Jacob, from the Netherlands, posted a very long question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
How do I create Evil? (not an evil character, but just “evil”)
And should I?
Oaky, let’s see if I can put this in words?
I fear I need a bit of an introduction to this question:
I write about a precociuos girl (based on a real caharacter I met when I gave training in social skills to young delinquents. She is a bit like Lisbeth Salander form the millennium trilogy)
In my story this girl learns that “total freedom” does not exist. She learns that she has to bind herself to the people she loves. She learns that going head-on even if she is right (which often she is) is only getting her in worse trouble.
I want to write this transition (when you love/accept yourself, you can be more forgiving in the faults of others, something like that) not as a psychological novel, but as a supernatural thriller.
So the girl has two kinds of enemies: human, that is everyone who has authority, and supernatural ,that is the personification of the enemy within.
In scary books (I don’t use the word horror because there will be scary, but no bloody scenes in my book) the protagnosists fight against something truly evil.
I can make the human adversaries multi-dimensional.
I hesitate to use an evil force, because (almost by defentition) this is a one-dimensional force.
The origin of this force is the self-destructive part of my protagonist. But in my story I want to use this force as an external force. But by making it external, I also make it one-dimensional. There is my dilemma..
How to handle an evil force? And I don’t just mean enemy. She has those, and they are being worked out in step 3 of the snow flake.
Pure evil is a powerfull symbol, but how to give it body. Stephen King is the only one one I know of that can pull this off. As a reader i can follow him as long as the book is long. George Lucas did it when he created the dark side. Darth Vader is a character but the dark side just is. Now how did he pull off everybody not questioning the existence of a dark side. Because I can see no motive. Now I come to it, i can see no motive for the devil himself! World dominium? Boring! Maybe good enough for James Bond protagonists, but not for me.
(Yes I am a christian, but I believe in the devil only as a symbol)
The closest thing to a motive is Al Apcino in the devils advocate when he says that vanity is his favorite sin.
Please could you give me some insights in good an evil in a novell?
Not as in creating a multidimensional evil character, the snowflake takes care of that one (darth Vader I can manage). But what if you also want some really old fashioned black and white good and evil? How do you set up a mythology that works? Especially when it lies hidden beneath the real world.
Im afraid I am over my head (that is answering my own questions by coming up with new ones). But just in case you can give me some insight I will still click the “send email” button.
Randy sez: Wow, Jacob, that is a tough, tough question. I don’t know if the depth of my answer will match the depth of your question, but I’ll give it a shot.
You’re treating evil here as a noun. Maybe there is such a thing as evil incarnate, but it’s very difficult for most of us to visualize. I can’t see it, hear it, taste it, touch it, or smell it.
So why not simply stick with evil as an adjective? Then it will, as you say, be one-dimensional, but that’s okay because it’s one dimension of a very three-dimensional character.
Maybe I can’t see evil, but I can see a terrorist putting a knife into the belly of a pregnant woman. That’s evil.
Maybe I can’t hear evil, but I can hear the screams of an innocent girl being dragged into a back alley by a rapist. That’s evil.
Maybe I can’t touch evil, but I can feel the jackboots of the SS troops kicking me in the gut while they make an example of me in front of the other prisoners. That’s evil.
Show your reader evil in the actions of your characters. That’s how I’d show evil. I think that’s enough.
What do you think, O Loyal Blog Readers? Can you show pure and unalloyed evil in fiction? Or does evil need a body?
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.