I have said that most of what we call evil is really something else. What, you ask?
Mostly it is carelessness. Mindlessness. Actions with unintentioned results.
Many people disagree with me. They point to who they consider evil and proclaim, “See? There! Evil PURE AND SIMPLE by way of the Eighth Dimension!”* …or some such.
Folks tell me that Hitler was evil. They say that Pol Pot’s Killing Fields were evil. But then, when they talk about the firebombing of Dresden by the RAF and US Air Force, or the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we call it a humane way to stop a war that would take even more lives.
Is evil a real thing, or is it just a point of view? Would the perpetrators of war crimes—people who call the actions just, change their minds if they became the target of the same fate if they were judged? I think they would. Evil is in the eye of the beholder, then, isn’t it?
I admit to being something of a stickler about this topic. I bring it up over and over again. And the reason?
I believe that our villains are, for the most part, cardboard cutouts or childish actors on a makeshift stage. Why? Because—for the most part—we do not give them sufficient reason for the acts the do. Worse, we often claim that their actions are “just because they’re evil”.
In the past I’ve warned that even mass-murderers had a mother. Most were loved as children. Most, at one time or another, dreamed about a bright future.
Something changed those dreams. Something moved the wide-eyed innocence of a child into darker realms, and it is that journey that defines the villains in your story. At least it does if your villain is to be believed.
Today’s challenge: Create on a notepad, or even in your mind, a bad guy who has had a good family, true love, dreams and aspirations. Create a villain that has sorrow in his or her heart, and who has suffered great loss. Find it in yourself to make a villain that has friends who really care for him (or her).
Today’s challenge is to find a way to create a villain who’s defeat (if defeat there will be), will be more than just a “Hah, vile scum, eat flaming death!”
I challenge you to create a human villain.
* A special “No-Prize” to anyone who can attribute the quote above.