everyone else. It truly shows us what they’re capable of. Any bad guy can go around town slaughtering whoever he wants to in order to gain power. But when he does the same thing to his own family or his own friends, it means so much more.
So don’t be afraid to make your bad guys human. Voldemort works in the context of the story that J.K. Rowling was trying to tell, but that doesn’t mean he’ll work in any story. A human villain will allow your readers to connect with the antagonist. They’ll understand his or her motivations and they’ll actually end up connecting with them, on some level, even if they don’t agree with what they’re doing. Anything that gives your audience a reason to connect with a character – good or evil – is something worth thinking about. In my book at least.
Which do you prefer? Do you like your baddies full of evil up to their eyeballs, a la Voldemort? Or do you prefer to be torn between feeling bad for them one week and hating them the next, like I often do with Rumpelstiltskin and Regina?