“Complicated rules to adjust behavior are a weak substitute for simple principles.”
Mary Wollstonecraft ~ A Vindication of the Rights of Women
One of my ten “persons” is currently reading the manuscript for the second Book of Rhino. He recently wrote me that (1) he is enjoying this book more than the first one and (2) Father Caril, the obvious villain, seems too one-dimensional. I was pleased by both comments. I am glad he is enjoying the book; I mean, that’s the point—he is one of the ten people for whom I write.
I was also pleased that he sees Father Caril as one-dimensional because that is how I wrote his character. In order to ensure that Father Caril walks in his own darkness, I could not make him complex. He is cunning, conniving, even complicated, but he is not complex. If he were, if he had any true knowledge of self, then he would not be a villain. In order for his character to behave the way he needs to, I had to keep Father Caril at the Mythic-Literal stage of faith.
(Note to self: I feel badly about this; no one should have to languish in the prison of their own fear and ignorance. But what can I do? Father Caril must come to enlightenment in his own time and on his own terms. I can’t force it on him.)
The funny thing about villains is the common perception that they are deepyboo. They’re not. They are one-dimensional creatures focused on one goal, usually involving their getting more power, money, sex, etc. than they need or deserve. They are not that difficult to create; all one needs to do is (a) decide what it is they want and (b) have them go for it. The great thing about their single-mindedness is that there are no ethical barriers to inhibit their behavior. If they make a stab at morality at all, it is always in their own self-interest.
I am reminded of what C. S. Lewis wrote about The Screwtape Letters. A reader once asked him why he did not write a sequel or a series of Screwtape books. He answered that it was too easy for him to think diabolically, and that disturbed him.
Another funny thing about villains is the common opinion among actors that they are more interesting to portray. I am going to have to think about that. Hmm…are there any interesting villains I have seen on stage, screen, or television? I can’t recall any right now. Perhaps they do exist, but I can think of any at the moment.
At any rate, I will be on the lookout for multi-dimensional, complex villains. My curiosity is aroused.