Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Haunted

Recently, I read Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner. *shudder* It had to be one of the freakiest books I’ve ever picked up—and devoured. Now anyone who has talked to me for at least ten minutes discovers that I hate spiders with a passion usually reserved for hot dreams starring Vin Diesel. When we were younger, my sister and I stapled the spider section in the Encyclopedia Britannica together so we wouldn’t flip to it by mistake. When we moved into our house nine years ago, I spied this huge spider—yes, it was huge!—in the basement. And I haven’t been down there in, let’s see…one, two three…yeah, nine years. Yup, it’s that deep.

I reveal all this seemingly random information for a purpose. It just so happens that Say Goodbye is about a serial killer who does women in with spiders. Even now, I don’t know how I made it through that book with her detailed descriptions of Brown Recluses (did I spell that right? I don’t know, but I’m not Google-ing it to find out!), Black Widows and every kind of tarantula possible! But what kept me reading like strawberry cake awaited me on the next page was the villain. Freaky. Creepy. Scary. Disturbed. Did I mention FREAKY??

I finished the book a couple of weeks ago, but he still haunts me. Now that is the earmark of a damn good villain! As writers, it’s so easy to make our antagonists bad because…well, just because they’re villains and they’re supposed to be bad. *raising my hand and waving madly* I’ve so done that in my writing life time. But I’ve discovered that the most interesting, compelling and memorable villains are three dimensional. They have layers. Lisa Gardner’s villain contained all that and then some!

An antagonist should have a history just like the hero and heroine. I need to know what makes him tick. What is his motivation? Even if it is completely irrational, I want to get into his head and be a visitor in his crazy mind. I mean, if he kills women who wear Betty Boop t-shirts because she was his wife in a former life and she left him for another man, I want to read how he rationalizes that! Also, he needs to be scary intelligent. I mean, really, if Barney Fife could nab him with that one bullet in his pocket…I ain’t buying it! In order to be pitted against the hero and heroine he definitely cannot be too stupid to live!

And, oddly, I need to be invested in him as much as I am in the main characters. He should have a stake in the story, and I want to care about whether he reaches his goal or not. Lisa Gardner created a character that was so evil, so devoid of human empathy and emotion, it terrifies me that someone like him may actually exist out there. Yet his past, the pain and horrible abuse he endured caused me to actually feel for him—even though I wanted him to die. How conflicted is that? And I still think about him…I still ache for him, a fictional character, even as I feel just a bit safer that he’s dead. Have I been drawn in to that story, or what?

That’s what I desire as a writer. To create a villain so terrifying, so evil…so heartbreaking…that weeks later he or she will continue to haunt readers. Lofty goal, huh?

Naima Simone, a new author with Ellora’s Cave Publishing and Breathless Press, is a member of RWA’s Southern Magic chapter, mother of Thing 1 and Thing 2, a lover of everything Vin Diesel and the husband who tolerates this affair. Come visit Naima at http://naimasimone.com and http://naughtyauthorchicks.blogspot.com!



Thanks Naima for joining me today! A reminder to readers that the more you visit/comment, the more times you'll be entered into the month long contest I'm having (grand prize announced on March 2, US & Canadian residents only)

16 comments:

Nina Pierce said...

Lisa Gardner is an amazing writer. You have to love to hate her villains. Because as rotten and warped as they are, they have some small piece of humanity left in them and it's that tiny piece that etches them on your brain.

Great post Naima!

Katie Reus said...

Thanks so much for joining my blog today, Naima! I've never read Lisa Gardner and even though I plan to try her stuff, I won't be reading this book. You totally lost me at spiders, lol! Her villains sound absolutely evil! (which is awesome).

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Nina! That's it exactly! Where were you when I was writing this blog? LOL! It's that little piece of humanity that is left that makes you wonder if circumstances were different, if he would've turned out different...like sane. Lisa Gardner makes a good argument for nurture vs nature...Thanks for stopping by, Nina!!

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Katie! Thanks so much for having me here as a guest! As one who has yet to look at a certain part in Return of the King-you know the part, big, hairy, hungry spider with anger issues-I didn't think I could do it. Just tells you how awesome-and creepy-this guy was! Definitely pick up one of Lisa Gardner's! You won't be disappointed!

Michelle Polaris said...

You are absolutely right,Naima,that a good villain makes a story that much better. I don't need them to be evil beyond belief, but I need to feel the humanity and layers. No matter how evil they get to be in the story, if I have the layers I love them. I want to love the villains even if I also cheer their deaths. Yeah, but at least I'm twisted and in good company.

Anne said...

I agree that the villain has to have a backstory and not just be a cardboard cut out to truly invest the reader.

Eeek, spiders. You wouldn't be able to live in my apt. I have a bumper crop living under my appliances and on the ceiling. I'm just waiting for it to get warmer so I can open my balcony door and shake my broom off outside to get rid of them. At least they're small....so far.

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Michelle! You are in great company! Being twisted...fun. This side of sane...meh. LOL! Do you know one type of villain that is a guaranteed sale for me? A stalker. You have stalker in your book, you have my dollar. And for the exact reasons you named. I mean he/she has to have layers, history and a touch of madness if they're going to be believable! The fun part for the reader is finding out why!

Thanks so much for stopping by Michelle.

Naima Simone said...

Hi Anne! Since I'm going to keep it clean for Kate I'm not going to write what flew out my mouth when reading the last part of your comment. But it looked like $&^@!! Can you say F-BOMB?? LOL! Are you kidding me? I don't even want to know what a bumber spider looks like. But I would be living with my sister until spring...sleeping on my niece's top bunk. The spiders would have it! They would be paying rent until then!! LOL!! Whew! You just made my imagination fly. *shudder*

Cathy M said...

Tara Janzen's Steele Street series offers some seriously twisted and evil villians that mess with her heroes big time. Heroes that I love, btw. I always wonder how author's sleep at night with some of the sadistic stuff they come up with.

Diane said...

A good or shall we say very bad hero is so interesting; we get to see wht can turn a bad boy into a very good boy!

Naima Simone said...

Hey, Cathy!
I haven't read Tara Janzen's Steele Street series, but now it's definitely on my TBR list! LOL! I know what you mean about an author's mind! I used to joke about Stephen King. I'd probably have to sleep with one eye open with him! LOL!

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Diane!
Oooh! The anti-hero...good point! That's a definite hook for me, too! I love to read how the love of a woman can turn a bad boy into a good boy...well, ahem...not too good. *snicker*

donnas said...

Great post and great goal. And I have to say thanks for the warning. I just recently discovered Lisa's books and am going to have to skip the descriptive parts of this one. My fear of spiders is deep and serious.

Naima Simone said...

Hey, Donna!
First, skip Diane's comment. If it's deep and serious, her comment will only freak you out! LOL! I'm warning you, her descriptions of the spiders are disturbingly vivid...*shudder* I still don't know how I did it but I couldn't put it down even as squeeled like a little girl...did I just write that?? LOL!

Kimmie, Nola said...

I have several her books on my groaning tbr shelves.....I have so many Iwant to pick up & read....right now!!!

I love that she created such a memorable villain! I think they have to be my favorite characters in the book but I don't want to be a villain.....could never be....

I just love to read about them....they're so colorful.....if done right!

I'm going to add this book to by "to be bought" list.....its currently too many pages thick.....

Sarah said...

Boy, you hit the nail on the head! Even if I can't really identify with why the villain is bad, I want to know the history/reasoning behind his actions. And he must be intelligent - which only makes him scarier! Great post :-)

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