Posted by: Kathleen Mix | July 17, 2013

Understanding Evil

When a story is about good triumphing over evil, the author must create an antagonist worthy of representing the forces of villainy, and occasionally write from that person’s viewpoint. I always find creating villains and getting inside their heads difficult.
Crime reading has taught me that villains don’t think they are bad. They believe their actions are justified. Sociopaths and psychopaths and serial killers all have valid reasons to torture and kill, at least from their point of view. In their eyes, their victims’ opinions, or the opinions of society, don’t count.
People who steal believe they are taking what they deserve in life, considering it rightfully theirs or rationalizing their actions based on the philosophy that the owner doesn’t need what they’ve taken or didn’t deserve to have it.
Most criminals also believe they are smarter than the average person and should not be limited by rules.
I find anchoring those ideas in my mind when I’m trying to think like a villain contrary to my personal beliefs. I hope that means badness doesn’t come to me naturally.
A few years ago, I had an experienced that brought the puzzle of how criminals think to the forefront of my mind. At that time, I had a garden near the road in front of my house where my plants would get the most sunshine. Each spring, I ordered a new Daylily variety to expand the garden and add contrasting color. My favorite of all the flowers was a clump of mahogany hybrids. They were unique and provided spice among the more common hues.
One morning when I went out to walk my dog, I found a hole in the ground where my favorite flowers had bloomed. Someone had brought a shovel, and under cover of darkness, parked by my garage, and dug up my plants.
I was in shock. To this day, I find it hard to believe someone could steal my flowers, plant them in their yard, and then take pleasure in watching them bloom knowing all the while they’d been stolen.
So, how can I imagine people capable of thinking murder is okay when I can’t understand premeditated petty larceny without guilt?
Villains need to be strong and smart and motivated. Whether their minds are twisted or simply on a divergent road, they have their own reasons and rationalizations for acting counter to the norms of society. But my biggest challenge in writing them is playing in the muck inside their heads.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: