by Trista DiGiuseppi
There is a difference of opinion when it comes to favorite types of villains and heroes. I can’t speak on behalf of everyone else, since tastes vary from person to person, but I can say that when I sit down to write, my biggest dilemma is coming up with the perfect hero and the perfect villain.
In my recent book, Nails Jane, there is one, definitive Hero (or heroine, rather). And she is the main narrator. (There are other heroes, but they are not the focal point.) Thus, the majority of the book is from Ati’s perspective. She is not, however, one “type” of hero. She transforms as the story moves on. This isn’t uncommon, but in the beginning of the story there is a heavy focus on “personal agenda” vs. “the greater good.” This theme carries on throughout the book, evolving into something that reaches beyond the scope of “True Hero vs. Anti-Hero” arguments. Ati, our Hero, comes to learn that being a hero is not simple. It never is. Different forces are at work throughout the novel, pulling her into various directions of heroism. The Forces of Good, presented to the reader, aren’t what they seem. The Forces of Evil are layered, numerous, and most often remain unaware of one another. In other words, some forces of evil conspire while others do not.
The Hero has choices to make simply to affect whether or not she moves on or remains stagnant. That’s partly what motivates Ati. I find this motivator helps her to stand out against other heroes. She isn’t 100% in it for the greater good. I wouldn’t call her chivalrous, but she is aware of the right thing to do.
In a nutshell, Ati is a combination of heroes, just as her character is a combination of genetic and celestial origins. She is maladjusted, versus proportionate. Some of her heroic qualities outweigh others, but they change as the book moves forward. Ati sheds her old habits/traits for newer ones – forced by nature, by her own accord, by the gods, by malice, and more.
There are many different types of villains in literature – just as there are many different types of heroes. And in Nails Jane, our Hero is faced with various types of villains, not just one. Consider Othello’s Iago.
A villain that seems to be pure evil in the beginning of Shakespeare’s script. But later, Iago reveals himself to be without morals rather than simply setting his morals aside to perform evil. Iago, in a sense, is like a robot. He has no conscience, no feelings, no empathy. He’s comparable to a sociopath. That might be the most frightening type of villain.
(Oddly, this trait also makes a frightening type of Hero.)
But this type of villain is not without weakness. In Nails Jane, there is an element of the Iago-type; amoral, robotic, even narcissistic. These traits are exclusive to one villain in particular. There are other villains present within the story; animal villains, monster villains, organized villains, and the villainy of existing in a corrupt environment, purity swallowed by its sordid past. In Nails Jane, villainy extends beyond the reach of a single hand. Villainy presents itself within the abstract, whether it be from amoral characters, ravenous beasts, or the brute force of mother nature – apathetic to her damaging effect on the living. Each of these villains are integral to the story, and they manipulate Ati’s heroic development throughout the plot.
In conclusion, I am quite happy with the way my heroes and villains turned out in Nails Jane. The book is set for publication around Thanksgiving. I look forward to getting it out there, and seeing just what others think of its definition regarding heroism and villainy.