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 their babies, twisted with the thought of preventing “murder” with murder.
Good villains are obvious. Better ones mysterious. Stealthy. I’ve found that the great ones are an Idea, those that you can relate to, have you agreeing with, then dash your passion with inner conflict.
The stealthiest of villains can be a story’s setting. One that draws you in with familiarity, or empathy from emotional attachment shared by the character – then it wants to eat you. The unknown, fear from not understanding why this place was so lovely one moment and the next terrifying, induces horror.
In Hunger, Rebecca is put through an emotional wringer. Her Papa’s funeral looms, and she’s emotionally out of sorts with memories of his love. She attempts to hold on to his memory and mitigate her feelings of loss by taking his boat to an island, a trip on the Gulf she and her Papa enjoyed together every weekend. She loved the gorgeous beaches and endless sky. She loved the ocean, a setting considered a monstrosity by many, able to drown or devour a person a thousand ways.
Without flippers she had to rely on her arms. She was surprised at how much stronger she felt in the water, pleased about all the parkour practice, thinking of unexpected benefits. Rebecca would tire, but she knew how to pace herself and recover, and keep going.
The noon sun pinked the tops of her ears, cheeks huing the same. Slipping below a wave she adjusted the anchor line on her waist and decided to swim a little further.
Hunger, at his place on the bow, panting, watched her. A salty breeze pushed his ears forward. Several times he ran to the stern barking. Rebecca heard small splashes and smiled. Then recalled something her father once said.
“You see those fish?”
She followed his finger, held a hand to her eyes. “Is that a school of mullet?” A dozen or more of them were launching out of the waves.
“No. Not this far out. Those are mackerel. With something big after them.”
With something big after them.
Her legs drifted down, arms treading fast in between the boat and a small wave extending out before her. Mindful of her breathing she kept the water from sucking in. It took a moment to push through the gelatinous nature her body had become; she suddenly knew something big was after her.
Head dipped under, whirling to face the boat, she grabbed the line and yanked herself in that direction. Kicked out hard, shoulders bobbing above the surface. Hunger barked, muzzle hanging over the side, tail high behind him. His swaying shadow dispersed into the water’s reflection on the aluminum pontoon. The glow dimmed entirely as her knees scrubbed onto the outdoor carpet. Hunger’s wet nose hit hers and she let out a shout, the deck rising to meet her elbows. She twisted around and hugged the dog to her. Heads hung over the water, her hair and his blew into her eyes.
A gray blur under the waves sped off, its path traced by geysers of white branching in all directions, massive school of fish launching into beaming daylight to escape the murderous predator.
Her hug tightened. He licked her shoulder.
In Waste Management, the villain is raised by a mother with anti-establishment views. She teaches her son a philosophy that may appeal to readers who have experienced hardships with state or government agencies, and secretly desire revenge. In this passage there are three villains, the character (murderous psychopath), the setting (his childhood home, once his sunshine filled world, now dilapidated), and the Idea (extreme anti-establishment):
Government agencies. Educational and hospice systems. Social institutions… swarming with infection spewed from media outlets. Every one with their own agenda!
Standards that put family first, make company loyalty a source of pride and community service a tradition everyone sacrifices for…
Targets of the disease on Society.
“Do you think the infection will come here, Mother?”
She nodded. “It will get worse.”
The Memory’s task wasn’t fully upon him yet. Recently abated, he was able to stand and listen to the empty house, the hallway and rooms catching hollow wines from a breeze testing the integrity of termite ridden walls. Bereft of his mother’s furnishings, the house bespoke a frailty, with an atmosphere of doom.
A fast food bag in the hallway crumpled. A bulbous gray rat emerged from it, nose twitching. The man’s nostrils flared, eyes tracking the scavenger, then moved to the bathroom door. The stench of two decades of vagabonds penetrated everything in the tiny enclosure. Like a being of the marsh it cycled forth in lazy waves, threatening any organism that required O2 for survival.
Mother’s bedroom was the door past the bathroom. The door had been dark green once. It was missing now. The toe of his boot turned, bits of sheetrock grinding to powder.
An open nest for the soiled, infected discards of community, relegated to condemned slums for shelter…
My personal favorite are the unexpected, once-underdog villains that charm with innocence, and you root for them up until they murder someone with that charm and innocence.
You were expecting an example. I’m not giving you one here. Does that make me the villain in this guest post series?
Check out Re-Pete, a story about a shy boy with severe OCD, a feature in Her Name Is Mercie, my collection of short stories that will be released May 18th, 2018, by Near to the Knuckle. Hunger is also in that collection.
Follow the blog tour:
Waste Management will be released later this year by Near to the Knuckle: http://gritfiction.co.uk
If you’re insane enough to follow me on Twitter, I’m @AuthorChrisRoy. See you there!
© 2018, Chris Roy. All rights reserved.