Is Evil Necessary?

When I mentioned to a friend and colleague that I was considering doing a blog post series on the nature of evil in writing, her response was typical for her:

“Oh my god, Laura! Aren’t you tired of this? I swear you have to be the only person in the world that deals with this stuff all the time! Is it really necessary? All this evil stuff?!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was by far not the only one that deals with this “evil stuff”. Not even close.

Guest Post by Steven Levi

Curse you, William Shakespeare! Curse you, Albert Broccoli! Curse you, Agatha Christie! You made the villains of the world cookie-cutter characters, literary evil behind a mask of normality. Be it Claudius, Dr. No or any of the initially-innocuous characters in any Christie novel, they are, in the end, all the same: greedy and duplicitous. Worse, they are as predictable as the sunrise and that, in a nutshell, is what WAS WRONG with the mystery, villainy in what used to be called mystery literature.

Until now.

Noir Fiction: Where the Nature of Evil Unravels

by Matt Phillips As a writer of noir and crime fiction, I spend a lot of time and creative energy conjuring evil. I contemplate evil in my stories, in my characters, and in the nature of causation and denouement. Look across the media landscape and you’ll find hundreds of creators—most of them writers—circling the dark

Villains Should be Teddy Bears with Knives as Hearts

I want to hurt for the villain. I want to see the good in them. I want a villain to be approachable and affable. I want a villain who I can take an afternoon tea and share my secrets with.

Of course, they’ll turn around and rip my heart out and leave me pleading for more.

Villains. They can’t exist only to be evil. Relying on your villain to be a psychopath does evil things for the sake of causing misery is boring. And as a writer it’s lazy.

The Two Voices of God

Richard Godwin. ©

‘It is there always there deep inside me, my companion, my host, my parasite, my lover more demon than mistress, and then the dark dark conjurings. For what manner of love is there betwixt a man and a woman? Is it love is it that thing the name by which it is called? Or is it something else, some primal thing that hides in the word lies.’

[Extracts from patient 1, as entered by Dr. Malice.]

PEOPLE.

What is a villain I say? He is a man who does not heed moral compulsions, who achieves what he durst with no recourse to any need for justification, is he bad, or is he other?

Think of the Bankoff’s conundrum. I do not have a wife called Dorothy.

(And if perchance as here I slip into an archaic vernacular, well, reader, you know full well the reasons for that.)

ARTISTS.

I am not a madman.

Voice 1: I am the voice of God and I summon him to kill on my behalf, for vengeance is mine. I will ask him to slay them, yeah slay them all.

Voice 2: I am the voice of the Other God, the real God for there is no truer than me, and I decide the fate of mankind in the furnace of my hatred, deep as it is.

The Inspiration for my Latest WIP by Chris Roy

Villain Guest Post

The trigger happy, mentally ill Army veteran that leaves bodies on several continents. The housewife that goes berserk on her family with a kitchen knife – and revels in it. Or, the Idea: The old kindergarten teacher taken by the fervor of a protest outside a fertility clinic, and begins killing pregnant women after removing

The Banality of Crime Fiction

by

Michael Zimecki

In a series of articles about the trial of Adolph Eichmann written for The New Yorker in 1961, and later turned into a book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, the political philosopher Hannah Arendt addressed the nature of evil. Arendt argued that evil deeds are not exclusively the work of monsters, mad men and psychopaths; to the contrary, evil is most often perpetrated by ordinary people acting out of their own unenlightened self-interest and with no consideration of the general good. Her case in point was Eichmann, a thin, bespectacled, middle-aged man with bad teeth and a receding hairline who organized the mass deportation of Jews and other “undesirables” to extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, but maintained that he was simply following orders. Arendt coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe the provincial mindset that allows seemingly “normal” individuals like Adolph Eichmann to kill.

The literary critic Stephen Knight has used the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe a species of crime fiction, one typified by the crime novels of Patricia Highsmith, most particularly The Talented Mr. Ripley and the four succeeding novels featuring Ripley as criminal hero. For Knight, Highsmith’s Ripley novels invite readers to recognize themselves in the action and behavior of the engagingly likable but completely amoral Tom Ripley, and stand in sharp contrast to the Agatha Christie-esque notion that murderers are essentially evil.

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