Monday, June 17, 2019

Redeemable vs Non-redeemable Villains

© Can Stock Photo / hjalmeida
I enjoy streaming a syndicated radio talk show called, Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis. The show has interesting, offbeat topics and listening to it is a nice way to unwind at the end of a busy workday. The other night Clyde was talking about the latest Godzilla movie, and how over time the title character has evolved from an evil beast that must be destroyed to a defender of the planet. That's quite a leap indeed, and it was a fascinating discussion. (To hear a podcast please click on the link above.) 

While I don't write science fiction or horror myself, those genres do allow more leeway for using symbolism to include political undertones, as may be the case with Godzilla. That said, when writing fiction there are certain unwritten rules that we authors must follow because it's what readers expect, and high on the list is that good always triumphs over evil.

Fiction plotlines, regardless of the genre, are driven by conflict. The purpose of an antagonist is to create that conflict by interfering with the protagonist and trying to block whatever goal he or she is trying to achieve. This is why most, but not all, antagonists are also villains, and the more devious and evil the villain, the more drama and intensity to the story. In real life, however, people can and do make poor choices, but there are some who learn from their mistakes, and they make changes as to not repeat them. In fiction, these people would be redeemable characters. An example would be Josh, from my most recent Marina Martindale novel, The Letter.  Josh is a con artist working a Ponzi scheme with two unseen characters, but as he took shape I noticed he had some redeeming qualities, so I made him into a redeemable villain. And since I don't want to spoil the plot for those of you who haven't read the book, I'll sum it up by saying things aren't always as they appear.

Most of my villians, however, are unrepentant. Some, like Maggie in The Deception, remain defiant even when they're being carted off to prison. Most however, are their own undoing. They're either shot by the police, or they're killed in accidents while trying to escape. They are the unredeemable villains, the Godzillas, who have to have their comeuppance, otherwise readers won't accept it. After all, karma's a bitch, not only in fiction, but in real life as well.


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