Do you know the thing I love the most about being a writer? It’s not the creation of beautiful prose (though, that is a lovely outcome). It’s not the fact that, when I’m finally published and I gain super-author status I will be able to finally stay at home in my PJ’s for a living (hey, it could totally happen).
No, the reason I love writing is because I, with all my inadequacies and failures and social ineptitudes, get to be a villain.
Let’s face it people. From the moment we sit down to craft a story, we become devious creatures. We build human beings of our own devising just to put them through hell for the enjoyment of others. And we do it with a smile on our faces (inherently villainous). We spend days, weeks, and months picking the right words to manipulate the reader into thinking what we want them to (true super-villainy).
My fine friend, the craft of writing is a master class in being an evil mastermind.
Now, you might say that a character isn’t technically a person, so that doesn’t count.
My reply would be that you’ve obviously never been in a room full of Sherrilyn Kenyon fans. To the reader experiencing your story, the characters should always be people. Complex and issue-riddled, they have faults just like the frail flesh and blood variety. The reader has to see them as real people, or they won’t care what happens to them.
So, once the character is complete and real and human, it’s our job to knock them flat, destroy their lives, kill their friends and loved ones, maim them, torture them, and do pretty much whatever we can to make what’s left of their lives as difficult as possible. Then, we become really cruel. We make them figure a way out all by themselves. This paper person must be active, so no shortcuts, no divine providence. Providence, after all, is the realm of gods, and for your story, you are god-a villainous god. And don’t forget, like the arena of old, this is all for entertainment’s sake.
My, my. We are evil, aren’t we?
But the most dastardly part is what we do to the reader. Our entire craft is completely based on manipulation, obfuscation, and downright lying. From the reliance on descriptive word choice and using the active voice, to how characters walk and what’s in their refrigerators, we work to guide the reader’s subconscious perceptions. It’s kinda like when movie theaters used to splice subliminal advertising into their previews to get the audience to go buy things from the concession stand. Done right, the reader never knows they’re being manipulated. But make no mistake. What we’re doing is convincing the reader what to think, how to feel, and when to do both.
I’m feeling a little like Big Brother in an Orwellian kinda way, aren’t you?
Being able to manipulate the reader like this is, of course, a very difficult and delicate kind of manipulation that takes much hard work, years of on the job study, many maligning critiques (yet more proof of my point), and plotting (See? I just made a pun. I must be evil.). It’s not easy, but highly enjoyable when you see all the minions you create who will love you for being the black-hearted creature of darkness you really are.
You’re not supposed to tell anyone about that part! ;D
Back when I had a mustache, I used to twirl it and chortle maniacally to myself while I wrote. I never knew this was the reason why. Awesome post, Leigh!
Awesome post, Leigh! I’ve never really thought about it like that before. Now that I have, I think I would prefer to think of myself as a benevolent god, giving my characters tasks and trials which are for their own good and which will eventually lead them to the reward they desire and which they have now suffered much to gain.
I find it interesting that the last post by Kevin said that some of us write in order to better ourselves, and this post says we do it so we can be evil.
We must be only part evil. I mean good wins out in the end, right? The whole moral thing…oh, never mind. I write horror short stories so I guess I’ll just have to readjust my self-perceptions.
I just had one of the best times writing my novella because of the villains. They were evil, but sarcastic, and it was just a sheer joy to write for those voices.
Kylie, You do realize you’re admitting to having a god complex, right? 😉
Brandon, I am improving myself. I’m becoming better at being evil.
Colette, don’t readjust anything. The best villains think they’re the good guys.
How dastardly true!!! The greatest joy I felt was when another writer gave me permission to be cruel. Until then, I was a wimp! My villanous super powers flourish now and even though I squint with squeamishness, I kill bugs with a confident crunch! The world is a snow globe in my hands – I can turn it upside down, shake it gleefully while I watch the little guys flailing for their survival …… yes, the joy of villans – whether they’re in our psyche or evil wizards, I love them all!