Monday, May 11, 2009

Back to me

Today is the 11th and our turn, Jackie and I, has rolled around again. I've thought a little bit about a topic and don't really have one. at least I don't think I do. Maybe if I just wander a bit. My life has been a little off track the last few weeks. Well, maybe, a lot off track. So much happens that on a day to day basis it seems okay, but when I look back and see all the turmoil I wonder how I got through it all intact and sane. Which started me thinking about insanity. I recently read a book in which the villain was insane and the author used insanity as motivation for all his acts of violence against the heroine. I felt cheated.

As a writing teacher with almost 20 years of teaching under my belt I constantly tell my students that insanity is not an option as motivation for his actions unless even his or her insanity is well motivated. I think insanity is used when a writer can't find a good motivation for a villain's actions. To me this is cheating the reader. Yeah, Hannibal Lector was insane, but he was insane for a very good reason and in his mind, his reason was well-thought out and motivated even if it's a reason so alien to us that it makes us cringe. But having a character insane for no other reason except to provide the conflict for the sake of the story is a cop-out.

A villain should be as well-motivated as the hero and heroine. For whatever reason his savagery exists, it should have its basis in the story. In Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs are cast as the antagonists, Even though they are animals, they are still motivated not so much by their savagery (except in the case of the velociraptors) but because it's more than their nature to be savage. In their world weak animals die, prey to stronger and more savage animals. So they developed strategies to be strong because their motivation is survival. I find survival a pretty good motivation for a lot of characters, especially for villains. As warped as they may be, many of their actions are based on a need to survive. And while their survival is in conflict with more civilized behavior, their reasons are more unreasonable than reasonable, it's still logical to them. And it's the weird logic they use that should put them in conflict with the other characters, not the fact that they may be, or are insane.

I have no aversion to insane villains, but I prefer my villains a little better thought out than just a casual comment made by some character that 's/he's just insane.' Why else would s/he do what they do? That isn't good motivation.

Now you have my two cents. I guess I had a topic after all.


Niambi Brown Davis said...

You sure did have a topic, and I agree - just tell me why/give me a reason. Because I said so doesn't work (but I'm like that with everything) :)

Dyanne said...

I'm glad you have nothing against insane characters as I'm writing about one that's almost operating on the brink of insanity. But there is a very good reason for it and of course she fights her way back to some sort of reality. I'm not done with the writing yet so who knows.

The one thing I can say about writers, no matter if we think we have nothing to write about we write and someone read it. Good job. I enjoyed the post.

Miriam Pace said...

Dyanne, I just get annoyed when a writer uses insanity as a motivator rather than the reason behind the insanity. I have nothing against insane heroes, just insane heroes who have no other reason for doing what they do.