Why I Love The Bad Guys
By Merrie Destefano
I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to be scared. Ask me to go to the latest horror movie or offer to lend me Stephen King’s latest book, and I’ll probably say no. Then again, I might say, “Hell, no.” Either way, the answer is, I’m not going to do it. Even movies that most people think are great fun—like Super 8—put me on edge and make me want to run away, screaming. Anybody remember that scene in Super 8 at the gas station? At that point, it felt like somebody had off peeled my skin and was getting ready to gouge out my eyes. It took all my courage and more to sit through the rest of the movie.
It always surprises my friends when I tell them stuff like that. They say something like, “But, you write scary books.” And I say, “I do?”
Apparently writing scary stories is my way of being in control of the monsters. I’ve always known that they were real and hiding under my bed/in my closet/in the back seat of my car. Whenever I write, I get a chance to expose the scary monster for who and what he is, thereby taking some of the scratch out of his claws.
That said, I really like my bad guys. Now, don’t confuse my main character—who is almost always slightly rebellious and might be called a bad boy—with my actual bad guy. In my first book, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles, Chaz was quite the rebel-with-a-twisted-cause, but Neville was definitely the bad guy. He was the one who would give you nightmares. I loved writing him, because he gave me the opportunity to explore the dark, creepy underbelly of the world. Without him, the reader never would have seen just how horrific the whole resurrection system had become.
Likewise, in my new book, Feast: Harvest of Dreams, you might think Ash is dangerous and charismatic and somebody to stay away from. Okay, I can give you that. But he is far from being the bad guy. Take a closer look at Thane, one of Ash’s Darkling cousins, and tell me who the bad guy in this book really is. Thane can give me the shivers just thinking about him.
That’s one reason I love Thane—he’s scary, through and through. I never questioned his motives. I understood him like the keys on my keyboard. He was fantastically sinister; he took all the Darkling characteristics and transformed them into something truly evil. He showed the reader just how dangerous a Darkling could be.
My story elements are never completely set up and my book in not ready to write until I have my villain. He becomes the driving force behind the story, pushing the other characters around the chess board like a hot iron. He stands in direct opposition to my main characters, and this conflict is what creates the story.
So, do I love my scary bad guys? You bet I do. I wouldn’t be a good writer if I didn’t.
My question for you is this: What scary bad guy have you loved? Try not to get the bad guy confused with the bad boy. I’m talking Hannibal Lector here, not Mad Max. So, what scary bad guy made a strong impression on you, so much that you’ve never been able to forget him? And as much as you love to hate him, can you imagine that story without him?
Merrie Destefano left a 9-to-5 desk job as a magazine editor to become a full-time novelist and freelance editor. Her first novel, Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles, is an urban fantasy published by HarperCollins/Eos, and her second novel, Feast: Harvest of Dreams releases June 28, 2011. With twenty years’ experience in publishing, her background includes editor of Victorian Homes magazine and founding editor of Cottages & Bungalows magazine. Born in the Midwest, she currently lives in Southern California with her husband, their two German shepherds, a Siamese cat and the occasional wandering possum. Her favorite hobbies include reading speculative fiction and watching old Star Trek episodes, while her incurable addiction is writing. She loves to camp in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch old movies and listen to alternative music—although rarely all at the same time. For more information, visit her website at www.merriedestefano.com.
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