Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why villains should be sexy

A slack blogging week? Why, yes, I'm having one. Thanks for asking.

Having missed the gobbledy glee that is Teaser Tuesday (because I was writing, folks, so it wasn't a dead loss, on my part at least) I figure I'll slip in a random Thursday post to make up for it.

Been thinking about villains. More specifically, urban fantasy and paranormal romance villains, who are often the sexiest dudes in the book, bar the hero, and possibly not even him. Back in the day, villains were smelly, ugly, weaselly little creatures with no sex appeal. So what's changed? Why do wee need to write villains sexy?

The first reason, of course, is that in PR and UF, you never know who's going to be the hero (or heroine, for that matter, but we'll stick with boy villains for now) of the next book. And in those genres, heroes, on the whole, need to be conventionally hot. If the majority of your readers don't think your hero is a hottie, then you're not being cute or clever or daring, folks. You're just cheating your audience. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

That doesn't mean you can't think outside the box. Odd things can be sexy if you write them properly. And it's a really fun exercise in character motivation to make those nasty habits you gave him as the villain sympathetic when he's the hero.* Joey in my book SHADOWGLASS is a nasty snake-shifting gangster with... well, let's call it a mild torture fetish :) By the time POISON KISSED comes around, you find out why he behaves like that, and if your heart doesn't bleed for him, you either don't like blondes (see above) or you're dead. Joey is a different guy when you see him through different eyes.

The second, more important reason is that if you do it properly, sexual tension equals conflict. In UF/PR, you're writing a sexually charged fantasy world. Sex appeal is a weapon, especially if your world is dark, and if you don't let your villain wield that weapon, you're putting him/her at a disadvantage. And if you weaken your villain, you're weakening your main characters.

In POISON KISSED, the heroine, Mina, has issues with a rival fairy gangster called Diamond who's trying to seduce her over to his side. The fact that Diamond's totally hot (and Mina's starving for it because Joey won't do the deed) makes resisting him a lot more difficult. If he wasn't her type, he'd be a lot less effective as an enemy.

Of course, Diamond has nasty habits, violent impulses and a selectively blind conscience. He wouldn't be a bad guy if he didn't. But he also has a histrionic gallant streak a mile wide, a weakness for pretty ladies in distress and a hopeless bleeding heart under all that glass and attitude. Which made it a whole lot easier to write him as the hero in BLOOD CURSED.

In fact, I don't think I've ever written an unsexy villain. Can't remember reading many lately, either. Can you think of any PR/UF books where the bad guy is a total turn-off? Did it work?

* It's even more fun to do it in the same book {*cough* ironfairy serial killers *cough*}


  1. Hi Erica :)
    Excellent interesting & informative post!
    I can't think of a bad guy who was a total turn-off right now (maybe my brain has deleted it).
    All the best,

  2. Hmm. I can't think of an unsexy villain off the top of my head.

    I know it's wrong, but I'm often sidetracked by secondary character/villain lust and lose focus on the h/h. I really should work on that.

  3. Yeah, it's difficult, isn't it? We all write cool bad guys these days :) and nothing the matter with a bit of sidetracking... ahem. Maybe I need to work on that too :)

  4. Hey, Erica, can I just say that I love that you enjoy exploring all the characters in your novels, not just the main leads? And villain to hero or sympathetic villain is one of my top, top favorite themes! Love it! It's just so great when it's done right!

  5. {waves} me too! I love an interesting bad guy :) and yeah, I tend to get immersed in secondary characters' problems... knowing when to stop is difficult! I'm like, 'He's cool! I wanna write about him! Waah!'