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.


Ralene said...

An example that sticks out in my head is Lex Luthor from Superman. In the CW show "Smallville" (which hubby and I are currently working through the, Lex starts out as a spoiled kid with a good heart. He is even best buds with Clark Kent. But when his own ambitions, denied love from his father, and loss of people close to him mix together, he hardens that heart and begins to pursue the unthinkable. Poor kid...

Sheila Deeth said...

Can be scary to wonder what I'm not willing to lose, but fascinating to think of it in a novel.

Marta Daniels said...

I really enjoyed this post, because it really opened my mind to the plot possibilities out there! Sometimes I think you can get a little burned out trying to craft just the right story arc in just the right way, and there are plenty of models out there on a day to day basis! It is such a shame what the world is, all the wickedness and evil, but inspirational writers can find a way to glorify the Lord with these tragic tales. God bless!