Friday, January 27, 2012

Guest Post: Sinister Characters by Lois Winston

Sinister Characters
by Lois Winston

What better place to talk about sinister characters than a blog titled, The Sinister Scribblings of Sarah E. Glenn? Thank you, Sarah, for inviting me to guest blog here today during my month-long blog tour for the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series.

I’ve been told that I write villains readers love to hate. Most readers love heroes and heroines because they yearn to associate with the good guys. They want to see good triumph over evil. They want the vicarious thrill of a happily-ever-ending. Little girls want to grow up to be princesses. Little boys want to grow up to be Luke Skywalker. No one wants to grow up to be Cruella deVille or Darth Vader.

Yet, we remain fascinated by villains. They often drive the story with their complex natures. Why would someone do such evil things? We want to know what drives these madmen and women to commit the crimes they do. Who wasn’t totally intrigued by Voldemort’s back-story? Or Darth Vader’s?

However, too often authors succumb to writing stereotypical villains. Even the most vile of vile villains has to have a reason for his vileness. Snidely Whiplash is one-dimensional. We want to read about 3-dimensional characters, and that’s not limited just to the protagonists of a story. Villains count. They drive plots forward. Without them, we have no conflict.

Who are some of your favorite fictional villains? Post a comment, and you could win one of five signed copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll I’m giving away as part of my January blog tour. The full tour schedule can be found at my website,, and the Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog, In addition, I’m giving away 3 copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll on Goodreads,

Bio: Lois Winston is the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries published by Midnight Ink. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist and was recently nominated for a Readers Choice Award by the Salt Lake City Library System. The new year brings with it the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series.  

If you're considering starting at the beginning of the series, a good review of Lois' first novel appears on Kevin Tipple's blog.

Visit Lois at her website: and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog: You can also follow Lois and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth.


Sarah Glenn said...

One of my faves: Doctor Doom, as written by Stan Lee. Much classier than the movie version.

Magneto: became better over the years of writing. He became nobler with time.

Dyan Ardais of the Darkover series.

Hannibal Lecter before the movies forced his character over the top.

Barry Ergang said...

Iago. Ming the Merciless. Fu Manchu. Dr. No.

Lois Winston said...

All great villains, Sarah and Barry!

Morgan Mandel said...

I think about the Godfather book and movie, where we get acquainted with the main character, and see his transition to a villain. Because we know how it happened, we can still sympathize with him, at least I did.

Morgan Mandel

jennymilch said...

I think this ties in to what you are saying, Lois--I like villains who don't believe they are villains. Those for whom the reader is aware of how they justify themselves. And for whom it's sometimes hard to be sure whom to root for.

Lois Winston said...

Morgan, The Godfather is a perfect example of an author portraying multifaceted villains that readers will love to hate.

Jenny, when a villain feels he's in the right and can rationalize his actions, it makes for a great villain, especially when the author can suck the reader into sympathizing with the villain at certain points.

jeff7salter said...

In my 3rd novel ms. the villain had a comic edge (not evident to himself or to his partners in crime) which the reader could appreciate by the bungling of their operation and the bad dude's reactions.
In two other novel ms., the villain was rather confined to a few short scenes.
In my 4th and 5th novels, there weren't any actual villains due to the nature of those stories.
But in my 6th story, I began to give more development to the bad guy.
My beta reader tells me the villain in my 7th ms. is my best so far --- also the most developed and had a lot more stage time than any of the others.

Rebecca said...

I love a good villain. Timothy Olyphant in one of the Die Hard movies was great - sexy, sarcastically funny, and knowingly bad.

In my mind, the best villains are the ones we can see where they're coming from (but not where they're going)...and see a bit of ourselves in them.

Lois Winston said...

Jeff, what is it about the villain in your 7th novel that makes him the best so far?

Rebecca, great insight!

jeff7salter said...

He's pathologically evil. And the reader gets to witness how he lays his groundwork, leading up to commission of his crimes.
He disarms his victims by becoming (figuratively) who they would want to see.

Lois Winston said...

Sounds fascinating, Jeff.

Suzanne said...

I teach a workshop on creating archetypal characters instead of stereotypes. The "villain" is predominantly the Shadow archetype. The best villains possess numerous heroic characteristics. I lead students in an exercise to identify heroic characteristics in Satan.

Villains are the mirror of the hero/protagonist. But many excellent villain characters encompass additional archetypal forms. The reason Hannibal Lector was so exquisite in "The Silence of the Lambs" was the way he worked on Clarice Starling's psyche as a Shapeshifter archetype.

The whole Harry Potter franchise lost my interest because Voldemort didn't scare me. If your villain doesn't creep out your reader, you've screwed up.

The "Star Trek" franchise definitely did not screw up in creating the villain character of Gul Dukat in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." The series ran for seven years. During that time, viewers watched Dukat go through several complete character arcs entwined with those of the main character/hero, Ben Sisko. Dukat was charming, vulnerable, intelligent, sarcastic, brutal, sexy, and very, very sociopathic. In the final episode of the series, Dukat and Sisko engaged in an epic, personal battle.

I'd be lying to you if I said that watching that seven-year villain-hero duet on "Deep Space Nine" didn't influence how I deploy the villain of my current series. I figure that if you're going to make a villain dog a hero for an entire series, you should pull out all the stops and make it rich. Along the way to the Final Confrontation, the villain should force the hero to surrender pieces of his/her soul, slide kicking and screaming down a slope of increasing darkness. Your hero should really need redemption at some point of the series. That's exactly where my hero Michael Stoddard is headed -- but I couldn't achieve it without the series villain, Dunstan Fairfax.

Lois Winston said...

Suzanne, thanks so much for adding to the discussion with such insightful information.

Epona said...

Re. The Godfather, I don't know if Morgan was referring to Vito Corleone or his son Michael, but I've always thought Michael (especially as protrayed in the first two movies) was an excellent villain because of the way we saw him evolve (or devolve?). But my favorite bad guy always will be Dracula, as Stoker originally wrote him, because he sort of set the standard for all the intelligent, articulate villains in fiction that came after. And just when you think he's all evil, Van Helsing, of all people, briefs all the "good guys" on Dracula's strong points, and what a charismatic military leader he was in his lifetime. Plus, Drac is unpredictable and mysterious, two qualities that I think make for a better-than-average villain (Michael Corleone has them, too).

Lois Winston said...

Epona, I think Morgan was referring to Michael Corleone, not Vito. And Dracula is a great example.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

My favorite villain is Nurse Rached from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Because she could easily be real! Villains, of course, think that THEY are the hero of their own story, and that WE are the ones out to spoil everything for them ... mmmwwwaaahahahaha