Friday, January 28, 2005

The Villain's Point of View?


Don't Kill the Thrill ~ Damn it!
I never, ever EVER put my villain's POV into a story. That's like giving away the punch-line in a joke before the joke is done. It KILLS the surprise. I want the Reader to be as surprised as the viewpoint character when they get to the end of the story, and finally discover why the Villain did all those dastardly deeds.

-----Original Message-----
Morgan,
- I know you're right but have you never had a villain that pulled at your heart strings because he was doomed from before he was born? He does heinous things but he still has a small kernel of humanity deep within that yearns for acceptance. I know that's what made me want to delve into one of my villain's POV. He's not the only one “up to no good” in the story.

- Just my thoughts…
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Sympathy for the Devil
As far as I'm concerned the author SHOULD sympathize with the villain, that's how you GET true depth of character - truth in their characterization, actions and speech - but the Viewpoint Character and the Reader, should NOT sympathize with the villain too much, unless you intend to redeem the villain, or cause massive angst to your main character – and your readers. Too much sympathy for the villain drives the reader to think that you intend to save him - and they get royally pissed when you knock him off.

It has happened to me!

My test readers totally misread a story I was in the process of crafting and assumed that the Villain was the Hero. They vehemently protested his upcoming demise! To satisfy my readers I had to cut the whole second half of the book off and write that villain a whole new story where he WAS the hero. When I rewrote my original story
I had learned my lesson. NO ONE complained when I killed the villain that time.

If I craft a Redeemable villain, but redemption does not serve the plot - then I DON'T save him, I rework him to be less sympathetic, and then I kill his ass to serve the plot and the premise. To me STORY comes first.

BUT - If I really, REALLY like this character and Want to save him regardless of the story in progress, I Do save him - in a Whole Different Story. I leave his character intact but change his name, tweak his history and then craft a whole New story around him to do just that - redeem the villain.
REAL Villainy
When I craft a villain, I go out of my way to make damned sure that my fictional villains are as realistic as the villains we face in real life. To do this, I insure that my fictional villains all have a driving human issue, an issue that everyone faces and can identify with, though blown completely out of proportion.

It is always a very human issue that drives villains (fictional and non-fictional) to BE villains in the first place. Even mass murderers have reasons (however twisted) for doing what they do. NO villainous action is RANDOM. The victim may be randomly chosen - but the action always has a reason behind it. That reason is ALWAYS driven by a very human issue triggered by an unfulfilled and essential human need.

Key Human Issues:
Connection
Loss
Rejection
Recognition & Attention
Ridicule & Embarrassment
Approval
Control
The Key:
People will do far more to Avoid Pain than they will to Seek Pleasure.

My textbook for crafting realistic villains:
"The Gift of Fear" by Gavin DeBecker

NO POV for the Villain!
When the "Point of View" is done correctly, whatever that viewpoint character knows - the Reader knows. EVERYTHING that is in the POV character's head is revealed as it is seen and felt. If that POV character looks at it - then the Reader should see it too, if that POV character thinks it, then the Reader should be aware of it - that includes SECRETS!
The villain's POV reveals too much, such as a villain's motives, and answers too many questions that ruin the Big Mystery for the READER: "Why is this happening?"
There are a number of NYT bestseller Suspense authors that hide the Villain's more revealing information by cutting the reader off as soon as the Villain has an interesting thought or view. They’re CHEATING. It's known as "Illegitimate Third Person POV". (Mystery writers normally don't make this mistake.)

I refuse to read books written with "Illegitimate Third Person POV", because if "I" can do it without cheating, THEY CAN TOO! (Freaking lazy-assed writers...)

"But I thought
Using the Villain's POV
- Increases Suspense?"

Oh, Hell No!
Using the Villain’s POV
KILLS the Suspense!

Why? Because suspense may be engendered when the reader knows that the main viewpoint character is in extreme danger (when the POV character doesn't,) but it Totally KILLS the Impact when the main viewpoint character finds out how much danger they are actually in.

The REAL way to keep suspense going is to present CLUES about the villain and his nefarious plans to the main POV character - and the reader - by behavior, dialogue and uncovered history.

"But I need it for the Plot!"
If the author can't write the story WITHOUT including the Villain's POV, then there's a deeper more serious flaw in the story. It's called the Author has focused on the WRONG main character. Instead of the H/H in the lead, the Villain is leading the book. If the villain is leading the book - then it's time to rethink the plot.

Multiple POVs
Warning! POV RANT Ahead!

I UTTERLY
LOATHE
~ reading a book with more than two POVs!
As a reader I experience a book as a PARTICIPANT. While I am reading, I sit in the main viewpoint characters' shoes and experience every up, down, and twist the story throws at them.

My personal preference is One POV because I identify (perhaps too closely,) with one character and HATE to be pulled out of that character's head. Popping from head to head forces me Outside that character’s story and into a Different story altogether.

When I am popped into the villain's head I immediately know how the story will end - and that KILLS the whole damned book for me.

BANG! That book hits the wall unfinished.

DON'T Tell the Reader ANYTHING!!!
If the MAIN POV character Does Not Know what's going on - NEITHER SHOULD THE READER. THIS is how you generate SUSPENSE! NOT by Telling them what's going on!

Telling the reader what's going on in the story through POV switches - is STUPID.
You Don't want the Reader to figure out what's happening - and why - until they reach the end of the Book!

Once the reader knows all the answers as to who is doing what - and why - there is NO Reason to Continue Reading! The Story is OVER!

So,no! No, POV for the Villain! EVER!

GOT to have POV switches?
The very best article on POV switching I have ever read can be found here –
An executive editor’s take on “head-hopping” and point-of-view jumps

Morgan Hawke
www.darkerotica.net
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4 comments:

  1. I love this essay. This one is really good, and I think it's interesting, especially since I am writing books with lots of villains. Your villains are some of your best characters.

    Janie

    ReplyDelete
  2. Morgan, I must differ with you on a couple of points.

    First, multiple points of view. I often use as many as five...HOWEVER, only two of them are the primary protagonists, and I think I make it perfectly clear as to who's who. Using the other POVs, I think, can add complexity, layers, and suspense to a novel (of course, it depends on what genre/kind you are writing). Donald Maass recommends multiple points of view for those same reasons.

    On entering the bad guy's POV--again, depends on what you're writing. In a mystery, it's difficult (though I did it once and felt it worked). In my "thriller" novels I DO use a couple of the antagonists' points of view. A specific reason is to build more-dimensional characters. In my current WIP, it's not even clear to the reader until halfway into the novel that one of the characters is an antagonist--that's because she is sympathetic in many ways, and what she does comes from good intentions.

    I guess I'd say there are no rules--what works for YOUR storytelling is what's right.

    Best,

    Ray

    ReplyDelete
  3. -----Original Message-----
    “Morgan, I must differ with you on a couple of points… First, multiple points of view. I often use as many as five...HOWEVER, only two of them are the primary protagonists, and I think I make it perfectly clear as to who's who. Using the other POVs, I think, can add complexity, layers, and suspense to a novel (of course, it depends on what genre/kind you are writing). Donald Maass recommends multiple points of view for those same reasons.”

    Mr. Rhamey,
    - You use multiple SUBPLOTS. When you have more than one subplot, multiple POVs are essential -- one main POV per subplot, a-la Steven King & Robert Jordan. When there is only ONE main plot, which is how most erotic romances are constructed, only ONE POV is needed.

    “On entering the bad guy's POV--again, depends on what you're writing. In a mystery, it's difficult (though I did it once and felt it worked).”

    Because the villain’s POV reveals too much of the plot.

    “In my "thriller" novels I DO use a couple of the antagonists' points of view. A specific reason is to build more-dimensional characters. In my current WIP, it's not even clear to the reader until halfway into the novel that one of the characters is an antagonist--that's because she is sympathetic in many ways, and what she does comes from good intentions…”

    How are you accomplishing this without revealing the villain’s intent – without pulling an ‘illegitimate 3rd’ POV?

    “I guess I'd say there are no rules--what works for YOUR storytelling is what's right.”

    You have forgotten one very important Fact – YOU are an Experienced Author. You KNOW what you are doing – and why.

    This blog is read primarily by BEGINNERS. Beginners need to KNOW the rules, and why they are there, BEFORE they attempt to flout them.

    Very respectfully,
    Morgan Hawke

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Ms. Hawke,
    I love your essays, you offer some of the most useful advice I've ever read.
    I have a question about the pov essay, however. In a story I'm working on, the villain will be redeemed and the hero will be tarnished. How would you handle the pov problems between the hero and villain in such a case?
    I would really love to hear anything you might have to say.
    Thank you,
    Susan

    ReplyDelete