Saturday, June 27, 2020

Charming Villains

This month's shared topic is do you have any charming, likable villains? This topic, like many of the upcoming topics, has left me thinking and wondering about my published characters.

Wikipedia, original cover
I had to think about this first, so I thought about the villains I have read about. Surprise! This is a theme in one of my favorite stories. In Georgette Heyer's 1932 Regency romance novel, The Devil's Cub, the hero starts as a villainous scoundrel but love gradually transforms him. This tends to be a theme in many historical romances. In that European era, the idea existed that noblemen ruled so could do whatever they wanted. While they were often good people, they felt entitled, and society looked the other way as power and wealth were more important than morals. The hero of The Devil's Cub's insouciance and good manners draws readers to him even though he is in the process of abducting the woman who thwarted his plans instead of her eager-to-agree younger sister. As a teen, I read Heyer's books obsessively, and I know the father of this hero had his own story and a few villainous ways, too. He earned redemption when he stepped away from the woman he wanted to let her join the man she loved.

But do I have any likable villains in my novels? Well, sort of but she is only a minor secondary character. Adessa, in Rogue's Rules, is looking for her brother who was sold into slavery. An extraordinarily evil character tells her he can help her find her brother if she will kill the story's heroine. She becomes a friend and supporter of the heroine until she finds a safe way to eliminate her. Is Adessa likable? I don't think her part in the story is extensive enough for the reader to come to like her or not. In another novel, Home World Reax, the reader knows that the one character who acts very charming to other characters is a hateful witch behind doors, so I don't think she counts in this category. 

Which reminds me that we all know psychology and personality type plays into who we are and how we act and react. We all do things that often unintentionally but sometimes intentionally affect others. Some do evil things depending on their mental health, their circumstances, or their history, which left them with a desire for vengeance while they can remain friendly, polite, and charming individuals. 

This happens with story characters, too. Even the main heroic character can want retribution on another character whose past actions have caused them trouble or disaster that haunts them. In the story's progress, this haunted character discovers their perception was incorrect for one reason or another such as the 'evil' incident was either accidental or they've been misinformed, and now they have created evil themselves. Most story villains are characters who think, do, or say mean things due to their personal beliefs. Some villains are guided by even greater villains. To others and in public they are polite, kind, and humorous. Some think that only what they want is important no matter who gets harmed by their desires or greed. However, like some people, psychologically twisted characters can do truly awful things.

I find the idea of a charming and likable villain interesting, which leaves me thinking about how I can develop one for a future story. It will, of course, depend on their purpose.

Please visit these author's blogs to learn their views on this topic:
Skye Taylor 
Fiona McGier 
Judith Copek 
Dr. Bob Rich 
Connie Vines  
Diane Bator 
Helena Fairfax 


  1. Hi Rhobin, Yes, all the factors that make up a character can influence our perception of them and of their behaviour and, of course, we can be blinded by love to a person's badness or by hate to a person's goodness. I think of Charles Gickens here and the much maligned Nancy in Oliver Twist. A good topic to make us think about character creation. Anne

  2. Loved Devil's Cub - in fact love all Heyer's work, including her mysteries and historicals. And she has a way with character development that leaves an indelible impression. I read most of her books when I was in my twenties and have only re-read a few of them, but some of the characters I met between the covers of her books still linger in my mind as engaging, sometimes even villainous, but still memorable.

  3. Another insightful analysis, Rhobin. It's hard to hate someone we have learned to understand, isn't it?

  4. I love all of Georgette Heyer's books, Robin, and I re-read them often. Her heroes are all different characters. Devil's Cub isn't a favourite of mine. I don't think she succeeded in making this hero likeable - not for me, anyway - but as you say, noblemen in those days thought they could act in any way they wanted.
    Thanks for organising the Round Robin and for another interesting topic.

  5. Husband and I just started watching "Merlin" on NetFlix. It's a new show, playing around with the mythology and legends of Camelot. As Merlin, the teenager, tells the dragon in the first episode, "I think you have the wrong Arthur--this one's an asshole!" And he is. But as we see more of his life, and come to realize the pressure he's under, as the only son of Uther, we come to see his arrogance and dismissivness as a protective reaction to being expected to be perfect at all times.

  6. Some interesting thoughts on villains. I maybe read one Heyer book in college back in the Dark Ages. In this time of virus, it's nice to (re-) discover authors.
    I doubt if many villains feel they are evil. They're just doing something necessary. Shakespeare had great villains!