Rick Polito made internet history in 1998 with his witty synopsis of the movie, The Wizard of Oz: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.” Of course, it took a few years for the Internet to become a thing, but this line has been going around for years. And we laugh because it’s such an odd take on the plot, while being absolutely true.
Dorothy didn’t think of herself as a murderer, we’re pretty sure. The Wicked Witch of the West also didn’t think of herself as a bad person. She took really good care of those flying monkeys. Why, yes, I am a fan of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked stories. What makes you ask?
If your characters are real and multidimensional, they won’t be completely good or completely bad. Like Deadpool, as Wade W. Wilson, he fought with Special Forces for something he believed in, until it turned out to be something less than uplifting. So he began working to help the down-trodden live a less stressful life. To the people he threatened, he seems like the bad guy. To the people he helps, he’s a superhero.
In the same way, your villain, if you have one, isn’t all bad. In fact, most villains think they are the heroes or heroines of the story. And that’s how you have to write them. Wylie Coyote doesn’t see himself as a predator as much as just a hungry creature trying to get the tastiest dinner around.
I’m having trouble with my villain in Regency Banquet: Entree – Pure Seduction. He’s a rapist who finds women in the war-torn lands of Europe to take advantage of. As a captain in the British army, he’s cruel to his men. And he’s envious of those who are titled or wealthier than he is, because he believes they receive benefits denied to him due to his low birth and lack of funds.
I can’t seem to find his good side. But Captain Wells does believe he is only doing what any red-blooded Englishman would do, as well as making up for the whims of fate that made him less deserving of rank or wealth. He does have some validity in that titled gentlemen often received better treatment, advancement, and awards of merit.
As for Roland Curtis, my hero, he’s lied to his father to be able to join the army. He’s placed his twin brother in a horrible situation should he, Roland, be killed. And he readily takes advantage of the preferences given him by his commanders due to the wealth of his family. However, there does seem to be a bit of excellence on his part in commanding a retreat after a total disaster.
Be prepared to explain the good and bad sides of your main characters, in synopses, elevator pitches, and query letters. The more you know about them and can explain, the better your story will be received. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.