Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday's Thugs: What makes a "good" bad guy?

There are a lot of mystery readers who think that a mystery is only as good as the villain. With that in mind, what makes a good bad guy? For me, the villains that stand out are the ones that come alive on the page, they are unique in their skulduggery.  In comic books you can get away with the evil genius, but mysteries require something a bit closer to real life. Give me a villain that is a hero in his own mind. I want someone who has lost something of value, someone smart and capable. Give me a villain who gave in to a moment of weakness, and now is trying to keep others from finding out at any cost.

Heroes are important. In the end, I want the hero to win, but victory should come at a price. Heap trouble on the hero.

A good villain will find the smallest openings, drive the knife deep, and twist it hard. A writer worth their salt can give me a scoundrel that is one step ahead of the hero and the reader right up to the very end.Why? Because the best villains not only vex the hero to the limits of endurance they surprise and misdirect the reader with unexpected turns and twists of the plot.

In a good mystery the bad guy makes the story. It is on the shoulders of villainy to carry us into darkness so the hero can bring us light. So give a round of applause to those hard working scoundrels. Where would mystery be without them?

1 comment:

Marian Allen said...

I'm with you, Gwen--the villain can make or break a story. I like a villain with more than two dimensions. When I was in middle school, my friends and I formed a club: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Villains. lol! We liked villains you felt sorry for at the same time you had to root for them to lose. I think Peter Lorre was our mascot.

Marian Allen