Who does it for you then? As reader or writer, do you get a kick out of a good character that does something bad (perhaps revealed as the villain)? Or are you more satisfied if the wicked reveal a glimmer of good in their soul?
I do quite like a secret villain, but they’re all too easy to spot aren’t they? It’s a bit like shouting out ‘The butler did it..!’ If it’s a mystery, you can usually discard all the creepy, unpleasant characters as red herrings. You know full well the killer’s going to be the reverend’s wife or the smiley paper boy.
So, although I love it when I’m genuinely caught out by a secret villain, I have to admit a personal fave of mine is the temptress turned good. And I’m not talking about the tart with a heart here – oh no. I’m looking at the ultimate manhunter. The girl who steals the heroine’s fella and deliberately leaves her satin underwear as a signature. Then – through some spark of compassion or inner angst – she wins a little of your favour at the last moment.
Suddenly you’re praying there’s a sequel so she can have another go. That’s not to say you don’t get a kick out of witnessing her comeuppance, but her inner potential is compelling isn’t it? Think Scarlett O’Hara. Her moments of finer spirit are much more interesting than the predictable niceness of the fragile Miss Melanie. Even if you find it hard to like her, Scarlett’s growth, from flippant brat to determined womanhood, holds such a note of hope.
This presents a challenge for any writer. A two-dimensional out-and-out baddie is jolted into life if you can successfully inject unexpected levels of humanity. We often catch a truer reflection in a dusty window pane than in a gilt mirror.
So give me the bad with a hint of sparkle any day. If you’ve read The Treeman, you’ll know who my bad girl is – Sherbert Shona, the fizzy floozy from Feltham. But I have to confess, allowing her a note of humanity has turned me into a secret villain. Because deep inside, I want the fun of the temptress back…
Contrary is my middle name.
Go on then, your turn. Who’s your most glorious good-to-bad or a brilliant bad-to-good and why?
My next blog will look at writing scenes with a large cast – yep…keyboard crowd control. Watch this space for tips on averting mayhem..!