Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Hangs in the Balance

Like most things in writing, villains are a delicate balance. Not enough evil and you get this:

Too much evil and you get this:

The most effective villains are like this:

See what I mean? Delicate balance.

The weird thing is, though... true villains aren't balanced. They've leaned too far over the edge and lost their footing... or maybe they just swan-dived into the abyss. Either way, they're free-falling down a deep, dark hole. 

And they like it. 

They presents well. They look normal. They smile and talk. Give their seats up to little old ladies on the bus and rescue cats out of trees. They have children and drive minivans. And all the while, they harbor darkness.

Not that we don’t all harbor darkness—we do. We all have thoughts and desires we would never act on because not only do we know the difference between right and wrong, we respect it. 

We're balanced.

In order to write an effective villain, we have to knock ourselves off balance. We have to be willing to go there. You know, there. We have to be willing to search out the dark spots we keep hidden and poke at them until they bleed. To get the page a bit dirty, to scare ourselves silly. To dangle our toes over the abyss.

There have been times--many times--when I've written something and afterward wondered if there was something fundamentally wrong with me. My husband blames (for lack of a better word) my childhood. He's probably right.

Whatever the reason, I'm thankful for my keen sense of balance because no matter how many times I dangle my toes, I'm able to right myself without falling. 

And now, just for fun, some of my all-time favorite villains:

and last, but not least...

who's your favorite all time villain?

Maegan Beaumont is the author of  Carved in Darkness, available through Midnight Ink, May 8th, 2013


  1. My favorite villain is more of the sort of person Jack Nicholson can portray when he really tries to be bad. He is so effective that my wife refuses to watch any of his movies in which he plays to this evil genius that lurks within.

    Congrats on the good reviews that are pouring in on Carved.

  2. I read The Shining every once in a while... Nicholson scared the crap out of me in that movie!
    Thank you, Brock! I can't wait to share the review from Suspense Magazine... my first official review--and it was good!