Thursday, June 6, 2013

BLOG TOUR: Storm Season by Nicola Cameron


Thanks to Book Monster Promotions for hosting this blog tour. I have Nicola Cameron, author of Storm Season here today talking about villains. Welcome!

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Beautiful Yet Cruel: Reasons To Make Your Villain Attractive

So I was cleaning my pool the other day and thinking of Mads Mikkelsen, as you do. Tall, Dark and Danish was on my mind because I'd just read a rather cogent post on Tumblr about fans who were gushing over the newest incarnation of Hannibal Lecter in a big way and kind of forgetting that, you know, Dr. Lecter kills people. And eats them. And serves them to other unsuspecting diners. And zestfully screws with Will Graham's mind and health as a hobby. And is what we in the writing dodge like to call a Really Bad Guy.

The original poster was rather concerned that a lot of fans seem to be thinking with their ovaries and not their heads, as they are insisting that Dr. Lecter had Reasons™ for doing all those bad things, and that he's just this mixed-up, misunderstood guy, instead of a vicious, psychopathic, cannibalistic monster. Whereas I agree with the original poster -- Hannibal Lecter IS a vicious, psychopathic, cannibalistic monster. And the only reason why these fans aren't recoiling from their widescreens in horror is that he is currently played by a very hot Danish actor who wears beautiful clothes, has perfect hair (when it's not perfectly mussed), an insanely masculine bone structure, a lovely growly accent, just the right amount of chest hair, and is so damned graceful it's not even funny, and--

Ahem. Sorry, needed to cool off for a minute there. Anyway, back to my topic, which makes me cackle with glee as a writer. Fans are looking at a complete and utter whackjob of a character, and even though they know full well he's a whackjob, they become utterly infatuated with him because he's attractive. Damn, that's clever. That is just so clever. Why is that clever? Because it means those fans tend to give Hannibal the benefit of a doubt about his actions, even though they know better. And this allows the series writers to completely mess with their heads when Hannibal fillets another rude phlebotomist or serves up Kidney ala Dental Assistant to Jack Crawford and the gang. I mean, really, the mental gymnastics necessary to resolve Dr. Lecter's gruesome culinary habits with the deeply seated wish to see him naked must be absolutely astounding -- we're talking Stephen Hawking-level leaps of cogitation, here.

And that's a good thing. Hell, that's absolutely great, and kudos to Bryan Fuller, Mads and the Hannibal team for pulling it off. Because creating a really good (and by good I mean captivating) villain is damned difficult, even harder to do than creating a good hero. After all, the hero has it easy -- he's the hero, the personification of everything that is right and good, and usually the default stand-in for the reader. Assuming that a story is well written, readers are predisposed to like and care for the hero.

But the villain, ah, that's where you get into murkier and more challenging creative waters. Make your bad guy too much of a monster, and nobody gives a rat's ass for his motivations -- they just want him dead. Make your evil queen too simplistic, and people don't care about her plans to roast her stepdaughter over a slow fire and snack on her heart -- she comes off as a cartoon character. Writers need to walk a fine line, giving the villain enough emotional hooks so that the reader comes to care about him whether they like it or not. Granted, the only thing the reader may care about is seeing the baddie on a gibbet, but they still care.

And a very interesting way of generating that level of care is by utilizing the human fascination with physical beauty. As a species we're hardwired to like and follow people we find attractive, even though they may be utter scum on the inside; CEOs, politicians, and high school popular cliques are real-life examples of how this works. And since we do tend to sympathize with attractive people, that adds a tasty little psychological twist when an attractive character takes out a room full of Starfleet brass, or blows up a hospital, or turns a human being into cold cuts. Sometimes, we even justify the villain's behavior simply on the basis that he or she is pretty, and, well, pretty = good so there must be a really important reason for why they did what they did, right? Right?

Talk about a powerful writing tool. Making your bad guy appealing is a simple but incredibly effective way to captivate your readers, sucking them into the damaged amusement park full of red delights that is your villain's psyche and spitting them out, blinking and stunned, at the end of the story. Think of Patrick Bateman, the White Witch, Mrs. Coulter, Tom Ripley, the Marquise de Merteuil, Randall Flagg, and the sexiest baddie of all, Dracula. Think of how skillfully they used their own attractiveness to entice both their victims and the reader at the same time. Would they have had the same impact if they had acne or male pattern baldness or a bad dress sense? I don't think so. They know what they have, and they work it like a Las Vegas showgirl to get what they want.

Of course, they are villains. And we'll cheer for the hero to come out on top at the end because hey, that's what we're supposed to do. We're civilized creatures, after all (and for those of us who aren't, we can fake it beautifully). But still, there's that perverse little urge that battles logic and makes people feel just a bit wistful when some seductive devil works their evil magic, even if it means the walls are dripping red afterwards. So the next time you need to come up with a villain, think about what could make him or her attractive to your readers, then use it ruthlessly. If you can lure your readers so far over to the dark side that they start sympathizing with the devil, you've done your job as a writer.

And now, if you'll excuse me, my pool is clean and I have a couple of Hannibal episodes on the DVD to enjoy. Bon appétit.

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About the Author
Nicola Cameron is an expatriate Chicagoan who has lived in England, Canada, Holland, and Sweden, and keeps a confusing amalgamation of languages in her head as a result. Currently located in the clavicle of Texas, she has finally mastered the proper use of "y'all," much to her Chicago family's dismay.

Despite a healthy interest in sex since puberty, it wasn't until 2012 that Nicola decided to try writing about it. As it turned out, the skills she picked up during her SF writing career transferred rather nicely to erotic romance. When not writing, she wrangles cats, smooches her husband, makes dolls of dubious and questionable identity, and thanks almighty Cthulhu that she doesn’t have to work for a major telecommunications company any more (because there’s BDSM, and then there’s just plain torture...).

Find the author:
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Storm Season

Ian West had his summer all planned out — go down to Florida, stay in his family’s beach cottage on Olympic Cove, and work on his science fiction novel. But his plans get thrown for a loop when gorgeous twin sea gods Bythos and Aphros show up in the cove and inform him he’s their fated consort.

As if that wasn’t enough, something in the Gulf of Mexico is turning mermaids into legendary monsters and gods into demons. Now, Ian not only has to navigate the complicated waters of a ménage relationship with twin sea gods, he also has to stop an insane deity and save the whole damn planet.

No pressure.


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3 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for having me, Buffy! And this post was hella fun to write, too.

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