Monday, June 22, 2009
Path to a Villain
Recently on an author's e-mail loop, Jeff Gerke, editor at Marcher Lord Press, wrote this (used with permission):
I have been struck lately by the things people will do to not lose something they feel they need.
Whether it's power or freedom or wealth or an addiction, when the flow of goodness they've come to rely on is threatened, even the most moral people are capable of crossing any boundary.
Perhaps it's a political leader in Iran or elsewhere willing to go to any extreme to hold on to power.
Perhaps it's a sex addict who could lose his family over his addiction and can't allow that to happen.
Perhaps it's a man so afraid of losing his driver's license and going to jail that he's willing to murder a young boy.
In our fiction, we can use this dynamic to our advantage. People who would normally never even jaywalk, much less commit a felony, can be moved to embezzlement, fraud, or even murder if something vital to them is threatened.
I love studying the path a good person might take to become a villain.
Me too, Jeff. The psychology of crime fascinates me, whether I'm watching true crime shows on TV or creating plots for my novels. People you'd never believe could murder--do. What drives them to it? How does the murderous passion grow so large that it blankets their rational thinking, especially when it comes to the possibility of getting caught?
The great thing about writing suspense is that I get to portray humanity in all its range of colors. And that is a vast spectrum, indeed.