Villains and Bad Guys

You know what’s fun?


The characters you can love to hate. The people who are complex in their villainous ways, who do things that you almost, almost finding yourself rooting for before they do something that seems to say “haha, suckers! had you fooled, didn’t I?” That’s just one of the best things about an sort of entertainment, if you ask me. And you’re here, so I’m going to go ahead and assume you’re asking me.

I suppose this leads to a point that might counter the title I gave this post… the point that there is a difference between villains and bad guys. Bad Guys are one-dimensional. They are just, well, bad. The actions they take are meant to be bad, meant to shock, meant to destroy. Bad Guys can be boring.

Villains are not boring. The actions Villains take are more complex, more personal, more damaging. And they are more damaging because it’s more personal and it’s more personal because it’s more complicated. See? Very much not one-dimensional.

A true Villain probably loved somebody once, maybe in a twisted sort of way. A true Villain probably got hurt somewhere along the way, maybe that’s what makes him or her twisted. A true Villain probably thinks what they’re doing is an absolutely logical, rational thing, maybe that’s what makes them dangerous. And a true Villain probably knows that somebody is going to get hurt but believes that it is entirely worth it, maybe that’s what makes them powerful.

I have always enjoyed the ones I can love to hate, and the first time I heard that phrase was when I had an addiction to “General Hospital” and Helena Cassadine was absolutely the most interesting person on the show. I tried to explain why I liked her character and somebody said “love to hate.” And I like that.

But this is a bookish blog so let’s not get sucked into television soap operas.

Let’s make a list of the 3 Villains In Books (book series, to be exact) That Just Popped Into My Head

  1. Nellie Oleson (created by Laura Ingalls Wilder for “Little House on the Prairie”) – Nellie was the first Villain I ever encountered. I don’t know that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her with villainy in mind, and Nellie is a fictional composite of a handful of girls Laura actually knew, but for a child reading the “Little House on the Prairie” books, the way Nellie tormented Laura fits the bill. And kids are cruel to each other. The cruelty of children toward one another is often a means by which one child makes themselves just a little bit better than another, because nothing is so terrifying as thinking you’re at the bottom of the ladder. Nellie doesn’t play all that large of a role in the books, but she is not a kind, sympathetic character. The thing is, the thing that makes her a Villain, is that the unkind things she does, like destroying a treasured doll, are because she is jealous and because she doesn’t want Laura to come close to what she has. And she defines who she is by what she has.
  2. Valentine Morgenstern (created by Cassandra Clare for “The Mortal Instruments”) – Valentine is, by far, the best Villain that Cassandra Clare created. Maybe it helps that “The Mortal Instruments” began as a “Harry Potter” fanfic, I don’t know. That’s either a discussion for another day or a discussion I’ll take a pass on. The point is, Valentine fits the bill for my favorite sort of villain. He’s twisted, absolutely, but he uses love and purpose as a vehicle for what he does. Is it honest love, good love? I don’t know. I doubt it. He thinks it’s honest, good love. He thinks he loves Jocelyn and Clary and the Nephilim, he thinks that ‘love’ is all the reason he needs to utterly destroy everything that stands in the way of preserving and protecting them. It’s all worth it to him. And that, to be honest, might be the most villainous philosophy of all.
  3. Severus Snape (created by JK Rowling for “Harry Potter”) – I know Snape is still a divisive topic so let’s start by saying I can have my opinion and you can have yours. Don’t yell at me. But Snape ticks every proverbial box I listed above. He’s complex, he has his reasons (if twisted), he loved once, he is certain he’s doing the right thing, he knows people will get hurt. Does he get a redemption arc? I honestly don’t know. I think what he does in the end is entirely in line with who he was through the first books and Harry’s first years at Hogwarts. Is his final act redemptive? Probably not. And maybe because the books are scattered with things that lead to the final act. But he’s absolutely a Villain the rest of the time.

So I meant to make that a top five list and I didn’t mean for it to be focused on villains in book series but… here we are. I think those three are really good examples of my definition of Villains: The Ones I Love to Hate. Maybe it’ll be Part One of a series on villains and I’ll get into standalone villains or something. Who knows?

In the meantime, tell me your thoughts on villains. Do you agree with my definitions on Villains and Bad Guys? Who are your favorite Villains?

P.S. I have now typed Villain so many times that it’s starting to look like I’m spelling it wrong?

Reviewed: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

46.jpgIt was time to revisit the old favorites because, really, what better way to end a year than with the first meeting of a trio of old friends? And that’s what Harry, Hermione, and Ron are at this point.

I’m bumping my rating of this first foray into the wizarding world up from four stars to five because I thought I knew this story. I thought I loved it as much as I could ever love it.

I was wrong.

Terribly and wonderfully wrong.

I picked up on things I’d forgotten, I saw things I’m 100% sure I didn’t see before, and I remembered why I love this world.

I suppose I could say more about what happens in the story but… if you’ve been a thinking, breathing, human being these last fifteen, twenty years, you know who Harry Potter is and what he’s all about.

So… read it if you haven’t read it before and read it again if you’ve read it sixteen times already.

Reviewed: “Insurgent” by Veronica Roth

InsurgentThe benefit to waiting until a series of books is all released, and then shelling out the cash for a matching hardcover set, is that one doesn’t need to wait impatiently for the next book to be released. I did that with JK Rowling and it wasn’t fun. So I was smart and didn’t jump on the Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins series until all the books were released. Veronica Roth’s trilogy is my first matching set, though, and I’m happy about this.

Very much worth the extra money they no doubt charged me to get the books in a flimsy cardboard box.

So as soon as I finished DIVERGENT, I dove headfirst and happily into book #2 – INSURGENT.

The title is a tad misleading because Tris and Four don’t willingly become actual insurgents until very late in the book, and even then they aren’t the ones who come up the realization that it’s what they are. But hey, I get the “ooh, no one has made her titles rhyme yet” theory of book naming and money-making.

In INSURGENT, I got to find out more about what makes Tris and Four tick. And I do think the book, and now the series, are as much about Four as they are about Tris even though she’s still the narrator and the eyes of the story. It’s in part because he gives her a new way of looking at things and she makes him become things he never trusted himself to be … all things and reasons that would be serious plot spoilers if I told you about them here, so I won’t. You’re welcome.

A thing I really liked about the book was the expanded looks at the other factions aside from Dauntless and Abnegation, and even at the factionless – which is a faction onto itself, if you think about it. And you do think about it.

I realized too that I very much like the gritty nature of the world Roth created. It’s too easy to compare YA series to one another so I’ll make this comparison – everything was sparkly (literally) and perfect in Meyer’s world and even in Panem, there was the fancy and wealthy Capitol. In Roth’s world, which doesn’t have a name (at least in the minds of the characters), things are dark and gritty. Another comparison I can make is the 99% vs. the 1% debate that’s going on in the media. Tris’ city is what the 99% would be if the 1% in our society threw their hands in the air and said “screw it” – something they may be doing.

But book reviews shouldn’t be political so let me get back on track.

The fact is that I read INSURGENT faster than I read the first book. It has a broader scope but it’s still focused on the people guiding me through the world. It never strays from that. I feel like I’m traveling with them, not just listening to them tell me what they see. It’s the way a book should be.

Writing Entry #1: What I’m Writing

I’ve recently taken the plunge and, after much needless delay, started writing a book.

This is big. Very big.

I’ve thought about it before, but something always stopped me. Mostly, I think I tried to define what I’d write before I started writing. I was over-thinking things. I wanted to pick the perfect character names, the ideal location, and a faultless plot all before I typed the first word.

I had preconceived ideas about what it was acceptable for me to write and what I shouldn’t write. I wanted to write something on the level of Mark Twain or Jane Austen. Chick lit and Hallmark movie type stories just didn’t seem the same to me, not quite as worthy.

After much thought, I’ve scrapped those stereotypes. I’m never going to be Twain, Austen, or someone like that. Well, maybe not never. I wouldn’t protest if someone compared me to them, of course. Authors like Danielle Steel, Stephen King, JK Rowling, and Stephenie Meyer have made millions of dollars writing what’s in their minds, even if it isn’t critically acclaimed.

I can do that.

I have a story in my mind and I’m going to write it. Nothing will stop me.