Annie Wilkes Had a Point

IMG_8818I love a good antihero, but don’t normally sympathize with villains. And Annie Wilkes (of Misery, by Stephen King) really was a villain. After all, she captured an injured man and refused to release him, making him write stories for her, then injured him when he made her mad. That’s firmly in villain territory.

One of the things that made her really mad was “cheating.” You know, when an author promises one thing and delivers another? Or when the author says one thing happened, but then backtracks and says “It was all a dream” or “It didn’t really happen that way.” I mean, when those things happen, I kind of understand her desire to break the ankles of the offending author.*

(*I’m not actually advocating violence here. Please don’t go out and break anyone’s ankles.)

I recently read a book that I love and hate at the same time. It was good, and it paid off all the promises the author made. But the ending was sad. I don’t want to like the ending. I want to demand the author take it back. Kind of like when JK Rowling went on a killing spree in Book 7.

But it was the right ending.

The author gave the book the ending it deserved. No flinching (well, probably flinching), no cheating. It hurt. I mean, if it hurt me, it probably hurt the author more.

It’s just that I was so emotionally invested in the book. I wanted everyone to be okay, to have a magical happily ever after. And while a lot of books do end like that, not all of them do. And not all of them should.

As a writer, I wand to give all of my characters happy endings. After all, technically, I can. I could write a happy ending for everyone because I’m the one typing the words on a page.

But stories are a living thing. The good ones breathe life into the reader, and the reader breathes back. If a writer forces the story into a corner, it will do what it’s told, but it won’t breathe magic anymore. Maybe in the moment, the ending will be satisfying, but ultimately forgettable. Because if the ending isn’t real, right, alive, then there’s no point to writing it.

And sometimes real, right, and alive hurt.

The logical part of me knows this. But the emotional part? Well… I think I’m going to go reread Misery.

Are there any books that ended in a way that felt right, but still hurt? Or any books you’re still mad about because they “cheated?”

(On a side note, for those of you who follow my blog, I’m going to try switching to a Monday/ Friday update schedule. Sunday/ Wednesday just wasn’t working for me.)


V is for Villians

But... but... I'm not a villain!  I'm a good dog!

But… but… I’m not a villain! I’m a good dog!

I love a good villain, but I prefer a complex villain.  One dimensional evil is kind of boring and doesn’t offer much in the way of character development or surprise.  I prefer villains with their own ethical codes.  It doesn’t have to be a code I agree with; it’s just important that whatever the code is, it’s consistent.

Villains are meant to move a story forward, but at their best, are foils for the hero, a way to contrast the hero’s choices and make the hero shine brighter.

So what makes a good villain?

I think that they have to be in somewhat understandable and relatable.  Who wants to read about a villain who is so far out there that no one cares.  That’s one of the things I liked about Hannibal Lecter (from Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, and Hannibal by Thomas Harris); he didn’t do things he considered to be rude, and he “ate the rude.”  Sure, a little extreme, but I agree that the rude should be punished.

They have to live by a set of rules.  Annie Wilkes of Misery (by Stephen King) was CRAZY.  But she didn’t like profanity, didn’t like cheating, and liked fiction.  Maybe she was okay with hobbling a guy, but she wasn’t going to say any naughty words while doing it.

They should be well-developed enough to be an actual character.  Seems a bit obvious, but I want to know a little bit about my villain.  Enough to know what makes them a villain.  In Watchers, by Dean Koontz, The Outsider’s character was so well-developed that I felt a little sad and wondered if he could have been redeemed, even though I knew he had to die.

Though sometimes mystery is good.  Darth Vader was much scarier in Star Wars IV-VI than he was in I-III.  ‘Nuff said.

They should be scary.  If a villain isn’t scary, what’s the point?  Evil should always scare us.  The Joker in The Dark Knight was one of the scariest villains in a long time, and what made him scary was his complete and total unpredictability.  (That’s not to say he didn’t live by a set of rules; he did.  But he was all about anarchy, which is inherently unpredictable.)

Sometimes the villain makes you kinda agree with them.  A little.  I love villains who make me question my views on morality.  Erik Lensher aka Magneto in the X-men movies.  He’s tired of being a second class citizen, so he wants to kill off all his potential oppressors.  Yeah, it’s wrong.  But if wrong is a continuum, it’s not at the far, far end.  Is it?

Writing villains can be satisfying and fun, but it’s also difficult to do well.  I’m not saying that a good villain must have all these qualities, but at least one or two, and scary is a MUST.


“The villains were always ugly in books and movies. Necessarily so, it seemed. Because if they were attractive—if their looks matched their charm and their cunning—they wouldn’t only be dangerous.

They would be irresistible.”
― Nenia Campbell

Who’s your favorite villain?



by The TV Guy

If you were like me you felt the need to be on top of the news. There was a time when I needed to know minute by minute what was going on around the world. There was always a sense that it was my responsibility as a citizen to know “what’s in the news”. We have been suckered into watching more news than any person could possibly use or need in a lifetime.

Do we really need a play by play of everything that is said to be news worthy?

What passes for news is comical! I know more about celebrities and athletes than I could or should ever care to know.

I work with vulnerable adults who are sure that the world is coming to an end based on what they see on the “news”. They live in fear of China, Russia and unmanned drones. No matter what is said these people say, “but it was on the news!”

I cringe and tell them that maybe watching the news all day is not a good idea. They agree and tell me that they saw something on the news that said watching TV is not good for you.

The old saying, “If it bleeds it leads!” is as true today as when it was said by Armstrong Williams decades ago. If we want to be bombarded by news-less news then belly up to the bar and drink yourself to death.

I watch no news, absolutely none! I see and deal with things in my work that make so much of the news seem trivial. The reality of the world and the news of the world are often quite different.

Make a commitment to yourself and those you love try watching less news for one week. If you do not feel better about the world you live in, fine! Return to the news buffet; it is always waiting to serve you another heaping pile of sadness and misery.