The noun “villain” is normally used for an antagonist in a story either real or fictional, written or verbal. I wouldn’t refer to my annoying neighbor as a villain since there are far more colorful names I could give him in everyday conversation. The personalities or physical descriptions of the real life intrinsically bad people who cross our paths are what we writer’s draw upon in our work. They are the major driving force behind most fiction. Sometimes too much so.
For example my first real attempt at writing a book was a little ditty called “Saving Isabella”. It was written following a trip to New Orleans with my husband. I was spellbound by New Orleans and its colorful history. The city lit a fire in me. I had to write. Since, I had chosen a specific period of history to write about I did a great deal of research, or what I thought at the time was a great deal of research. I now consider it minimal. I tried to create a basic outline and character descriptions. A pattern emerged. One that would end up strangling the story I had come to love so much.
By the time I had gotten to the point where I could write no more I had created a one dimensional heroine and three distinct dynamic villains. I could tell that I had failed to light any fire around my heroine. The reader should care about the person upon which you base your story. Shouldn’t they?
Instead I had woven this creative web of fascinating details around those people who would like to do my heroine in. I found myself caught in it even more so than the reader as each one came to life with their own dismal story of how they had become so very evil. This I thought was a huge error on my part as the story’s author. It is the heroine that the reader should have compassion for, be enthralled by, and remember most at the end. Or am I wrong?
I ask this because I have been thinking a lot about this story I set aside in frustration years ago. Sometimes I get the urge to tackle it again. Because you see, I thought and still do think that my villains were damn good villains. Some of the scenes were some of my best work to date. And I am still in love with the bawdy history of New Orleans.
Alas, the only remaining copy of “Saving Isabella” sits in the Library of Congress. I was so excited at first that I had it copyrighted. Maybe one day I will see if it is retrievable. Maybe one day I will deem it worthy of public reading. Whatever the case, I will always hold near and dear to my heart, the high class Madam who loved frills as much as killing, the voodoo witch who learned as a little girl how to handle bullies, and the Madam from “Storyville” who didn’t even pretend to be ladylike.
I don’t think any writer likes to leave a piece of work unfinished. Some of us do it more than others but as in all creative endeavors real satisfaction is so annoyingly elusive.