Villains: How Much Insanity Is Too Much by Diane GastonA reviewer of one of my early books said that my villain was stereotypical. She was right. He was just too over the top. Too insane. Too cliche.
As a former mental health therapist, I took the criticism to heart and rethought my depiction of villains. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to make them too insane.
Most villains are at least sociopathic. (another word—psychopath; technically—antisocial personality disorder). Look here for a great site describing a sociopath.
Briefly, a sociopath is a person who has no regard for right and wrong, who may often violate the law and the rights of others, lands himself in frequent trouble or conflict. A sociopath may lie, behave violently, have drug and alcohol problems, and may not be able to fulfill responsibilities to family, work or school. (Mayoclinic.com)
This is a good foundation to craft a villain. The temptation is to stick only to the symptoms. This makes the villain more of a caricature rather than a three dimensional person.
So here’s my fix.
Put the villain under the same scrutiny as the hero and heroine. Give him his own Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Create a backstory for him. Give him some redeeming features. Make him like a real person. Three dimensional.
In reality sociopaths can look like the rest of us. They can enter reputable professions, attend church, marry, have children. But within a normal looking life they can be highly egocentric; they can lie, steal, betray.
So, what do you think? What do you think makes the best fictional villain? How much sociopathy is too much?
(Come back Wednesday, Mar 25, to read my take on Heroes—How Much Damage Is Too Much?)
Visit Diane’s website for a sneak peek of her eShort Story, The Unlacing of Miss Leigh, and her novella, Justine and the Noble Viscount, in THE DIAMONDS OF WELBOURNE MANOR. Diane’s contest is still on, too!