Well… Last week and into this one, I’ve had the Cold From Hell. Since I didn’t
even leave the house for the better part of last week, I fear I don’t have anything fascinating to recount. I’m also somewhat muddy in the thinking department.
Therefore, this week’s wandering is an expansion on a piece I wrote last spring for Magic and Mayhem site. They’d asked me to write about victims or villains in my fiction. I was rather shocked, since I didn’t think I wrote either. I’m actually rather passionate about the subject. So here’s what I gave them instead.
I try not to write either victims or villains. When talking about the characters in my books, I don’t even use the words “heroes” and “villains.” Protagonists and antagonists, sure, but not villains and never victims.
Yes. Some characters in my books become victims within the unfolding of events. Perhaps the character I’ve been given the most grief over is Citrine. I will admit that in the course of the “Wolf Series” (also known as the “Firekeeper Saga”), Citrine goes though a really bad patch.
As for villains, I’m a firm believer that no one, not even historical figures – like Stalin or Hitler – who were responsible for the deaths and torture of many thousands of people, gets up in the morning, rubs his or her hands briskly together, and says: “Ah-hah! I think I’ll do something really evil today.”
For this reason, in my novels you’re not going to find any glowing eye in the sky brooding over a devastated landscape. If characters dress all in black with skulls for jewelry, they’re into Goth fashion.
What you will find in my novels are people who commit completely heinous acts (like having their own child’s finger chopped off) and yet still manage to believe that what they are doing is all for the greater good.
Yes. I do believe in evil, but I also believe in the capacity of intelligent beings of any type to justify their actions so they come out as the “good guys.” Read interviews with serial killers. Most see themselves as the victims. The same goes for leaders of genocidal armies, mass suicides, or even professional torturers. It’s all the other guy’s fault or, at creepy best, a bit of fun that got out of control.
I’ve never been one of those writers – and I know some who do this – who deliberately create a character to serve as a victim in order to manipulate reader reaction. I’ve heard writers brag about doing this: creating the cute kid or kitten or whatever that is meant to die and so bring tears to the reader’s eyes.
When I hear this sort of discussion, I have to dig my nails into the palm of my hand and force a polite nod. I really despise such deliberate manipulation as sloppy writing and abuse of the reader.
If a character in one of my books is harmed, I feel it. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve wept for these fictional people. When I had to write the scene where Changer loses his eye – a scene that had to be “on-stage” – I wrote around it until I could get up the courage.
So, victims and villains. You’ll find them both in my works, but I never think of them as such. To me, they’re all people, doing what they do because that’s how the world has worked out for them.
Note: A version of this piece originally appeared on the blog site Magic and Mayhem in March of 2010.