I typically have more than one villian in my novels, and Jason Matthews in The Reunion is another of my antagonists. Interestingly enough, he’s never actually seen, but his presence is most certainly felt, and he has a major impact on the story.
Gillian Matthews, the leading lady, has a history of getting involved with the wrong men. An artist by profession, Gillian tells Ian, the leading man, her story of visiting Tombstone, Arizona, to do research after being commissioned to do a series of paintings about the Old West. While in Tombstone she happened to meet Jason, a bartender and street performer. Handsome and charming, Gillian asked Jason to model for the paintings. He not only accepted her offer, he quickly swept her off her feet. Gillian believed she’d finally found Mr. Right, and the two eloped a short time later.
Gillian’s happiness with Jason would be short lived. Instead of being the man of her dreams, Jason became her worst nightmare. She eventually divorced him, and because they had no children, she believes he’s in the past. Nightmares, however, sometimes have a way of recurring, and her worst nightmare comes to life once again when she learns that Jason has murdered his current wife. He’s now on the run and the authorities believe that he’s looking for her. What makes the character even more sinister is the fact that he’s lurking, but never actually seen, leaving Gillian, and Ian, wondering where and when he will finally strike.
I’ve had some wonderful feedback on some of the antagonists in my novels, like Ryan Knight in The Reunion, and I’m pleased to be creating people you love to hate. The other day I was describing an antagonist I’m developing for my new novel, The Journey. Her name, at least for now, is Denise Sanderson, and she’s going to be exceptionally nasty. As I was describing her to a fellow author I had to stop myself in mid sentence and say, “You know, I don’t know where these people are coming from, but it’s kind of scary when I stop and think about it.”
Ask any novelist and they’ll tell you that after awhile the characters will start to create themselves. They’ll tell you who they are. That said, they still spring from somewhere deep in our creative psyche, so where are all these bitches and bastards coming from? I’ve always considered myself a good person, and I’ve always tried to treat others the way I would want to be treated.
Some of my villains, like Jason and Ryan in The Reunion, were inspired by some of the not-so-nice people I’ve encountered in my own life. Writing about them has been very cathartic because it really has helped me release a lot of previously unresolved issues. But other antagonists, like Maggie in The Deception, and Denise, in The Journey, are totally fictitious. They have no real-life counterpart–at least no one who I can recall, so it’s made me wonder. Do I really have some deeply buried darker side?
Probably. Whether we want to admit it or not, all of us do have a dark side. These antagonists represent our fears. They represent the sense of outrage, frustration and injustice, that most, if not all of us have encountered at one time or another. These antagonists give us the opportunity to vicariously act out our own anger and frustration. Maybe that’s why we’re so delighted when we finally see them get their just desserts. It gives us a chance to purge our own demons, and that’s a good thing. That said, they still scare me.
You know, creating devious, diabolical, despicable villains really is too much fun. Take Ryan Knight from The Reunion. He’s certainly raised a few eyebrows and he sure got both my editor’s and my proofreader’s dander up. That’s when I knew I’d created a great villain.
Ryan appears in the flashback chapters. He’s a college student getting ready to graduate and embark on a career as an architect. He and Gillian, the leading lady, have been dating for a couple of years, but lately their relationship has been strained. Ryan’s been putting in a lot of overtime at the architecture building. He says he’s having to work late on class projects, but Gillian is having her doubts. A few days after his graduation he calls and asks her to stop by his apartment. He has news he wants to share. Gillian believes he’s going to propose to her, but Ryan’s idea of a proposal is the last thing she expects to hear.
Ryan was inspired by several real life men; a moody ex-boyfriend, my ex-husband, and a good friend’s ex-husband. With a cocktail like that you know you’ve got a real monster on your hands.
Cynthia, my editor, commented that Ryan was, “a bit mental.” But Dolores, my proofreader, had me rolling on the floor. She’d printed out some of the pages and was working on them in her apartment complex laundry room. She said Ryan made her so mad that she started yelling at him and calling him an S.O.B. (Only she didn’t say the abbreviated version.) She then told me that she looked up and noticed other people in the laundry room were giving her some very strange looks. She was so mad that I worried she would quit on me. I had to reassure her that Ryan only appeared in the flashback chapters, early in the novel, and that his contribution to the story ended at chapter six, with only rare mentions of him throughout the rest of the novel. Now that’s a real villain.