Part One – Good vs Evil
So, I am leaving World Building for a little while. I know all the small stuff can get dull after a time, so we are going to discuss characters. I will be working on the urban planning section over the month, and will be adding photos from one of the most impressive of the very early cities. Once it is done, I will repost the link so that you can have a look if you like.
So, characters… They truly are the most important part of any story. After all, the plot is only what happens to the characters, and the world is just where they live.
In my opinion, the characters that are the most fun to write are the evil ones, but they are also not characters that you can afford to take lightly. Along that vein, I am going to focus on the bad guys this time and the good guys next time.
I read somewhere, or heard in a movie, that in the battle between good and evil, evil will always win because good is stupid. In some ways, this statement could be seen as true. Absolute good would be unable to comprehend, predict, or even recognize evil. We don’t see someone who is sad and know that they are sad because we read the symptoms in a book. We know because we have experienced sadness.
In this same way, we recognize evil because we have all had moments of greed, hatred, and at least some of the other characteristics that make up evil.
My father is a devout and very educated Christian. When I am visiting him, we frequently enter into discussions and debates of a theological nature. In the course of one of these discussions, we began to talk about the antichrist, and my father said something that totally changed the way that I deal with my evil characters. He said that when the Antichrist came, he would cure disease, bring about world peace, and solve the problems of poverty. He would be charming, handsome, warm and kind, everything we want in a benevolent leader. He would create a utopian world. The price of admission…
… How many of you said, “Your soul?” HA! If you did, I gotcha. Of course the price would not be your soul. Oh no, instead it would be denying a belief. And who is to say the belief was even real to start with? What’s more likely, that belief or the truth of the world that he has created? Doesn’t it just make more sense to believe in what you can see?
Of course, in the end, we know the price would be your soul, but semantics can make a great deal of difference. Imagine that he walked up to your door, knocked and said. “Here is my wonderful world, in order to get in, give me your soul!” Most people would scream and slam the door. Even for those who are not religious, suddenly prayer would seem like a very good idea.
Now, some aren’t going to be fooled either way, but the majority…
So, how does this idea affect your story? Well, from this talk with my Dad, I have created my rules of Evil. I will use George Lucas's Star Wars 1 & 2 to illustrate each point. (As a note to all those who did not like these movies and have written me to tell me so... I wish for Jar Jar Binks to be accidentally caught by the ears in a food processor and drag the first Anakin in with him... Oops, there's my evil side showing. Yes, the love story made me gag... achccchhhaaaccckkk..., but the man knows how to write a bad guy. And oh my, didn't Liam Neeson make a fine Jedi... Oops, sorry, I digress.)
1) Evil is never simple. If it was, what would the challenge be? Evil has to be complex, overwhelming and a little confusing just to keep people off balance. Otherwise, how would it take hold? Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is up to his eyeballs in plots and counterplots. He is instigating both sides of a war for Pete's sake. (Who is Pete?)
2) Evil is Seductive: It has to look good, taste good and smell good. If evil is ugly, scary, stinky and horrible, who would follow it? It also knows what you want. Obi Wan says it best in the second movie, Palpatine is very good at following the shifting [moods] of the Senate. He also is very good at sucking poor little Ani into his web by playing to his weakness--his ego.
3) Evil is Smart: How else could it become a problem? It has to be able to outthink and outwit all potential threats to its plan. If you think about it, the odds really are stacked against evil because there is only one of it, and a thousand fronts from which it can be attacked by good. There are a great many Jedi, but only one Dark Lord of the Sith. He has to be cagey to the extreme to do what he needs to do.
4) Evil is Worldly: It is hip, it is now. It speaks with a voice modern to your world and cares about the current issues and problems of that world. This is evident all through both movies. He cares about what everyone cares about.
5) Evil is Reasonable: It is only trying to do what is best for everyone. Why can't the good guys relax and realize that everything will be fine if everyone just goes along with his extremely practical ideas? Palpatine is the ultimately reasonable villain. Every step he takes seems like the most reasonable and best idea for everyone. Well, now we have to form an army for the safety of the Republic. (Insert disarming puppy dog look here.) Of course I don't want there to be a war, but if they insist... It’s a brilliant tactic—see, there’s the smart thing again.
6) Evil is often Subtle: If we go back to the Antichrist idea. How many followers would he acquire if he walked down the street screaming, “I am the Antichrist. I am here for your souls?” Subtle is better—or more effective anyway.
The last thing I want to mention is to me, the scariest sort of person/villain out there: The True Believer. Now, I am not talking about people who truly believe in their religion, or whatever. I am talking about the fanatic—say… Hitler. He was a true believer in my sense of the term. A true believer allows for nothing and no one else. They are capable of anything in the name of what they believe in. That’s scary.
Okay, so here’s the prompt: Write a short story from the first or third person perspective of your villain titled, “Why don't you understand that I should be allowed to take over the world?" (universe, whatever.)
This should be fun. Until we get together to chat about the Good Guys. Cheers.