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The villain written today: why always a psychotic killer?

 
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Sandlynn



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1821
Location: Washington, D.C.

PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 7:17 pm    Post subject: The villain written today: why always a psychotic killer? Reply with quote

As an offshoot of the thread started by someone who was looking for romantic suspense without killers, I began to ask myself ... why do modern romantic authors find it so hard to write suspense involving any other kind of villains ... or am I wrong?

What about villains who are not pathological ... or not obviously so in finance or business (bilking the system on wall street, polluting or poisoning in business), politics (on the take), the arts and pop culture (men beating up their partners, cheating, overtaken by fame, etc.) sports (cheating or drugs)? There are plenty of examples in our culture and I'm sure this phenomena is not new to society and can be seen in earlier times. So, why the emphasis on the psycho? Is it the easy way out -- requiring little research or build up of the villain's past or his or her work place?
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NoirFemme



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1475
Location: America

PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2012 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's why I rarely read romantic suspense--well, that and the fact that an overwhelming percentage of victims are female killed in disturbing and graphic ways (which is also a reason why I don't enjoy watching procedurals on TV: dead female bodies with blank stares across the screen is a pretty sick message), but I digress. When I think about the penchant for horror films in US society, I think we want to understand the workings of a deranged killer's mind--and maybe we get off on their mindless terror and destruction--but we also feel safer with the thought that someone with no tie to us or with little method to their brutality is the Bad Guy.

It's scarier to read about a villain who could be your spouse, your neighbor, your child's math teacher, etc, and that their menace has nothing to do with breaking into your house to slash your throat. We can compartmentalize a crazed rapist serial killer on the loose--that's a one in a million chance of happening in your life. But you can't compartmentalize something "mundane" like a husband emotionally abusing his wife due to his jealousy, or being beat up by high school bullies, or date rape, etc.
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jebe



Joined: 24 Mar 2007
Posts: 822
Location: Jersey

PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The psychotic serial killer is one of the main reasons I never really got into some of the big name authors writing romantic suspense. And what's with the narrative from the psychotic killer, really? I'm still amazed that this viewpoint is included in so many novels.

If the villian was motivated my something other than sadism, then go ahead and give a villian's point of view. If their motivation, however, comes down to some sick delusion, then I don't need another play-by-play of what they're planning on doing...we get it, it's sick, demented and scary.

Bring on the everyday villians motivated by something as simple as revenge gone awry.
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Eggletina



Joined: 06 Jul 2010
Posts: 426

PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, to the everyday villain! Iíve always preferred my characters in shades of gray. Even villains deserve that kind of treatment.

I think romantic suspense can still be thrilling, even convey a sense of danger, without the psychopaths, but serial killers (and their cousins, THE TERRORIST hell bent on death and destruction) are to suspense what the Regency is to historical romance. Are publishers insisting on these scenarios? I do miss the more low key crimes with villains who have more relatable motivations and only kill when they are threatened or feel they have no other choice. Even something as mundane as identity theft could be made exciting in the right hands.
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Sandlynn



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 1821
Location: Washington, D.C.

PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Even something as mundane as identity theft could be made exciting in the right hands.


Thus far, that's the scenerio I'm reading about right now in Marilyn Pappano's Passion. Someone has stolen the hero's identity, and there are aspects of it that make the hero seem suspect. So, I'm interested in seeing how that is worked through. I'll be deeply disappointed if the impersonator turns into "just a psycho."

Quote:
It's scarier to read about a villain who could be your spouse, your neighbor, your child's math teacher, etc, and that their menace has nothing to do with breaking into your house to slash your throat. We can compartmentalize a crazed rapist serial killer on the loose--that's a one in a million chance of happening in your life. But you can't compartmentalize something "mundane" like a husband emotionally abusing his wife due to his jealousy, or being beat up by high school bullies, or date rape, etc.


Sometime ago, I had a discussion about this very thing with a friend of mine. It had nothing to do with romance reading, but with movies. She said, she had no problem going to violent films about -- for instance -- the mafia, like Goodfellas or The Godfather because it, in no way, touched her everyday life. It was alien to her and close to fantasy. However, she did have problems with films such as The Accused, where the character Jodie Foster played was raped in a bar because that type of thing could possibly happen to her or any other woman, whether in a bar, on the street, or in your own home.

*****

But to get back to my original post, I do think it's easy to make a villain a psychotic killer. You don't have to even work that hard to set it up or go into motivation. Other types of criminals or villains may take more background and knowledge about a subject matter outside the author's expertise.
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ChrisReader



Joined: 05 Sep 2009
Posts: 739

PostPosted: Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with the posters who said the scariest villains are the ones closest to you- friends or family.

I think the thing that freaked me out the most about Rosemary's Baby was that the husband was involved in it and set his wife up! That gives me chills just thinking of it. Or those horrible real life stories we see too often in the news where someone is murdered by a close friend or neighbor who often joins in the "search" for the missing person.
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Nana



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
Posts: 947

PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For romantic suspense, I suspect that a black-and-white villain helps with a perfect HEA. Lots - I might even say most, although I don't have data - of romantic suspense villains die at the end of their novels. Why? It's cleaner. We don't have to worry about mistrials or debate death penalty ethics or anticipate the heroine testifying at parole hearings for the next forty years 0 or worse, have the villain move right back in next door. But you can't just kill off a villain who is somewhat sympathetic, hence the eeevil psychotics.
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Leigh



Joined: 29 May 2007
Posts: 2689

PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a great topic and one I agree with. Some killers are on drugs, and some have mental illnesses but there are those out there who kill to protect secrets or mistakes. And you rarely see that.

I don't want to read about a husband or wife killing each other or their kids, but I would like to read a story when there are other reasons for the death.

I think that is one reason I liked The Closer on television. For the most part the people were average people who got caught up in greed or anger and lost control.
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JMM



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 510

PostPosted: Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Try Youtube and watch "A Howling In The Woods". It's a thriller about a woman returning to her hometown to visit her father and finding a mystery there. I think it's based on a Velda Johnston book. There are deaths in this movie. It's not supernatural or slasher. It has average people.

It stars Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman - very different from their I Dream Of Jeannie roles.
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