I have a tendency to lean towards being a big cheerleader for the villain in a story. Always have. When I was younger, my favorite character in The Lion King was Scar, not Simba. Simba can go suck it. Scar had a way better sense of humor. Nightmare Before Christmas? Easy. Oogie Boogie. He had the best music. When I was thirteen years old, I read The Vampire Diaries (yes, kids, they were books loooooooong before the TV series) and I instantly fell in love with Damon. Not the severely dumbed down version of Damon you see on the TV series, but the cold, ruthless, walking nightmare that was Damon in the books. We’ll get into that later in this post.
This has been an ongoing trend for me in all venues of fiction, from books to television to the big screen. But it’s not just any villains, and it’s not exclusively “villains” per se. I realized when I was writing my first book, The Devil You Know, that my affinity is for characters who walk the sometimes very blurry line between being a good bad guy and a bad good guy.
And more than anything, I love it when it’s difficult to tell which side a particular character falls on. I think not being able to figure it out is a sign of genuinely good writing.
In this post, we are going to take a look at a small handful of my favorite fictional baddies and see where they fall.
Let’s start by looking at the terms I presented. A Good Bad Guy and a Bad Good Guy. Regardless of what side of the fence the character falls on, the biggest point to remember is that fence is most likely very grey. A Bad Good Guy is a good guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his or her goal. Usually, the goal is in the name of the greater good, but the road to meeting that goal may be very well be soaked in the blood of innocents and baddies alike (think Raylan Givens in Justified).
In all honesty, I don’t think I see this one a lot. Usually, the good guy has a moral compass that almost always points north. Sure, they may have a hiccup or two, but for the most part, the good guy can be counted on to lay their own life on the line for innocent lives.
However, when you DO run into one, OH……MY…….GOD…….. They’re amazing.
The other guys is a Good Bad Guy. The GBG is a villain you cant help but fall in love with a little bit. They’re charming, they’re clever, and once in a while, they slip up and reveal they still have a heart. This is the bad guy with a conscience. A quiet conscience most of the time, but a conscience nonetheless. Every now and then, when they think no one is looking, the jump the fence and try on a white hat. However, don’t count them off the black hat roster just yet because they will almost always hop right back over if the situation suits them.
Here are a few examples of characters who fall into these categories.