• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:

    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!



Writing Villains that Rock

Once upon a time, villains were bad to the core. They did bad things for evil gain and that was all there was to it—soulless, unaccountable, wicked.

 This is no longer the case.

A contemporary villain, like the shape-shifting Daos (pictured left) from Quantum Encryption, is fully fleshed out and has all the ingredients that makes a good hero—they are on a journey, they have strong motivations, much is at stake, much is risked, the choices are hard, they believe in their cause and they are believable to the reader. In this way, the villain is just like the hero/heroine only they have contrary goals/moral/cultural conditioning. The writer these differences and uses them to challenge, test and block our hero. This only rings true if the villain is authentically formed and fully actualized. These villains come in many forms.

The Shadow Villain. Like Gollum in LOTR, this character represents the ‘dark side’ of the hero/heroine. He is a nemesis but a personal one. The readers ‘gets’ where he’s coming from—boating accident leads to finding a ring that haunt him for the rest of his life. This kind of villain can be a key player in the story, elucidating the history, world building and nature of an ‘evil’ object (the power of the one ring). In the end, this shadow villain may guide the hero through the darkness and like Gollum, succeed in the quest, even unintentionally, where the hero could not. The chance for redemption is always present. We are saddened by their demise.

The Betrayal Villain
. Like Cyper in the Matrix or Darth Vader in Star Wars, this type of villain was once on our hero/heroine’s side. As betrayer he creates the opportunity to do bad things AND tell the ‘other side’ of the story. The reader gets to hate this one particularly because it feels like they had a choice and made the wrong one—to go against our hero. The chance for redemption is present up until the end. If they make the ‘wrong’ choice, we cheer their demise. Standing ovation.

Super villain. Like Sauron in LOTR, the Dark Side of the Force in Star Wars, or the Machine Mind in the Matrix, the super villain is all powerful. There is an impersonal quality to them, like a force of nature. We do not ‘know’ them unless they have a representative with a growth arc or history (Darth Vader, Agent Smith). Only through these individuals is the super villain accessible in a personal way. As a force of nature, the super villain is the obstacle for the hero/heroine and one that is usually woven into the world building.

The Anti-Hero. Like Battlestar Galactica’s Number Six and Patrick Süskind’s Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from Perfume, these are serious ‘villains’ but the story is told from their POV. Sometimes they do ‘bad’ things (terrible things) but only to ‘bad’ ( like Dexter). In this case we love that justice is served. They may also be bad, or mad, and do terrible things for no good reason at all, but we are riveted to their story because it’s so interesting. The anti-hero is a way to tell the villains side of the tale while suspending judgment. The concept of the anti-hero is discussed more on Writing Excuses, a great resource. Also see my notes from a recent hero/villain workshop.

Who is a favourite villain on your bookshelf right now? In film? I’d love to hear about them. Comments welcome.

Kim is the author of the Quantum  Enchantment and the Quantum Encryption series. Her new book ‘Journey by Night‘ is out September 1, 2011. Read more about her books at KimFalconer.com

6 Responses

  1. Nice!
    There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a good villain, which is why I chose to start my own series with a clear villain as the protagonist. He’s not just villainous in what he does, but in his background, personality, looks and (eventually) title as well. Writing him was great fun.

    I think the best villains are always at least a bit sympathetic, and maybe pathetic as well. I remember the first time we ever saw Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies, and I was intrigued by the way he came across as vulnerable as well as menacing. Maybe villains are always more interesting if you pity them as well as dislike them.

    But, of course, there’s a difference between “villain” and “antagonist”. G.R.R.Martin is great at that. He doesn’t have any villains at all; just characters who happen to be on opposing sides to each other, and some are more likeable than others. When I said I got my inspiration from him, I meant that I had been trying to emulate that. Aim high, I guess.

    • Katie, I agree, there is nothing quite so satisfying as a good villain and I do appreciate your storytelling from the ‘villain’ POV. (Arren is sympathetic!) And yes, we have to have that, some kind of connection to the villain, if we are going to immerse in the story. If we feel compassion or can relate to even one of their motives, they immediately become more interesting, more compelling.

      GRRM nails it. What a powerful example the kinds of multidimensional characters really great spec fic portrays!

      • Semi sympathetic, maybe! He might be villainous, but I tried to make him a human being as well. Or, at least, a former human being.

        And damn straight on Mr Martin! He was my hero when I was first starting out.

      • Arren is a great character, villan or not! Villan/Hero; it’s all a matter of POV, and hence the story the writer has chosen to tell. Most good villans are internally justified, if not completely justified, in their actions and it is really only because they are opposed to the “heroes” of the story that they are villans. I got sent this link today which was pretty cool: http://www.onlinedegree.net/10-movie-villains-whose-actions-were-totally-justified/

      • Fabulous link. Thank you.

        All great examples of complex and well motivated ‘bad guys’. Really, it is all about perspective.

        What’s that native American saying? From the great perspective, all roads are good. 🙂

      • Nice article! I once read something similar on Cracked.com (love that site); I’ve always been fascinated by that sort of thing.

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