In an earlier post, The Myth Around Evil Villains, I talked about how villains shouldn’t be flat characters in your writing, and should have thoughts and motivations like everyone else.
Reading my post, however, I realized that I hadn’t specified one very important point:
Just because villains have thoughts and motives, and even a likeable side, doesn’t mean they are any less evil.
I might have started a disagreement right now, by stating that. After all, in modern culture we can see more and more that the common thought is “there is no good, no evil, and truth is a term relative to each person”. If you think this way, well, I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinions. However, I disagree with this way of thinking, and this is why:
To start, let’s first agree on what good and evil are exactly.
Generally, good is thought of as: selfless, caring, kindhearted, honourable, loving, etc. Basically, one who puts others before themselves.
And evil? Well evil is the exact opposite. Selfish, uncaring, mean, dishonourable, spiteful etc. Evil is bringing benefit to one’s self, at the cost of others.
Even now, we can already see that there is good, and there is evil in the world. One need only to look at how each person acts. We can choose to do good or evil to those around us everyday. So yes, in that sense, good and evil do most definitely exist. They are both a choice.
On a higher level, being Christian, I believe that God is the embodiment of good, and love, and that the devil is the embodiment of all that is evil. Do I think that they are controlling us like puppets? That the good people God somehow is puppeteering, and that there are evil minions of the devil roaming around the Earth in human skins?
I believe that God created us to be good. Better than good, perfect. But the Earth is fallen, and corrupt. We each have the choice to choose the good response, or the not so good one, and it is this choice that sometimes ends up blurring the lines of good and evil.
Humans are flawed.
This is a fundamental knowledge that almost everyone will agree on. “Nobody’s perfect” is an overused sentence for a reason.
That struggle is there, and I know personally, that it is very easy to choose the action you know is not the right one, just because you really really really really want candy, and the only way to get some is to “borrow” some of your sibling’s…. not that I’m admitting to anything, this is only an example. 😉
But my point is that this struggle doesn’t immediately make us evil.
This is where the problem pops up in the current culture. Take Game of Thrones for instance. Everyone has motives, and everyone has methods of getting what they want. It is literally a game of wits, and smarts, and working your assets. No one is ‘evil’ even though their actions sometimes are, and no one is ‘good’ as everyone is still working for their own benefits.
While it’s true, that humans do struggle like this, popular culture has forgotten that there still is a point, where there is no coming back. And not because said person can’t come back, and can’t be redeemed (there is always a chance for redemption), but because they don’t want to come back. There will be people that are so checked out, and so completely gone that they are very truly, through and through, evil.
No, they weren’t always that way, there is always some incident, some reason that a villain becomes a villain (think Joker, for example), and there is always a chance for them to turn around and become good again, however, both these things do not ‘erase’ a villain’s evilness.
In the case of novels, we must have something truly evil that is underlying what our protagonist is fighting against, and we also must have something truly good backing up the protagonist if we want anyone to root for them. This is what makes a good story.
Think Lord of the Rings for a moment. Throughout the series we are on the edges of our seats, hoping everyone doesn’t die, rooting for them. And when all hope seems lost, when the world seems completely dark and there seems to be no way for anyone to escape, that’s when Gandalf’s staff lights up the room and chases away the ring wraith’s dragons, or scares away the hordes of goblins (the Hobbit), or one of the elves come in swinging and save the day, or long lines of reinforcements in shining armour show up to the battle just in the nick of time. Or… the eagles save the day.
I can’t help but breathe a relieved sigh, bite back the potential tears, and smile as a blooming joy swells and our protagonists are victorious. Nothing seems to be better than watching good triumph over evil, defeating impossible odds simply because of the little things, like hope… and courage.
In everyday life, good and evil do exist, and we have been given the gift of being able to choose.
The choice is ours, and just that simple choice ends up being either a battle won, or a battle lost. It is this choice that makes us human. It is also a wonderful thing to exploit in writing, to really dig into the pain and suffering that come as consequences, the horrible trails, and the rewards, just like Tolkien did in his novels.
However, it is most important to remember that true evil, and true good exist, and must not be forgotten. Villains may be worthy of pity, and definitely deserve redemption, however, a true villain will still be well and truly evil so long as they continue down the path they are on. Everyone is either working for themselves or for others.
On that note, thanks for listening to my rant and hopefully I opened up some questions or deep discussion on the topic. 😉
Oh, and everyone, please remember to pray for Paris! (That incident truly was the work of evil)