Writer’s Log: The Scientific Case for Evil
Back cover blurb:
Back cover blurb:
All of us can dream up some pretty ugly scenarios.
Depraved, disturbing, deranged. I’d wager you could come up with some horrific scenes with some downright criminal activity. Stuff you’d feel you could never put to paper. So, how is it that some authors can actually write that stuff and not be thought of as insane?
For my latest work in progress I’ve decided to abandon some of my social constraints and write of gawd-awful acts and heinous behavior. Immolation, horse stomping children, murdering a pregnant woman, soon the dismemberment of a “bad dude.”
Holy Hell Batman! That’s some nasty shit. Are you sure you want to have your name associated with such wickedness? Are you sure you want your editor/mother (78) to read of such unspeakable cruelty? What will she think of you now? Disturbed? Perverted?
Frankly, I don’t know. But, I figure if I can visualize it, then so can others, and if it fits the story, then so be it.
But, day-yam, that’s some corrupt sewage leaking out of my brain.
Have you written content you know others would find disturbing? Did their consternation and potential ostracization influence your writing?
What makes the best stories?
I would wager that the best stories have the best villains. Sure you need a good hero/protagonist — or at least an adequate one. But without the threat of a convincing villain, how can the conflict truly escalate?
With this in mind I wonder if the approach I’ve been using to create story lines has been wrong. I typically come up with a situation that needs fixing or a problem that needs a repair or dissolution and then build a character who could accomplish this. Or I create a character bent on some journey and some wrong they feel compelled to right. I would then have to fabricate the antagonist as a counter agent to the hero.
But what if we dreamed up a villain first and then contrived how to fight, defeat or fail against this anti-hero. Invert the creation process. Most likely I’m just late to the party on this concept. But, as a mental exercise, how about a list of villains to spur thoughts of stories in which we create heroes to take-them-down. I’ll call these “root” villainous foundations. Individual villains can be derived from each of these.
From such a list we could mix-and-match to create a bad dude which we could then impose upon the world. From the situation created by such a villain we would then have automatically created the need of the protagonist. We would have a compelling force which would drive our hero forward. The villain must be confronted, challenged and battled. Perhaps if we start with the bad and derive the good based on the opposing force we’ll always have the protagonist’s motives in mind.
For instance let’s pick mental health and indifference: There’s a young man who believes he’s invisible (psychosis). He lives in a town where people are very private and standoffish. When he interacts (or tries to) with the townsfolk, they ignore him. No one ever looks his way, says hi, stops their cars as he crosses the street. The villain here is the town in combination with his mental illness. From such a loose but evocative situation, we can now build a story. The character would have to face both of these villains to fulfill the plot’s premise.
Let’s do another. Two brother’s are separated at birth. One gets raised in luxury in high government. The other gets raised by a sensei. Sounds formulaic — the first sounds like he will become the villain. But what if we introduce jealousy in both characters. The second, though disciplined, has always been jealous of the first’s life of leisure. The first, covetous of the second’s dedicated teacher. But let’s not stop there. Separated at birth? Why? Ah, part of an evil experiment done by a third entity — the true villain.
Now that we have the villains defined, we can build a story around the protagonist and their struggle to defeat their foe.
Here is a villain list pulled (and condensed) from the net: