I do tend to like villainous characters at times: Rochefort in Three Musketeers (1993, actor Michael Windcott), Dorian in The Mask (actor Peter Green).
In books, I’ve occasionally found the “bad guy” the most memorable part, such as in Elizabeth Lynn’s The Sardonyx Net. I need to go back and see just what makes him chilling in the right way. I suspect he’s complex; not all bad. One may get glimmers of why he is what he is. That’s often the most compelling. Someone wrote in a review of this book, “Powerful sci fi. Memorable. The adversary is developed chillingly.” Wow, almost exactly my words. I swear I wrote them before I read that! The author is particularly known for being one of the first writers in science fiction or fantasy to introduce gay and lesbian characters; the GLBT bookstore “A Different Light” took its name from her novel.
I’ve built a character in my series, Braided Dimensions, who is simultaneously creepy and captivating. He’s complex and intense. He has desires around power but we know there’s more to it. Maybe it mirrors the sense in our soul that we’re not following our deepest longings with intensity. I’m not saying it’s okay if that turns dark, just that perhaps we reach for these archetypal figures to fill a hole, a gap, something missing in the tone of our lives.
This topic makes me think of Anne Rice’s Vampires. She develops Lestat to be complex, contradictory, confusing, yet compelling. Lestat only takes the “small drink” if he’s starving; he kills only those whose minds he’s read and found to be cruel. What has struck me profoundly with her books is the inner turmoil he experiences.
There’s no doubt that I like complexity. I abhor cruelty so it’s not that I’m drawn to people who bring harm or pain. I think passion and intensity are at the core. It seems, in our modern world, that we’re shaved off, streamlined to conduct ourselves in a seemly manner, which means a dulled affect. Of course I’d rather see intense emotion regarding love, kindness, saving the world from environmental degradation, stopping cruelty to animals. But in my experience, I rarely encounter passionate speech in day-to-day life. I think it’s conditioned out out of us. I suppose in the Eastern U.S.’s urban centers, there’s more. That could be partly what draws people to New York City and other such metropolises—more depth and breadth of expression.
It occurs to me that music is where there can be passion. Emotion and good causes can come through in the voices of cool people. Singers can even scream and it’s okay. In fact, it’s the best sometimes. We feel it in our bones and it resonates with something calling us.