I am so pleased to have Charles Yallowitz visit Fiction Favorites. I love his books and have a deep respect for his dedication to writing and to his characters. So, Charles, the post is yours.
Thank you to John for offering to host a promo/guest blog. Now to get the introduction and promo stuff out-of-the-way. My name is Charles E. Yallowitz and I’m the author behind the Legends of Windemere epic fantasy series where the latest one is Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. I also just released a 27-page short story for 99 cents called Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, so you can get a quick, cheap taste of me . . . whatever. Let’s move on to the fun!
Harley Quinn is a favorite character of mine even though I’m not up on my comics, cartoons, and video games. I think one of the reasons I like her is that she started in the Batman Animated Series and ‘broke into’ the comics. Personally, I find it impressive when a character from one media type is added to a big franchise, especially one as big as the Batman Rogues Gallery.
Now one of the things about Harley that I’m going to touch on here is that she isn’t pure evil with no care for other living things. Yes, it says on Wikipedia that she doesn’t care about killing people with the exceptions of Joker and Poison Ivy. At least her villain side since she’s a hero now. Sadly, this part is missing someone from the list. Her ‘babies’! The hyenas who are probably no longer in the comics if they were ever there to begin with. I remember them fondly, so I will include them.
Villains don’t have to hate everyone, use everyone, and plot the demise of all living things. While a bad guy is typically defined as having little regard for the lives of others, I find you get a better connection when the villain has some favorites. Aliens from other planets can get away with despising all humans, but if your antagonist is from Earth then it is rather strange that there’s nobody they would wish to keep alive. Even Carnage, a superhuman serial killer from Spider-Man, had a ‘girlfriend’ named Shriek and they went on killing sprees together. Wouldn’t really call it empathy, but more of a bond over the fact that they love killing. My point here is that you bring some depth to a villain by giving them someone to care about. It doesn’t have to be their reason for living and they might not have pure intentions for that person (I’m looking at you, Dracula). Just the act and ability to show interest in another creature shows they’re not a one-dimensional being of evil incarnate.
There is a pitfall with this because not every reader goes along with the program. It’s strange how this works, but I’ve seen it in action. Many people want their villains to be pure evil and have no redeeming qualities. They take joy in the fall of such monsters and don’t want to feel sympathy for them. So you give them a pure monster with no care for any living thing. Your smile will be short-lived because people will call such a thing boring, lazy writing, etc.
I know, I’m pulling a ‘you just can’t win’ card here, but it’s something to be aware of. My suggestion is to do what’s right for the story and the character. If your main villain decides to adopt a slave girl and you’re not sure why then let it play out. Obviously, some part of your brain is up to something and did some subplot work while you were trying not to burn your morning toast. (FYI- You might want to check the toaster.) Let the readers fall where they may. After all, the more human villains seem to have the longer lifespan in terms of popularity.