Maybe black and white isn’t so bad after all…

By  |  0 Comments

This week over at the Night Bazaar, we’re talking about villains. Last year on the Bazaar we talked about villains, and, well, mostly to be contrary, I decided it would be fun to write a rebuttal of my own post from a year ago. Here’s an excerpt from the post:

I was one of the inaugural members of the Night Bazaar, and during that first year we talked about villains, and an interesting thing came up in the comments. I’d talked about favoring the heroes and villains should be both be gray, and Doug Hulick, of Among Thieves fame, countered my post by saying (essentially) that sometimes it’s ok to have black and white villains and heroes. I’ll admit. I was pretty ensconced in my viewpoint, but I do try to step outside of my preconceptions when someone takes a view that opposes mine. So I noodled it for a bit. I thought about it. And, well, while I understood where Doug was coming from, I still didn’t think that sort of story was for me. And in fact, I’ll admit it, I kind of looked down on that type of story as simplistic. Literary popcorn.

But, as the mind tends to do, now and again my hindbrain would bring the subject up, especially when I thought about my basic approach to writing. I kept going back to an observation my agent passed on to me after he’d read my first book, The Winds of Khalakovo. He said that in general (there are always exceptions) stories with fairly easy to comprehend villains do better in the marketplace. At the time, I scoffed, not at my agent, but at shortsighted readers. I’m part of the gray crowd, I told myself. I’m a disciple of Glen Cook and George R.R. Martin.

But as I thought about this more and more, I started to see the value in making the villain more black and the hero more white. I think the biggest benefit of such an approach relates to how deeply the reader roots for the heroes and heroines. Said another way, it’s about the level of investment on the part of the reader, how emotional they become over the fate of the characters. Part of this equation is the level to which they sympathize with the heroes.

Read more about it over at The Night Bazaar.