Today, whilst sitting in the best writing spot I know, drinking some excellent old red (why is it all gone?) I had a think about my baddie-guys. This came about as a result of some google researching: what made the Star Wars prequels into such god-awful piles of junk (I wanted to like them. I really tried).
Apparently one of the (many) failings was a lack of clear direction for the bad guys. I get this argument.
Palpatine might be a very evil dude, but everything he does is political and behind the scenes. If he’d just once strangled a youngling when there were no jedi watching, our investment in his character (and in screaming for his eventual demise) would have shot through the roof. The political intrigue angle is fine, but even then his motives were a little abstract (I followed them, but it wasn’t as much fun as a tense struggle where the heroes actually know what they’re fighting to stop). Better to have a simple bad guy goal, and then complications all around it (e.g. – we build a deathstar!). It’s also hard to get behind the heroes when every other villain is a bumbling doofus. Case in point – General Grievous. He had a phlegmy cough, acted seemingly at random, and his organs were exposed ready to be shot by the first person to notice.
The films should have screamed “here’s a big bad, and they’re really bad, look – they kicked a puppy, and you need to hate them, and cheer for the goodie. Maul did it in Phantom Menace, and they killed him off way too quickly.
So! My baddies. Working on it.
I’ve got “Nemesis” bad-guy, who will hound our hero and keep him running throughout.
There’s also “Come Back to the Dark-Side” bad-girl, who wants to lure our hero back to a life of villainy.
Finally there are the two sides of the coin, one baddie who represents the “Forces of Order”, and the other representing the “Forces of Chaos”. Our hero has to avoid being sandwiched between or forced to choose a side, and learn to walk his own path.
One of these bad-guys is the BIG BAD, who will be willing to wrap a thousand puppies in cling film and launch them into the sun if it gets her any closer to her goals. That’ll hopefully make readers scream for a hero/heroine to appear. Not that there are going to be puppies, or any form of animal cruelty in my book, mind you. Okay there might be puppies. Safe puppies.
So yeah. There are lots of kinds of bad-guys. What are some of your favourite bad-guys, and what makes a good bad guy? I’ll start – Tim Curry in ANYTHING. Because he’s Tim Curry.