by Bethany Maines
So today as I was driving to the Starbucks (because I was too lazy to make my own oatmeal) I saw a woman driving with her gas cap perched on the hood of her car. I was going to honk and try and indicate the issue when I realized that little door covering the gas hole was completely missing. So I didn’t honk. I figured that clearly this wasn’t the first time she had a problem like this and it might be better for her if she just rid the car of all accessories that weren’t bolted on. Less to keep track of.
Facebook friend reaction says this was not the appropriately kind, good-Samaritan thing to do. I should have honked and pointed, or pulled up alongside and yelled my message. My reaction to such ideas? Meh. What would be the point? She’d probably just do it again three weeks from now. Some people are just Teflon coated against help. And then I realized… I was the villain! Admittedly, the villain on a very small scale in a very tiny drama, but still, I was the bad guy!
Maybe I shouldn’t be so excited, but when I’m writing I sometimes I have a problem with villains. What excuse could possibly be enough to justify the villainous behavior of the bad guy? If my villain isn’t a sociopath or someone with a personality disorder of the highest degree, then they have to have a reason for doing what they do. At some point, they have to choose to do the bad things. And that where I struggle – coming up with reasons of sufficient validity to actually kill someone (or any of the other dastardly deeds they do). I remember a villain in one of my early attempts a novel writing seemed to have been cut from a Dickens novel – abused, with an evil uncle, penniless and starved as a child he set out to seek his revenge on all and sundry. He was one twirling moustache away from being Snidely Whiplash. My writer’s group told me in kind and restrained terms that just like my hero couldn’t exhibit all the traits and talents of herodom, possibly it would be more realistic if my bad guy acted like a human being.
In The Wild One Marlon Brando was asked “What are you rebelling against?” and he replied “What do you got?” Maybe that’s closer to the truth of villainy. It’s not that they’re not bad for a particular reason; maybe some villains are bad because they just don’t care.