Sometimes, when writing it’s very easy to forget that there are heroes and that there are villains. I’ll be the first to admit that I can wax lyrical about villains and how they deserve the same treatment as heroes in a story; but I’m also very bad at practicing what I preach. It’s easy to look at a character and go ‘you’re a bad guy, lets make you bad through and through’ and not actually focus on the how’s and whys. They weren’t born bad, they were created that way through life choices or parental influences .. but ultimately, no villain looks at themselves and goes ‘I’m the bad guy’. They look at themselves and go ‘I’m the hero’.
A villain will always be the hero of their own story, and they deserve to be treated like that. Too often they’re portrayed as 2D characters who have no depth of feeling or anything else because it’s just easier to say – they’re a villain, they’re bad and that’s the end of it. Some of the best stories around are great because they create this 3D figure and build them up. Sometimes those villains will do things that cause the reader conflict, because they can see a logic to it. That moment where it’s like … I shouldn’t think this is the right thing, but they aren’t wrong in all of this …
And, by the same token no hero should be whiter than white. At the end of the day, heroes often get to where they are by making mistakes and taking risks that aren’t a ‘pure’ choice so to speak. It shouldn’t be an easy road, where the hero will always take the ‘good’ decisions, they should take those choices that sometimes pits them against the villain and makes the reader question … hang on, whose side am I actually on?
It’s no secret that I love my books and also my comics/graphic novels as well. And sometimes, sometimes there are those rare gems that you hit upon that really bring this home to you. They’re the ones where suddenly you don’t have Mary Sue’s in the lead or as the villain, they’re not caricatures of either side but they make you think … and, in a round about way, they make you question all that life has to offer around you. And that’s really what a good book should do – it should make you think, challenge you without you knowing it, but also allow yourself to get lost in it.
I had that recently, in a historical fiction book where for the first time my own views were .. challenged. I have pretty strong views when it comes to a lot of Tudor fiction, but I read a book that really made me sit up and think and see a different side of things. Suddenly, there was an understanding of just what and why and how … and whilst I might not agree with it, it’s still there. I can see why things happened, rather than just letting my views carry on. But that’s another topic for another day and if I get started on that … I’ll never stop!
Needless to say, for Charlotte and I today is all about heroes and villains … and actually, how very grey they all really are.