Saturday, February 26, 2011

Prescience is a Curse

Fie on foreknowledge, oh cursed villain! 

Knowing the future is not just a gift, it is also a curse; especially for a writer. When you know the future it can be difficult to control the past - to tell events as they 'really happened'. The knowledge of what is to come is bound to color the perception of the present. In my case, it is the circumstances surrounding a certain character whom I plan on developing into the villain of the Arc Rider series.

I need him to be viewed as a hero in the early part of the series (Book 1, 2 and half of 3) with his dastardly nature only gradually coming to light. I need to leave hints, but only hints. This is not a Snape type character who is basically unlikable. This guy is supposed to be everybody's friend, a true inspiration to my characters. I want his betrayal to hurt - to cause readers to throw the book across the room and then rush over to pick it up again just to see how I get the ba$!@$d. I need to embed hints and foreshadowing in the books, but must play it close to the vest. After all, betrayal at the hands of our closest friends is the kind that hurts the most.

Problem is - I don't like the guy - and it shows, all over the place in my first draft. I thought he was being helpful, but a re-read proves he is condescending. I tried to make him smart, he is a know-it-all. I wanted him to be caring, he is patronizing. SIGH.

In order to conquer this, I am taking a slight detour from the rest of the novel, to re-write a scene or two from this character's perspective. To get inside his head. To find out who he is before he goes bad. I am having to learn to like him.

Of course, I already know what this means. I too will feel the betrayal when he turns. I will be unable to insulate myself from the pain, because I will like the guy. Sheesh! Prescience is a curse.


Doug Hagler said...

I think that writing from his PoV is a great idea - as you identify with him, so will your readers. George R. R. Martin does this in reverse - early villains become PoV characters and you find yourself identifying with them, even when they are not otherwise noble characters.

For me, the question is - why will he betray the heroes? Is it a long con, where he's just using them? Then hating him will be easy. But what if it is an honest disagreement - he does something unconscionable because he sees it as the only option, and the heroes have to align themselves against him? That would be a kicker, because the whole time, there's the ambivalence of fighting against someone whom you otherwise identify with.

Eddie Louise said...

As is usual Doug, you are prescient! My villain will become increasingly desperate to change a situation which cannot be changed based on a desire to do good.

His former friends will have to align against him while completely understanding and even empathizing with his POV. If I can pull it off it will be very powerful.

That is why I cannot allow any part of his later actions to color the early story - no matter how much I personally want to climb into the book and knock sense into him before he crosses that line.