Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Let's Discuss Villains

Heyhey, today I'm discussing villains with y'all. If you haven't already seen various announcements, as a part of Because You Love to Hate Me, Bloomsbury is starting twitter chats about villains on Mondays from now through July 24th. I've responded to the couple of tweets that have gone out thus far, and figured that today I'd expand on my 140 character answers.

Villains!! It's all about villains!

If you'd like to see my 140 character response to this, it's here.
If you'd like to quote tweet at Bloomsbury, here's their original tweet.

There are so many awesome Pinterest images for villains. Like genderbent Disney villains, Once Upon a Time fanboards, thoughts on creating good villains. If you want to spend ages thinking about villains or fangirling about them, Pinterest is your place.

I've chatted a lot with Ameriie on what makes a good villain, and we've tended to agree that villainy is often a matter of perspective. A villain is just a character who is in opposition to the hero. If you want a great villain, you want a great character. A great character comes from developing their goals, hopes, personalities, etc. But making sure that they still feel human to us, otherwise it's harder for us to identify with them.

Like, look. Voldemort is the villain of the Harry Potter series, but he's not a great villain. He's a symbolic villain and potentially a sociopath. (Sociopathic villains often come across as flat to me, though they're obviously real people too.). He is afraid of dying, we see bits and pieces of his life, he loves power, he has an essentially white supremacist type of viewpoint, and he's a tyrant. He does have hopes and goals, sure. But he has no humanity, which makes him fall flat for me as a great villain. He's a good antagonist to Harry's goals and a great counterpoint for all the thematic conceptions and symbols within HP. But character-wise, meh.

Umbridge, though. Umbridge is a GREAT villain. Because we get to see her hopes and goals, and even though she's a terrible human and treats others terribly, she feels human and realistic. The quirks that she has are what Voldemort doesn't. It's a lot of the same characterization about power and dying and loneliness and being a tyrant and so on, but she's got that annoying little hem hem, and her cats, and her pink outfits, and her style of teaching. The humanizing details make her more like a real character, which makes her a better villain.

If you'd like to see my 140 character response to this, it's here.
If you'd like to quote tweet at Bloomsbury, here's their original tweet.

This question is hard. As I was discussing with a friend, sometimes it feels like "a great villain" is conflated with a villain that you can crush on, in YA. When I tried thinking of various villains, I realized that the majority that I liked turned out not to be villainous at all. They were romantic interests who were originally viewed as being villainous and then had good intentions. Some villains - of books that I loved - were flat, and some, even if they were good villains, are sooooo not worthy of crushes. (Fun fact: I originally misread this tweet prompt as 'favorite villains' and tweeted that Dracula was one of my villain crushes. Lol, no thank you, I'd like to not be eaten to death.)

With that in mind, I chose three villain types:

1.) The Darkling from the Shadow and Bone trilogy:

I like The Darkling because we don't even know the tip of the iceberg, with all that he's done. When exactly was he born? What did it take for him to want more? What started him on this path?

I like The Darkling because we get this sense that he's teetering between good and bad, and there's some hope for redemption. That potential to switch sides always makes for tense situations and great character conflict, IMO.

I like The Darkling because he's not a real romantic interest. For a villain crush, you have to actually recognize that it wouldn't be a great thing to crush on the villain in real life. At least for me, anyway. Because if I actually imagine myself with someone as arrogant, occasionally condescending, and powerful as The Darkling, I think I'd be pretty unhappy. (I mean, like Howl from Howl's Moving Castle. He's adorable to read about, but dear god I do not want a boyfriend to cast green slime on the house because he's in a mood.) BUT as a fantasy, sure.

2.) The gods in the Inheritance trilogy:

Omg, I was looking up blog posts where I'd talked about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and WHAT THEY DON'T EXIST, how!! Because I'd filmed a "2016 favorites" video and then never edited it. A winter recap and never edited it. ARGH! Suffice it to say that I LOVE THAT BOOK AND THAT TRILOGY AND YOU SHOULD ALL READ IT. (If it weren't so off-topic, I'd be rambling about it! Ask me in the comments for more info!).

So the major crux of that series is that Gods are on this Earth-like planet and they are as emotional as humans. They're emotional humans with superpowers, essentially. So they're as flawed as us, and suffice it to say, they are definitely neither good nor bad. For instance, in book 1, you learn pretty quickly that to end the war between gods, some gods were enslaved and a ruling family was charged with keeping them in line. Now, their rule over these gods isn't perfect. So sometimes a god does something petty. Sometimes that means people have died. They are neither wholly good nor wholly bad - they are enslaved, they are angry, they have killed folks in their anger.

They're fascinating characters. Even the god who I thought I wouldn't like because of book 1 gets more developed in other books, and just go read these books pleasekthx.

3.) Any of Meredith Duran's villain/romantic interests:

Does a romantic interest count? Yes, well, she plays around with the idea of them acting as villains. Villain is constantly repeated in description of many of the male characters. They're often put in opposition to the heroines, so their goals conflict and they are the "villain" of the book until that conflict resolves. I once gave recs on nerdy romantic interests. There I wrote: "Meredith Duran is one of my favorite romance novel authors. Seriously read any book by her (I might actually write a post to that effect)... Her characterization and writing are amazing, and everything is rendered so much more tense, steamy, etc through her great character dynamics." Yes. She's one of my favorite authors because of her characters. She is the definition of villain crushes. She writes adult historical romance, so I'll have to find someone like her in YA or adult SFF.

Pretty much all of my villain crushes blur the line between good and bad, and redemption. That's my thing. My jam.

Do you know anyone who fits that bill??!

What do you think makes for a great villain and who are your villain crushes? Let's discuss!

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