Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong (shadesong) wrote,
Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong

Sympathy for the Devil

"As you learn who your characters are, compassion for them will grow. There shouldn't be just a single important character in your work for whom you have compassion. You need to feel it even for the villain - in fact, especially for the villain. Life is not like formula fiction. The villain has a heart, and the hero has great flaws. You've got to pay attention to what each character says, so you can know each of their hearts.

Only in the comics and the formula movies do we get any pleasure from destroying totally evil and sinister villains, because in those cases they've been systematically depersonalized. They commit only acts of atrocity and sociopathology, and they say terribly evil things, and then we get to ritually kill them. There can be, at the end of the book, the relief that comes with justice."

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Well said. And I'm going to use my own work as an example because, well, it's what I'm closest to.

If I'm doing my job right, you will feel compassion for Alanna. Hell, you'll feel compassion for a few people you don't expect to feel compassion for. And you'll understand; you'll understand how the Council got to be that way. You'll understand what was done to Alanna to create this mostly-tame sociopath.

I have hints that I am doing my job. Because phantom_wolfboy loves her.

A villain who is nothing but pompous-laughing, mustache-twirling Eeeeevil is, well, meaningless. The hero is a paladin, a paragon, and they stab the villain through his black heart and win the princess and tra la la, everything is neat and perfect and you can tie it up in a little bow.

Life is not neat and perfect. Life is messy.

And in reality, and in a well-done story, the villain never thinks he's the villain.

The villain is doing what they think is right.

Hitler, to use the most common example, was doing what he thought was right.

Good fiction, like real life, is just not that cut-and-dried.

Alanna was ten years old when the Council found out for certain that she was not the Lishaya reborn. Janos was so enraged that he attacked the Taraki who'd confirmed it. And Alanna had to be held back... because she was crying, begging to be allowed to heal the man.

A far cry from who she became. But every step of the way, every twist, she thought she was doing what was right. What she was taught was right. The power of the Lishaya, of the Council, over all, had to be reinforced - thus she had to kill the dissenters...

Underneath the villain, underneath Alanna at her most cruel, you should be able to see flashes of the broken girl.
Tags: quotes, shayara.alanna, writerbrain
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