First of all, this weekend is FanX. My schedule has already changed slightly, so if you're planning on attending events, I suggest getting the phone app. It updates as they make changes and tracks your schedule for you. You can also set alerts to remind you when you have an upcoming event on your schedule. I live by it.
Also, if you want to be my assistant at FanX this year, you can apply. I'll be picking from submissions this week. It isn't a paid position, but it's light work. :) You can find out how by checking out the World's Greatest Comic Book Podcast on Tuesday.
Now on to business. I've started the rewrite of DbC 3. The front end and the back end will take the most work, which is pretty much the inverse of my usual books. Typically, it's the section between the Act Two Twist and the beginning of the climax where I flail about without a purpose. So that's a pleasant change. Anyway, I haven't made it very far yet, as I had to put a critique for Wymore to bed first, but I started Saturday and have officially hit the first section where two bits need to be rewritten and combined for brevity. So. Yay?
Okay, so that's out of the way. Last week I spoke about villains, but I only really discussed the more down-to-earth villains. The kind of villains you could have a beer with. Even Darth Vader had to get out of that armor from time to time and really did everything because he desperately feared being alone. But what do you do about the big evil's, like Sauron. Or the Devil. The evils which are more elemental forces than people?
The only thing I don't like about The Lord of the Rings is the treatment of Sauron. I need something to sink my teeth into with a villain. With the big, elemental evils, you might not be able to give them and sympathetic point of view, like you might with a more human villain. That doesn't mean that their POV can't be interesting.
I start with brilliant dialog. If I'm writing a ten thousand-year-old villain, he will always be the wittiest person in any room. His dialog will captivate. More importantly, it will show a point of view that is slightly outside our way of thinking. Above everything we know. Beyond us.
Let me give you an example from a book I think unlikely to get published. In it the villain is an eleven-thousand-year-old fallen angel. I wanted to play with all the fallen angel tropes, so he spends a great deal of time talking. Endlessly taunting the main character as they fight. Now there are plans within plans withing plans here, and the main character finds out later that there's a tactical reason for every word he says, but early in the conversation, hero calls him out on it. The fallen angel tells the main character that all of those stories where the villain taunts the hero... every one, since the beginning of time...they've all been about him. The hero mentions that in the stories the hero always wins, and the fallen angel says, "That's because they're stories."
It's in that moment that the main character realizes that he's not just fighting a fallen angel, but an archetype of evil so iconic that he's warped the way humanity has communicated for as long as humanity has used narrative to comfort themselves. He also realizes that while in the stories the hero always uses the villain's monologue to beat him, in reality, the fallen angel indulges himself because he can. In reality, he's never lost. The monologue, a terrible cliche in most cases, has become a terrifying reminder of just how powerful the villain actually is.
But I also wanted to give him a slightly broken and ironic point of view, so in one of his monologues, he told a story. In this world, they had a war in heaven, but in it, the fallen angels had a moment of victory, and this fallen angel was the one who forced his way into God's presence and made their demands. He tells how all God had to do at that point was apologize, and all would have been forgiven, even then. If God had just admitted, even after all that pain and blood, that he'd just been wrong, that the fallen angels would have forgiven him and the breach could have been healed. But he wouldn't. God stood, too stubborn and too proud. And the world remained as it did to this day.
I never state it outright, but it should be obvious to any reader that the opposite was, of course true. That God is silent throughout this entire story because it is He who waits. Quietly. With forgiveness. Waits ready to be asked. Did the fallen angel deserve grace? Of course not, but as the book states later, that's the point of grace. It wouldn't be grace if we deserved it. Watching this broken creature rail and accuse God of his very own crime doesn't actually build sympathy, but it adds a bit richer texture to a character who could appear entirely two-dimensional otherwise.
You might not be able to actually make a character like this sympathetic. You can, however, add enough color to make them an interesting read.