Well, … huh. I will admit that I tripped when approaching this subject. I was going to say that I try to avoid making cardboard cut out villains, but then I remembered using the devil in several stories. I also remembered that I don’t normally focus on the villain all that much because I usually delve into my character’s reaction to the villain, which may in some ways be a uniqueness to my stories that I did not intentionally strive for.
My characters universally fit into what I view as my reality. They are people or aliens dealing with situations outside of their control where the villains are not clear-cut. The villains most often were created beyond their knowledge base. For instance, King Hadrian in “Sanity” was a manipulative leader used to being one step ahead of his opponents, maybe a little arrogant and foolhardy because of it. He felt there was no one that could best him. Unfortunately, he learns the hard way that the villains of this story can destroy his faith in his own abilities. However, the story also shines a light on a another villain we all fall prey to, fear. The Thrall, our bad guys in this one, reach into his mind and play with the fears at the core of his being.
In “Sorrow and Remembrance”, the novel I hope to pull together, the villains are the forces set into motion by overly proud and self-righteous people. Forces that reach out far beyond the immediate area of conflict to engulf innocent bystanders. Here the forces spread beyond defeating enemies in a war to steal years of life from some and to force others to destroy beauty to protect those they love. For me this idea is very personal because of my interest in history. How many of the problems we face today have been created by the choices of others? How many decisions that we had no say in have become issues that we cannot afford to ignore?
Another enemy I have written about is ourselves. I wrote a story for my collection called “Stubborn” which details the hellish world the protagonist becomes trapped in that is an externalization of the darker recesses of his mind. Through the course of traveling this world, without memory, the character must confront the demons he thought he had overcome. Demons of self loathing, weakness, and guilt.
Finally, in “The Devil’s in the Code”, the obvious villain, the devil, is actually not the villain. The true villain of the story is human hubris. Beelzebub is only the catalyst for our penchant for trouble making. He leads people where they are so willing to go, such as playing with genetics for profit, and lets them hang themselves. Hell is full of people who thought they were immune to the consequences of their actions, including a pair of investment bankers now living as crows among more powerful hell spawn. So, yes some of my villains are not very developed in terms of personality, but they are different from the run of the mill.