In Which Our Heroine Discusses Villains

January brought the return of one of my favorite guilty pleasures.

i speak of the updated version of Dallas of course. The show that created a phenomena last summer that I still describe as “John Ross feels.” i was thinking about how the show crafts it’s more villainous characters the other day, mostly because I had an upcoming class on writing villains. the one thing I already know going into the class is that villains should be complex as well as the hero of their own story. I’m trying to remember where i heard that phrase from, but it makes sense to me. Dallas really brings that out I think, especially with John Ross Ewing.

John Ross earns sympathy because his romantic life is pretty screwed up. He will always be second place to the girl he really wants. His childhood was a screwed up mess because let’s face it, being the son of the infamous J.R. does not lead to stability in anything non-financial. He will always try to please his father who has an agenda all of his own.

Of course he is a villain, and he’s willing to use black-mail, law breaking and all sorts of dirty tactics to get his way. But last season, when he was accused of splitting up his cousin’s relationship with Elena and framed for a murder he didn’t commit, you felt for him. Even as he’s plotting to take over the family property, you know he’s not all bad. When he screws up and looses Elena, you don’t blame her for leaving, but you kind of do feel for him. You don’t want him to destroy the more sympathetic characters, but you start to get why he’s so ticked off about the hand the universe dealt him. When he goes to the dark side and asks his daddy to teach him to do things the J.R. Ewing way, you’re kind of sad to see him give in. At the same time, he is so wickedly charming, good looking, clever and cheeky that you enjoy him as a villain and sometimes, you like seeing him get the victories that he does. John Ross is a scene stealer and with the passing of Larry Hagman and J.R. both, he’s going to be on deck in a big way.

Any villains out there that you love to hate or even love to love?

In Which Our Heroine Reflects on Super Heroes

My current work-in-progress is not the only idea I’m working on. I’m of the form opinion that a writer should have several ideas because you never know what will sell. If you get lucky enough that one of your first ideas sell, then you already have other ideas for your next project. Win-win!

The other night, the husband, mother-in-law and I were watching the commentary for The Avengers because I adore Joss and like to use commentary to get into his brain as a writer. Besides, I’ve been tossing around an idea fora thought of a superhero idea right now. I’m fascinated with the thought of what our world would be like if super heroes were a common fact of life. What would they be like? How did they get into the hero business? Who are their enemies? How does this impact their family and personal life. Since I write YA, how does this huge thing work when it collides with all of the stuff that impacts a teenager’s life?

That and I know I will get to write great one-liners.

On the other hand, my brain likes to think in terms of a series which gets trickier. I am a firm believer in making sure your villains are not just evil “Mwahaha” kind of people. “Why am I evil? Because I can!” doesn’t work for me. I love Marvel’s Loki for such a reason. I think you get a more interesting villain when they are a person with their own struggles and problems who take the opposite way of solving them than our protagonist takes. For another great literary example compare the origins of Voldemort and Harry Potter. You feel sympathy for both of their origins, but when Tom Riddle becomes gradually twisted by it and makes the choices he does, he becomes the undeniable villain of the series. It reminds you of how Harry’s decisions and the support of his friends and surrogate family are what keeps him from a similar fate.

Maybe I will get to the superhero stuff eventually, but for me, the hardest part will be making sure my villains stack up.