Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Brilliant Baddies

Think about the last mystery or suspense that you read. Was it gripping or maybe even a little scary? If it was, most likely it had an outstanding antagonist.

Some of the best intensity in fiction is due to a fleshed-out bad-guy. He (or she, as the case may be) has a background, fears, goals, and purposes just like the hero of the story. Especially in a well-written mystery, these folks blend-in to the intricacies of the rest of the cast.

Consider some outstanding villains:

  • Mrs. Danver's in Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca
  • Captain Ahab in Moby Dick
  • Moriarty all of the Sherlock Holmes stories
  • Wickham in Pride and Prejudice or Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility
  • Hannibal Lecter in Thomas Harris's horror novels
All of these had aspirations and reasons, however twisted, to act the way they did. All had broken pasts that stimulated their behaviors and drove them to their ultimate dooms.

One of my favorites is ARIIA from the movie "Eagle Eye." This computer had no background, but did have the programming of noble purpose, to protect the country. The programming tilted, though, so that the means by which the purpose would be accomplished completely destroyed the virtue of the desired result.

But ARIIA had the redeeming quality of determined purpose for the good of the whole. Often an antagonist will have something that redeems them. I've seen some who foster amazing gardens or own loving dogs. Others who adore their children or, like Moriarty, are brilliant or artistically talented.

Anything that makes a baddie realistic amps up the intensity or fear level. Wouldn't you agree?

Your Turn: Do you have an antagonist who stands out in your memory? What made him or her great? 

Marji's novella, No-L, No-L, No-L, is included in the Christmas collection
Warm Mulled Kisses which will release as an e-book on October 15, 2015.

Marji Laine

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