I've been published in the U.S., the U.K., Italy, and Israel. My novels are SHADE, LARISSA, SCORPIANNE, EGGHEADS, THE KRONOS CONDITION, GODHEADS, BROKEN TIME (which was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award), BELARUS, and ENEMIES. Look for my new ebooks, THE NIGHT SHIFTERS, SPIRITS OF GLORY, and PALE LADY on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and Smashwords. I'm married to artist/writer Ernest Hogan. I live in Arizona, where I work in the Heard Museum Book Store and volunteer at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.
My blog is: http://www.emsjoiedeweird.
And if you want buy links:
Spirits-Of-Glory-ebook/dp/ B0055F5P46/ref=sr_1_4?s= digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid= 1338339040&sr=1-4
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.
com/w/spirits-of-glory-emily- devenport/1100144284?ean= 2940011124532
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/Goodreads: http://www.Goodreads.com/
SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
One of my writer pals, Rick Cook, used to write the crime beat for THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC. To get the best angle on a story, he occasionally had to interview killers, and one of his most memorable encounters was with a biker who used to be an enforcer for the mob. This guy was in maximum lockup in Florence State Prison, so the visit was in a secure setting – but Rick felt a bit nervous about talking with him. After all, he was both an outlaw biker and a killer-for-hire. Conceivably, he might bite like a pit bull.
But the killer-for-hire turned out to be one of the most charming, personable guys Rick ever met. His people skills were so good, he could have succeeded in business and/or politics. Rick had to continually remind himself that this guy picked up those skills the hard way, by observing the weaknesses and strengths of his fellow human beings so he could kill them. Being likeable was what made him the most dangerous and interesting type of villain. Mobsters find guys like that very useful – and so do writers.
It may seem counter-intuitive to like a bad guy. But the truth is, we've liked them all our lives – that's how they get their hooks into us. Dracula is sexy and seductive. Hannibal Lecter is perceptive and smart. Dexter kills rotten people. Loki feels hurt because his dad liked Thor best (plus he does have a point that Humans can be real jerks).
The only time we like to hate a bad guy is if he gets his comeuppance (like when Dexter kills him). If we hate the bad guy, and no one ever punches him in the face, we get really mad. A good example of this is the show American Gothic. My husband and I didn't see it during its original run, but we attempted to watch it on Hulu recently. We couldn't get past the third episode. The bad guy continually stepped on the other characters. This might have been tolerable if any of these other folks had a spine, but the only one who stood up to him was a kid who was constantly in danger (and completely unable to get help from the wimpy adults). This got old pretty fast.
Loki, from the recent movie incarnation of The Avengers, is also a villain who continually stomps on his foes – but they stomp back. And Loki has a sort of tragic grandeur that makes you admire him, even if you're glad the good guys get the better of him. If that isn't happening, a story just doesn't work well. This is something good writers have known for centuries.
Take Milton's Paradise Lost. The Devil is the most likeable and fascinating character in that story. He is Lucifer, the Morning Star, a fallen angel who had a major disagreement with God. We mortals don't share his grandeur, but we certainly share his hubris. Though we mistrust him, even fear him, we can't help admiring his style. “Subtle he must needs be, who could seduce angels.” And kind of sexy, too. A guy like that keeps us guessing, and that's very entertaining.
The good guy should keep us guessing, too. If it's interesting for the bad guy to have some good qualities, it's at least as interesting for the good guy to have flaws. Those flaws are what drives the story. And if you really want to keep the reader guessing, you can sometimes make them change their minds about who the good guys and bad guys are.
Some of my favorite examples of these role-changing types are in The Lord Of The Rings. When Gandalf seeks counsel from Saruman the White, you think, Oh good, Saruman's the head of the Wizard's Council. He'll kick Sauron's butt! But alas, power turns Saruman into a monster, and the good guys have to regroup. Boromir also seems like a good guy, yet the ring seduces him into attacking Frodo. King Theoden starts out as a deluded and poisoned old wreck, until Gandalf gives him some magical shock treatment and he becomes a hero.
These supporting characters offset the fact that the main villain in The Lord Of The Rings is really more of a concept than a character. He has henchmen to do his will, and they do it readily. They have this in common with the killer-for-hire that Rick interviewed. I can easily imagine him prospering in Tolkien's shattered Middle Earth. And like the Devil, he might have succeeded in talking Eve into tasting fruit from the forbidden tree. Her fall reminds us that possibly the most frightening (and interesting) thing about Evil is the thin line that stands between it and Good, a line that any of us can be tempted into crossing – by the right villain.
That is ultimately why we have sympathy for the Devil; we are the Devil, just as we are the Angel who fights him. Any story that reminds us of that will keep us enthralled.
Thanks for the post!