Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why We Love To Hate A Villain

Without a hero or heroine, most romances just wouldn’t work. We need to see our fictional couple meet, overcome conflict, fall in love, quarrel, have earth shattering makeup sex and then live happily ever after. We root for them, sigh for them, cry for them…some of us even want to be like them. Don’t deny it. You know you want to.
But what about the other part of the classic romance equation?
What about the villain?
Remember the queen from Disney’s Snow White? Would that story be the same without her? I think not. Who would have ordered the huntsman to cut out sweet little Snow White's heart? Who would have fed her the poison apple? Who would have turned into a warty old hag and scared the bejeesus out of me as a child?
And how about the Dark Lord Sauron from Lord of the Rings? Without that guy, would there even have been a ring? A plot? A blockbuster movie series? Again, no.
We need villains to balance the scale. To keep the hero and heroine on their tippy, tippy toes. To keep our stories from falling flat.
A villain adds conflict, drama, danger and sometimes, if your name happens to be Lestat de Lioncourt, Anakin Skywalker or Valmont, to name a few, a measure of devastating sex appeal as well.
So if you haven’t already done so, try adding a bad guy…or girl to your romance. Because everyone loves to hate a villain.

Since Thursday is snippets day, I dug through my numerous works and decided to share this scene. Warrick DeVille is the first villain I ever wrote and to this day he is still my favorite. I hope you enjoy reading him as much as I enjoyed writing him.

Beatrice smoothed the pleats of her gown and stiffened her spine. She lifted her chin in defiance, ready to face the inevitable and set her gaze on the French doors that led to the small hidden garden beyond the parlor. Her last vision revealed this would be where the intruders would enter. She sat quietly, waiting.
After a moment, she squeezed her sweating palms together, hoping to steady her nerves, but jumped as something smashed through the leaded panes. The missile skid across the polished floor just as the clock reached its twelfth stroke.
Shards of glass accompanied Cupid, his chubby stone arms missing, his cherubic face cracked in several places, as the garden statue slid to a stop at Beatrice’s silk clad toes. She shifted her feet to the left and glanced at the shattered doorway.
A huge man entered, laying thick hands against the double door’s splintered center beam. He shoved hard, grunting with effort. The wood creaked then gave way and slammed into the frame, clearing an opening large enough for a team of horses to pass through. The giant scraped his goliath booted foot across the floor, clearing debris as he went along.
And then, there he was.
The man she had seen in her visions. Dressed exactly as he had been in the recess of her mind, he was resplendent in embroidered velvet. His amethyst great coat billowed on the evening breeze like the outstretched wings of some forbidding bird of prey. Striding with maddening arrogance through the ruined doorway, he entered her home like a desired and welcomed guest.
His man-servant breathed heavily through thick blubbery lips, standing at the foot of the splintered door, smirking in triumph at his feat of strength. Lord Warrick DeVille flicked a wood chip from his impeccably cut coat and turned toward the giant.
“My thanks, Toby.”
The giant grinned, inflating his enormous barrel chest with pride.
“I do, however, have one question.” DeVille stated amiably, gazing up at the colossus.
“My lord?” his gruff voice echoed in the room like the grinding of stones.
“Might you ever enter a dwelling by simply turning a latch?” DeVille bellowed. “You have destroyed more architecture over the years than I can possibly count!”

The giant’s self satisfied grin dissolved. He lowered his head like a scolded child as the Duke turned away.
DeVille studied the room. A frown ebbed low on his pretty, powdered face. “Good God it is as dark as a tomb in here,” he announced. With a wave of his hand every dormant candelabra and sconce within the large space sparked to life. An explosion of light and flame burst within the fire place, roaring at first with intensity, then dying to a more acceptable crackle. The flames did an eerie dance in the breeze, casting grotesque shadows against the damask walls.
“Much Better.” He nodded and smoothed the waves of blonde hair that fell past his shoulders.
DeVille stood before Lady Beatrice, and smiled, exposing perfect white teeth. “As always, I find you a sight more lovely than words, Lady Portland,” his voice smooth as honey and just as sweet.
“Go to hell, Warrick,” Beatrice spat, intentionally omitting the title he so coveted.

His laughter echoed throughout the room and he stepped closer. He leaned down. His finely chiseled lips caressing the flesh of her unflinching ear.
With deadly malice he whispered two words.
“Ladies, first!”

Now, dearest Petit Fours and Hot Tamale followers, let's hear who your favorite movie, TV or literary villains are and why you love them.

Happy Writing!
Tamara DeStefano


Sandy Elzie said...

Well done! When the book comes out, I MUST have it. Hummmm Villains I love to hate? In Lady & The Hawk there was His Imminence who had cast the spell that kept the two lovers apart and in Three Muskateers there was the jerk trying to steal King Richard's throne. And the list could go on and on.

I love to hate the villain because otherwise there wouldn't be anything for my hero and heroine to triumph over. The world loves winners.

Great job...and love the picture.


Cyrano said...

The villain from Lady Hawk is soooo vile! Love that one.
That scene with Warrick was written about ten years ago and the story has yet to finished. Don't think DeVille will ever see a book store shelf, but thanks for the compliment!


Tami Brothers said...

Great visual, Tamara!!! You definitely have to keep at this and I'm thrilled you are back to writing.

Awesome post!!!


Marilyn Baron said...

I remembered the poison apple but I'd forgotten that the Queen ordered the huntsman to cut out Snow White's heart. Hopefully, I'll forget that part again.

I loved your DeVille character. Why can't you bring him back? You're a really good writer. Keep it up.

I enjoyed your post.

Marilyn Baron

Cyrano said...

We must all forget about the heart cutting order, but I'm telling you, Marilyn, as a kid, that bulgy eyed, wart faced, cackling witch scared the hooey out of me.

And Tami,
You're so sweet. I'm glad you invited me to be a memeber of this blog. I'm having so much fun with it and I'm in awe of the talented writers that contribute to the daily posts! I've learned so much already and can't wait each day to hear what the newest blog will be.


Cinthia Hamer said...

Great post, Tamara! DeVille is some kind of scumbag. You mustn't let him moulder away under the bed.

And since I can't think of any literary villains off the top of my head, I'll go with a Disney bad guy; Jafar from Aladdin.

He was so smarmy, so smooth and yet, so horribly evil. The fact that he had magic powers made him that much scarier since he couldn't be vanquished with a mere stroke of a scimitar.

There is a villain who hasn't seen print yet, and that is my friend, Mary's, Douglass. A maniacal serial killer who takes great delight in stalking and toying with his victims. Just the thought of this guy makes me want to hide.

Cyrano said...

Oh yes,
Douglass. Isn't he the creepiest? He's a fantastic villain. Wouldn't want to meet up with him in a dark alley.

Jafar is a good one too, but I happen to prefer the Disney's female villainesses. Malefisent from Sleeping beauty? Now that's one diabolical spinning wheel maker. And How about Cruella? Skinning puppies for fashion? And Madam Medusa from the Rescuers, lowering poor orphan Penny into a beach mine shaft just as the tide comes in? What's up with those chics?

As you can see I'm a die hard Disney fan.


Sally Kilpatrick said...


My position is not an enviable one being sandwiched between you and Nicki--thanks for a great post. I likse DeVille's little "Ladies first."

This is a great topic. In fact, we were just talking about villains in my screenwriting class. We studied Hannibal Lecter, who is interesting because he finds a way to be somewhat sympathetic despite being a villain.

I've always been partial to Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for the same reason. He, like most great villains, is multi-dimensional.

Another villain of interest: Elizabeth Hurley as the devil in Bedazzled. What a great likeable villain.

As for villains who are rotten to the core? What about Gaston from Beauty and the Beast or that wicked stepmother from Cinderella? Or the new Lady Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility?

Nicki Salcedo said...

I like Khan from Star Trek. Both in the original show and the movie. It wasn't his fault he was so superior.

Cyrano said...

I can't believe I left out Spike!!! He is one of my absolute favorite villains. And when he earned his soul and turned good, he was still great because he retained that sexy bad boy streak. That's a yummy vampire!

Khan...The Bomb! Nuff said!


Ana Aragón said...


Great post, and I love your snippet...especially his last line "Ladies, first!"

Villians, villians. Let's see. Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West...I couldn't sleep for days after watch The Wizard of Oz! Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter; Norman Bates from Psycho.

I hope I sleep tonight.


Mary Marvella said...

I love a villain who makes you begin to almost like him, even though you know he needs killin'!

Thanks Cindi and Tamara! Douglas thanks you, too. Now make sure you lock all windows and doors.

And then there is Hugh!

Scarlet Pumpernickel said...

Tamara, great post. I too find Doughass easy to hate! He just won't stop! Not that MM would let him! I like the tone and feel of your snippet. You have a fine feel for the era, had no idea you were into historicals. And he MUST be a vampire or some such since he rought light with the flick of his wrist!

Good job Tamara!


Pamela Varnado said...

What an interesting take on a villian. I remember reading about Warrick. He sure is one nasty dude. As I search my mind for my favorite villian I find that I'm struggling to come up with a name. I guess I'm just a sucker for a BAD BOY who is actually a hero underneath all that rough and ready attitude.

ECSpurlock said...

I was a Darth Vader fan long before Anakin Skywalker came on the scene. I knew there had to be some good at the bottom of his black soul -- and I was right! I felt so vindicated at the end of "Return of the Jedi".

I also loved the villain in Georgette Heyer's "The Black Moth"; apparently so did she, she found him so much more interesting and fun to write than her conventional hero that she modeled all her subsequent heroes after him! He was the forerunner of today's bad boy heroes.

I love a good villain, they often have so much more depth than heroes. Often in my own stories, the character who seems to be the villain at first turns out to be the hero in the end. I love turning fairy tales on their heads.

Anna Steffl said...

I'm sorry I missed reading this on the post day? Where the heck was I?

Nice excerpt! Thanks for sharing. "With deadly malice he whispered..." I love it.

I like strange taste in villains. I love Hiyao Miyazaki's morally ambiguous villains in Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.