Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Extreme Prejudice


Killing them off.
No, NO.
No fond fantasies over the demise of some TSTL agent/editor who may have rejected you.
I mean characters.
Specifically wicked, evil characters.
No, it's not the same thing.
Some genres have more opportunity than others, of course, to disperse villians to their appropriate and deserved circle of hell.
Nevertheless, comeuppance/just deserts/eye-and-tooth is a very satisfying atavistic urge and there's usually room in most genres to accomodate that urge.
In the final scene of Alastair Maclean's Night Without End, the principal murderer is trapped in a closing crevass in a glacier in Greenland.
As the primeval ice grinds and shoulders inexorably closer, he screams, "Throw me a rope."
First and second Heroes survey him for a moment, then one pitches a coil down at him - and they turn away.
I like that.
Ok, so I belong to the wipe-em-out school of ethics.
One of my terrorists dances in a hail of SWAT team bullets.
Other reivers of that ilk are variously skewered by various pointy objects suitable to their period. Fatality by falchion. Perish by pike. Death by dagger.
If they are bad - killing bad - I kill 'em off.
I'm simple that way.
So, how do you dispose of your various external villians, if you have them?

43 comments:

Sela Carsen said...

I can't tell you. It'll spoil the ending. ;)

Bernita said...

Ah, the old "If I tell you, then I'll have to kill you" line...

Ric said...

I like the 'living hell' concept. Letting them live friendless, without the love of family they abused so badly, alone and bitter.

Bernita said...

If one can be assured that they indeed FEEL the loneliness and rejection - that would be satisfactory payback, Ric.

kathie said...

I don't write villians worth killing off. Or ones that could be justifiably killed. I suppose there a few that should be maimed at least, but then there's the law suits, jail time...

Bernita said...

His word against yours.
I mean, everyone saw him beating himself to death, didn't they?

ali said...

I don't like killing them off. My pacifist side rises up in anger and threatens to hit me. And it somehow seems to make my good guys less good, if they can (and do) kill.

I don't much like reading ending where the villains die, either. Even if they are evil. Unless it's done very well, I just geet squeamish. But then, I'm one of those people who literally can't kill flies :).

Rick said...

In the first book and the present one ...

Margot de la Fontenelle, mistress of Charles VI: Suicide by cop. (Having fallen from grace, as it were, she slips into the Palais de la Trémouille; when guards bar her way she draws a pistol and they skewer her.)

John Filswarren, Earl of Carrickferney: The scaffold; "thus perish all traitors."

Edward Deventer, Duke of Norrey: The scaffold; "thus perish all traitors."

Louis de Heristal, Dauphin: None; he will succeed to the throne of Aquitaine as Louis IX, and be an ongoing problem for his dear royal sister of Lyonesse.

Bernita said...

~ scratches Ali off list of people who might someday buy my someday book~
~ can't even suggest she use it as a fly swatter~

Rick's my boy.
Is your soft-headed Margo de Fontenelle truly a villianess? Or is she doing an either/or, fifty-fifty gamble?
In either case, I like the twist - much better, much more ACTIVE, than ye olde sleeping draught.

Dennie McDonald said...

guns, knives ropes, candle stick in the library by Miss Peacock - let me count the ways - it satisfies the urges to off the SIL or on a bad day the hubby!

Carla said...

Writing about warfare means I can't avoid deaths, and not just of villains. Counting up the non-battlefield deaths in Ingeld's Daughter, I can think of: one murder (of a girl who wasn't either good or bad but happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time); one suicide; one judicial execution (paid assassin who wasn't quite as good at his job as he thought); one duel (if you don't count the duel as part of a battle); plus one death from illness, one suicide and one assassination that happen off-stage in the backstory. In the present book, excluding battlefield deaths, I can think of: one murder (which happens off-stage but which the hero has to solve); one death during a raid on a farm (victim neither hero nor villain, just a man defending his property); one duel; and one case where a character falls to his death from a cliff after attacking the man trying to rescue him (again, neither a villain nor a hero, though by turns he could be counted as both). Also one case where a death is assumed from circumstantial evidence but not actually proven beyond doubt.
Wonder if this is too high a body count? But they were dangerous times.

Bernita said...

Dennie runs the gamut.
Candlesticks are a classe blunt instrument, though the others are fairly standard.
I think exotic offings have to be handled carefully.

Definitely not, Carla.
You've summed it up - those were dangerous times.
Normal state of affairs.

James Goodman said...

Death to all, but they ones I may need for another story. Which of course are few and far between. :D

The brutality of their death usually reflects the brutality of their life...

Rick said...

Margot tried to have Catherine poisoned, so yeah, she's a villainess. And she pretty well knew her jig was up.

Carla - I was only listing the biggies! The usual number of spear carriers get offed as well. And the Elector of Angeln survives his attempt to rape a lady in waiting, even though the other lady in waiting runs him through. He'll never live it down, though. :)

S. W. Vaughn said...

You sure we can't fantasize over killing off, oh, I don't know, Donald Maass? No? Well, all right then...

Most of my antagonists grew over the course of the novels and changed so that they were marginally more fit to exist. Some did not. Those, I killed. One had his head sliced off in a swordfight (yes, a swordfight. In modern day New York. Got a problem wit' dat?). Another rather inconveniently misplaced his brains through a gaping hole in the back of his head.

So -- what about killing off good guys? Do you do it; when do you do it; and why do you do it? Does it pain you to kill good guys? Hmmm, maybe I'll blog about this tomorrow. Would love to hear some thoughts. :-)

S. W. Vaughn said...

BTW, Bernita, if your book is not for the squeamish, then add me to the list of people who REALLY REALLY want to read it!

Bernita said...

The sword sworn style then, James. The end fitting their career in crime?

I highly approve of your means, Rick, exile to a convent would not be appropriate.

Absolutely no problem, SW. Not only have I read a number of newspaper accounts of people being attacked by some ceremonial sword, but one is also aware of various re-enactment/martial arts groups where such sharp edges are familiar.
You blog about it - then I won't have to.

Bernita said...

Thank you, SW!
It's not that I go into THAT much gory detail... though you may never eat strawberry icecream again...it's just that my heroine demonstrates a certain pragmatic and - to some - chilling efficiency.

Carla said...

Rick - a fair few of the battlefield deaths in mine are significant characters, as well as red-jumper spear carriers. Death in battle seemed a little different to the subject of Bernita's post, though, which is why I differentiated it. Margot sounds intriguing - was it a deliberate suicide on her part? I.e., she knew she'd run out of options, couldn't face the scaffold (or whatever the judicial penalty is in Lyonesse for a female traitor), and knew the guards would be obliged to give her a quick clean death? (Shades of Rebecca, perhaps?) The Elector of Angeln sounds something of a hapless character :-)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Hmmmm...I've never actually killed of the villian. I needed him to cme back in a future book...LOL!

But my demise of choice...let's see...falling in a wood chipper sounds like a fun thing...or...on one of my favorite soap operas, years ago, the bad guy fell in a trash compactor...LOL....popped his head like a ripe melon...LOL!

Hmmm...I think I'm enjoying this too much!

Bernita said...

Bonnie, I love you!

I have a one I haven't killed off for that reason, the nefarious and indelicate Dr. Herbert Sutherland, plus I haven't decided just how to do him in yet.

Don't watch slasher stuff ( that was a soap opera, your're sure? Dear me, I've been missing something)but the disgusting movie of Starship Troopers has people torn in half - but that was by aliens.

Sam said...

Oh, I have knocked off a lot of 'bad guys' in my books - I have a lot of fun thinking of ways to destroy them.
:-)

Carla said...

One advantage of a contemporary setting - modern technology lets you play with all sorts of inventive methods of despatch :-)

Bernita said...

Very true, Carla.
So, Sam, since you don't belong to the rehabilitation and conventional incarceration crowd and instead belong to the god-zot lot, like most of us here,might you share some of your...heh...heh...methods?

Rick said...

Yes, Margot chose to go out with some dignity and style, rather than kneel to the executioner's sword (in Aquitaine they use a sword, not an ax, a la Anne Boleyn's special request).

Carla said...

I've always wondered what difference that would have made, apart from the sense of style.

Bernita said...

Am not sure there's much dignity, folded over a guardsman's sabre, but she went down fighting, I'll certainly grant.

kmfrontain said...

I generally don't kill off my villains, because I have this thing for bad guys. Instead I run them through an emotional wringer with spikes until they straighten up, ethically speaking. This is only true of my major villians. The little guys I'm very quick to off. Head chopping, evisceration. I guess only keep the bad guys that might have a trace of good left in them somewhere, or because I just like giving them mental torture a bit longer. Villains aren't very cut and dried. What is a villain to one, is a hero to another. Read all those fairy tales in Grimm's Fairy Tales. Sometimes the prince is the hero, sometimes the villain. Sometimes the thief is the hero, sometimes the villain. So I write my villains as complicated as I can get them, and so this doesn't always lead to offing them by the end of the novel.

archer said...

I like to see my villain humiliated. People fear humiliation worse than they fear death. Dickens goes all out when he kills Bill Sykes--humiliates him, kills him, and kills his dog. If Bill Sykes had a mother Dickens would have killed her too.

Killing off good guys is more interesting, from the Terminator "T800"/Uncle Bob cyborg all the way up to Jesus.

Bernita said...

That's why I tend to make my villains psychopathic, so I don't have to consider they are rehabilitable.
I'm simple that way, too.

Failure is the paramount humiliation to an egotistical villain.Then you kill him.Otherwise you're in for repeats.
Good guys get killed off all too frequently, that's why I like to off the Bad Ones.

kmfrontain said...

Ew! Nothing gets me more irritated than making another dead martyr. So I'd rather make my heroes suffer and survive, and my villains with some potential for (great) good suffer and learn, and the psychopaths (that will never amount to anything decent) can all just die, die, die -- got to agree with you there, Bernita.

And that's just hilarious about Dickens, got to admire him for killing the dog, too. Lump all things belonging to the villain in the "it must be destroyed" category.

Rick said...

Carla - forgot to mention that in a way I'd feel worse about the poor girl murdered because she got in the way than over the death of a specifically good-guy character, who presumably knew something of the risks.

I read somewhere the advice to always kill a major sympathetic character in the first book of a series, so the readers know the stakes are for real. I live in dread that an editor will say I gotta kill off one of the ladies in waiting.

On the other hand, if that's what it takes to sell the book ... sorry, Maddie! I love ya, but that's the biz.

archer said...

The cool thing about Oliver Twist is there are two villains, Sykes and Fagin, and so Dickens gets to pull out every stop of villain-killing--Sykes, who has murdered Nancy, chased through the streets by a howling mob and accidentally hanging himself from a rooftop, not to mention his dog with the dashed-out brains, and Fagin gets to suffer away his last hours minute by minute with the clock ticking away and the gallows waiting outside, and of course Oliver comes to visit him and offer forgiveness. [Sound of Wolf howling]

Sorry to rant, but nobody wrings it out of me like Dickens.

kmfrontain said...

Dickens was brilliant, you got to admit.

Gabriele C. said...

Well, I have more antagonists than downright villains, and not all of these die. Nor do all villains, though I'm not yet sure whether to have Valerius Messala exiled or executed - the latter would prevent the publisher from asking for a sequel, maybe. ;)

Some antags/ villains get a relatively fair death in battle, some are executed for treason. One baddie gets dragged to death by horses and a female villain dies in the flames (no, she's not executed as witch). One drowns in the icy waters of the Atlantic.

But some of my heroes die as well. Nobly and heroic, of course, but they die. :)

Gabriele C. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
For The Trees said...

I haven't killed anybody off - yet. Maybe I'm in the wrong genre for this blog?

I tell tales, of people in modern days. My villains are all people just like the ones you run into in the coffee shop: so damn ordinary you can't bring yourself to kill them, they're just misguided people, as though they're voting for the wrong party or something. Or going to the wrong church.

I don't think I have it in me to do a killing. Oh, in my dreams I kill off people by humiliating them, but that's really all. Most of my dreams are nightmares, anyway, and I wake up soaked in sweat and shaking, in the middle of the night. Killing's an edge I can't go over.

ali said...

for the trees - most of my books are a bit like that too. The villains aren't evil, just on the other side.

Bernita said...

Appropriate variety, Gabriele.

The question includes, Forrest and Ali, the Deus factor of the writer to arrange an exit - not necessarily by violence from another character. Are you saying that no one dies in your stories - no lingering illnessess, no auto or other accidents?
Or do only the good/ordinary people suffer these normal tragedies?

Dakota Knight said...

In my upcoming book, death by gunshot is my preferred mode of killing. Some villians get more bullets than others...

ali said...

No, I was talking more about murdering than dying - and the 'good' guys tend not to kill people. Characters die - killed by the bad guys or whatever - but my good guys don't kill people.

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