Sunday, September 10, 2006

Villains... Oh, Joy

I think I must be a contrarian!

Jacqueline blogs fascinatingly about the politics and ownership of land, and I want to talk about the politics of sex, and who owns another person's private parts.

Linnea blogs about her superb heroines, and I decide to blog about villains.

A really good villain can dominate a book. Some appeal to us as sexy in their badness, although perhaps that was not the original author's intention. Darth Vader. Dracula.

This seems superficial to say, but I do sometimes wonder whether Atilla the Hun would have made such a compelling hero if he hadn't been portrayed by a very attractive actor. That wasn't a distraction with Darth Vader. I won't amuse myself by discussing the charms of the various actors who have played Dracula.

I must say, I have trouble forgetting the Dracula who turned into a huge white bald bat with rather manly wedding tackle.

My most powerful villain is the god-Emperor Djohn-Kronos, who dominates MATING NET (at least for me). I gradually fell in love with him, and one day I will have to write him a happy ending, although he can never get married. That's the problem with publishing a wide ranging Family Tree.

By the way, I wonder how many books have the villain on the cover? MATING NET does, of course. That's Djohn-Kronos who has just seized power (symbolized by the King in his hand). Susan Grant's Legend of Banzai Maguire has the bad boy emperor in the background (I think) as the cool heroine scrambles away.

Well, I'm happy to say that the laughing male in the surf on the cover of INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL is not the villain.

I've just spent ten terribly long days and nights doing the edits for INSUFFICIENT MATING MATERIAL, and much of the trouble was caused by the villain.

He wasn't quite nasty enough, and one of his reasons for being the way he is, was too interesting for my editor (unless I added more details). Since I don't like to explain all bad behavior on insanity or an uncomplicated delight in evil-doing, I had to add lines.

All well and good, you might think, but IMHO a villain can't just crank up the nastiness out of the blue. Either his
nastiness has to be apparent all the way through, or else his nasty habits have to build like storm clouds
gathering throughout the course of the book.

That takes time for me, especially since there are knock-on consequences. Pages and ink cost money, and there is a certain size that a mass market paperback needs to be ... or you can't fit 48 in a box? Or they topple off the bookshelves if placed face out? I don't know. I don't argue. However, if my villain needs an ugly habit (like scratching himself in public?) and doing it once might be excused by the reader, so he has to do it often, then less necessary lines devoted to birds, flowers, eviscerating fish have to be cut.

I'd already cut at least 150 pages from the manuscript, so removing more was no easy matter.

The copy editor has it now. IMM should be released in February 2007.

Best wishes,

1 comment:

  1. At the first sight of Darth Vader in the original STAR WARS, he took my breath away. The ultimate archetypal Dark Lord. When it turned out he had a tragic backstory, that was even better. I found the pouty teenage Anakin quite a let-down, but maybe no backstory could have lived up to the mythic resonance suggested in the original trilogy. I'd often wondered whether making Darth Vader Luke's father was an afterthought on Lucas's part. I was delighted to learn that the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker was the core of the epic from the beginning. (He originally planned to make the whole storyline into one film. Can you imagine what a mess that would have been?)

    As for Count Dracula, from my first reading of DRACULA (at age 12) I wondered about his side of the story. Fred Saberhagen's THE DRACULA TAPE (1975) was the book I'd always wanted to write, only better.