It could be an untouchable kingpin or a nasty stepmom. Or perhaps just the dark side calling from within the hero’s heart. The latter is what I find most entertaining. Why? Because a bad to the bone bad guy needs to be done really well to not be boring and predictable.
I blame P.G. Woodhouse for corrupting my sense of getting scared by evil masterminds. Monologue-ing with a pistol in hand is really a waste of time. A quick clean shot to the chest or forehead - with a sarcastic smile - is so must hotter and villainous. But then I’d want to know why a person is so sour? If the writer fails to come up with the mental processes of his/her villain then even a swift trigger happy antihero is just another cardboard mastermind to me.
Okay so he hates people. So he’s evil. So what?
I prefer the dark side fighting to emerge from within the good guy. So much more flavor there and so much room to explore the character. The same goes for bad guys returning to the light. This of course depends on how you like your villains and it’s strictly a matter of preference but I believe that most of us - people in general - are grey. We all have dark sides lurking beneath our lighter, happier shades. It is a specific set of circumstances that bring out the mood that can, in our minds, best handle the given situation we’re in.
The typical all evil villainous stereotypes do exist in our world but are rare and retarded. For how can a healthy mind be constantly driven to do evil? Unless we’re depicting satanic influences, there must be some sort of mental illness that fuels that state of mind and it is that diagnosis that I want to read or provide if I’m writing a purely evil character. If the rationale for evil is absent then my attention would soon follow suit.
Similarly, plain vanilla good guys aren’t always interesting except, to me, their selflessness is a flaw in itself that provides an interesting angle to the character somewhat. At least more interesting than a plain vanilla bad guy.
I remember Charles Dickens’ Ham Peggoty from David Copperfield. I didn’t understand him when I read him at first but later when we analyzed the characters, I understood and liked him so much more than that awful James Steerforth!
The first time I realized that I liked my heroes a little imperfect was after reading M. M. Kaye’s Trade Wind. Captain Emerald Tyson Frost, a slave trader, just stole my mind and heart without warning with his clear blue eyes and sunny smiles. Next in line was Rhett Butler. I wouldn’t look at Ashley twice! Erik, my dear Phantom (not True Blood mind you). The various tormented souls screaming through the pages, crafted by Edgar Allan Poe. Miranda Priestly (better portrayed in the movie though). Captain Jack Sparrow, Barbosa, Megamind, Gru, Damon Salvatore (as played on TV), Anakin Skywalker...what? Screen characters count too!
Hence, once settled that I like a good mix of dark sides with the light, I took the same road with Demon while writing him. He is a bad boy with a heart of gold.
Gold is not easily melted but it glitters all the same :)