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FemmesFatalesFall2009

FemmesFatalesFall2009

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Published by: 张三 on Oct 14, 2010
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Femmes Fatales
Ferociously talented women dedicated to the
ne art of crime
ction
Volume 14, Number 2 Fall 2009
Bring On the Bad Guys
by Dana Cameron
I love a good villain. As much as a protagonist defines a story or series, he or she is shaped by the obstacles in the story.Most of the time, those obstacles comefrom the antagonist. I think a certaindeftness of writing is required for amemorable bad guy, and, maybe evenmore than other characters, a good dollopof respect—even affection.One of my villains was inspired by acomplete stranger. The guy was probably perfectly decent, but something about hishair freaked me out. It spoke to me, powerfully, creepily, and the resultingfictional bad guy still gives me the grue.Sure, it was an outside inspiration, but Iwas the one who spun bad hair into asadistic killer. Often readers (myself included) equate the hero with the writer, but it’s important to remember our villainscome from the same wellspring. Whatscares or angers us, sometimes it’s justtapping into that irrational response.Some of my favorite bad guys includeThe Jackal, Hannibal Lector, Moriarty,Amelia Peabody’s Master Criminal,and Richard III. So, Femmes, my questionto you: do you like antagonists to havemotives that are all too familiar or do youlike them off-the-charts scary: the psychotic whose behavior is so alien youget vertigo whenever she’s onstage?Maybe you prefer him tough and professional or a misunderstood geniuswhose heart is melted by the heroine?Who are your favorite villains, and wheredo they come from? ƒƒ
The best advice Dana ever got on writing villains was “Remember the bad guybelieves he’s the hero of his own story.”She’s been lucky to mostly avoid baddiesin her life other than in fiction; there she prefers the brainy kind. “Someone whocan outthink you is scary enough, but if  you then do a conscience-ectomy onhim…yikes!”
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Thank goodness for villains. Without them, Emmy-winning investigativereporter Hank Phillippi Ryan wouldn’t have a job. She goes after bad guys everyday—wiring herself with hidden cameras,confronting corrupt politicians, and chasing down criminals. In
Prime Time
 ,her fictional villain was elusive. In theall–new
Air Time
(featuring a designer  purse counterfeiting enterprise the fedsadmitted would actually work), Hank had the bad guys pegged from moment one.
Sometimes I don’t even know who myvillains are! Talk about a surprise ending.In
 Prime Time
I even surprised myself.I knew there would be a scheme involvingsecret messages in computer spam. (Nospoiler there, for anyone who’s still notread it.) But who was behind it and why?That, I didn’t know.It made me think a lot about motivation:how angry or disturbed or passionate or enraged someone would have to be to killanother person. What, I wondered, couldcause that level of emotion? Aside fromdrugs, say, or mental illness—I decidedit came down to greed. Greed for control and power over money, or another person, or over events, or, mostlikely a combination. And that seemedto make sense.About halfway through the book, Ithought I knew who the bad guy was.(Back then, no synopsis for this girl!)And I figured I’d work out themotivations later.Then one night, I sat bolt upright in bed.Breaking news. I had made a mistake. Ihad chosen the wrong bad guy. And Irealized who really did it. I mentallyraced backwards through the fortythousand words I’d already written,scouring for clues and examiningmotives. And sure enough, I had gottenmy own story wrong.And when I scurried back to my desk early the next morning to check the realmanuscript—I realized the bad guy had been there, all along, lurking and beingguilty. I just hadn’t realized it. I barelyhad to change a word. Now that’s a scary person.
Charlaine Harris
When Charlaine was longing for quiet and peace, she didn’t know how quiet and  peaceful it would get around her housewhen all her kids left. She’s trying todevote more time to her writing and  generally set her house in order. The threedogs and the duck are trying to fill the gap, but somehow it’s just not the same.
My villains definitely come from insidemyself, as all my characters do. I’m nofluffy bunny, despite my mild demeanor!I think the best villain I’ve created wasDebbie Pelt, in the Sookie Stackhouse books. Debbie tries to keep an agreeableveneer, and she’s a strong and sexualwoman, but she’s also simply bad. Sure,she’s a minority member (a werefox), andsure, she was an adopted kid with someissues, but Debbie is unrepentantlyvicious.The most indelible evil character waswritten by Neil Gaiman in
 Neverwhere
,which is one of my all-time favoritenovels. This “man” is half of an evil teamwhich is trying to catch and kill Door,
 
Gaiman’s main female character. Here’swhat makes this villain unique: he eatsirreplaceable art. Isn’t that just perfect? Of course, he likes to kill living things,too...slowly and painfully.When I look at my Top Ten villains (a listthat includes Hannibal Lector in thenumber one spot, and the originalTerminator perhaps at eight), I discover that I like a wide range of baddies, rangingfrom psychological and subtle to strong-arm machines that never quit. Here’s athought: where would Hannibal be withoutClarice? The Terminator without SarahConnor? The right villain has to bematched with the right protagonist, too;it’s the matchup of one with the other thatcreates the sparks.
Mary Saums
 It has been a long hot summer inTennessee where Mary's working hard onthe next Thistle & Twigg book and consuming enough iced tea to choke ahorse. And practicing for The Gig where she, Toni, and Charlaine will shake and holler at the hot 
Delta Blues
anthologylaunch party. Mercy. Thank goodness for air-conditioning.
I like my villains dirty. The scuzzier, the better. Every crime novel needs a hero, anda hero needs two things, a crisis that willonly get worse unless he takes action and avillain of maximum scuzzicity.Writers often hear that villains must bethree-dimensional, that even bad guysaren't 100% bad, and we should round outtheir personalities. I agree. To a point. Wesee these mostly in literary and traditionalmysteries. In many cases, this is becausethe villain is unknown until the very end.Before that, he has the same developmentas other suspects. He's just another normal person with a normal life, except for thatone time he accidentally picked up a gunand aimed, and his finger slipped ontothe trigger. Real hard.Remember the villains in AgathaChristie's books? Me neither. Weremember the killers in Roger Ackroydand Orient Express but not because theywere three-dimensional. What aboutJames Bond's villains? Everybodyremembers them. Did we knowanything about Odd Job except he couldsling a mean derby? Did Jaws bakecookies and visit his Mama onSundays? We don't care. All we know isthey're evil. That one dimension is a powerful story element.Just as each story is unique, each villainhas a unique mixture of normal guy and pure evil. My preference? Heavy on thescuzz, please!
Toni L.P. Kelner
 Lately Toni has made a habit of creating heros from traditional villains like pirates, vampires, and werewolves. But there will always be soft spot in her heart for the unrepentant villain.
My family recently went to DisneyHollywood Studios and saw an exhibitof movie costumes and props called“Villains: Movie Characters You Loveto Hate.” That exhibit was fresh in mymind when Dana posed the topic of good villains, so to speak, and I realizedthat my favorite villains have somethingin common. They have style!The cape is so associated with Draculathat anytime anybody drapes a towelover his arm, we all know the Count hasentered the building. Speaking of capes,would Darth Vader loom as wellwithout his? Cloaks worked well for theSheriff of Nottingham and Voldemort,too. If a villain doesn't look good in black, there's always the White Witchfrom Narnia, or the black-and-white of Cruella De Vil. Devils look stuning in red,or in anything by Prada.Of course, clothes don't necessarily makethe villain. Sometimes it's personal stylethat stands out. Hannibal Lector's breathyvoice and careful word choice trumps his prison jumpsuit, and both Moriarty's andArnold Zeck's cold-as-a-cucumber delivery kept me from even caring whatthey were wearing. Sethos from theAmelia Peabody novels is a master of disguise, but keeps tension high by beingso darned tricky, and Lex Luthor isarrogance personified. Now I don't insist on a colorful bad guy–  plenty of excellent stories rely on moresubtle methods, with antagonists madefrightening by their very nomalcy. But it’sthe larger–than–life villain I love to hate.
Donna Andrews
 Donna reports that readers of 
Swan For the Money
 , her latest book, have alreadycommented on how delightfully evil one of the bad guys—er, gals is. But it would be a spoiler to tell you whether she's victim,killer, or just a red herring.
Swan For theMoney
also features competitive rose growing, belted Tennessee fainting goats,and a pair of truly evil black swans.
When Dana suggested writing aboutvillains, my first reaction: was “Whoa! Idon’t want anyone to know who myvillains are!”I don’t write books whose suspense comesfrom wondering how the protagonist willstop the villain. I want my killers to look  just like you and me.Until suddenly they don’t.
Femmes Fatales
Editor:
!
Toni L.P. Kelner
Webmaster:
!
Donna Andrews
Printing:
!
Gavin Faulkner
!
at Rowan Mt.©2009 Femmes Fatales
The Femmes Online
www.femmesfatalesauthors.comfemmesfatales.typepad.comwww.charlaineharris.comwww.danacameron.comwww.donnaandrews.comwww.elaineviets.comwww.hankphillippiryan.comwww.krisneri.comwww.marysaums.comwww.tonilpkelner.com
 
Award-Winning Femmes
 playmaker, after all, ahead of the protagonist for much of the book. I notonly find it effective to focus first on thevillain, it’s choreographing the dance between the antagonist and protagonistthat most engages me.Many of my antagonists have beenwomen. Not because I think females areall that murderous, but the exactopposite. Despite provocations, youhave to admit we women murder lessthan some would say we should. Thenagain, some of my female charactershave just been such wily red herrings,they hid their innocence until the finalmoments.Sometimes I’ve found it useful not tohide the identity of the villain but todisclose it. In my story, “SentenceImposed,” the abusive father of thechild athlete was clearly the bad guy.The mystery concerned the extent of hisvillainy, and whether my protagonist,triathlete Zoey Morgan, would find thecourage to bring to justice a man whoembodied her darkest demons, and howshe’d accomplish it.The endless surprises in that dance arewhy I write.Few mystery readers ever encounter serialkillers, drug lords, or power–mad worldconquerors. But we all meet people dailywho seem...a little off. People who could be a hair away from committing ghastlycrimes for incomprehensible reasons.(Remember the Texas Cheerleader Murder?)My villains don’t kill because they’re psychotic or power-mad. They kill because they’re greedy. Or scared.Because they have dangerous secrets.Because they want something so muchthey’d do anything. To cover up another crime. To protect someone or somethingthey love. Because someone hurt them so badly murder seems the only solution.Maybe you’ve never been mad, scared, or greedy enough to kill. But can you saythat about everyone you know?I thought not.That’s why cozy mysteries can be scarier than darker books. You expect psychosand drug lords to kill. But the guy at thenext desk...the nice couple down thestreet...the friendly woman behind thecounter. Do you really known them?Forget supervillains. Give me the villainnext door.
Kris Neri
 As a younger woman, Kris Neri’s onemoment of kick-ass heroism came when she once confronted a man breaking into aco-worker’s car, though she did let the police arrest him, rather than taking himdown herself. Now older and wiser, thesedays she limits her tangling with bad guysto the pages of her books and stories.
As a reader, while I connect with the protagonists, it’s sometimes the villainswho stay with me after the other characters fade from memory. PerryMason author, Erle Stanley Gardner,advised writers to write from the perspective of the protagonist, but to plotfrom the villain’s viewpoint. I’ve alwaysfollowed that advice. The villain is the
Elaine Viets
The Fashion Hound Murders
 , Elaine’s sixth Josie Marcus mystery shopper novel,will be published Nov. 3. Enjoy theadventures of single mom Josie, her daughter, their new cat, and the fight to save puppy mill dogs.
The Fashion HoundMurders
is a fast, upbeat read with newromance for Josie. Here is some insider information: Harry, Amelia’s cat, is based on Elaine’s striped writing partner.
Moriarity. Darth Vader. Goldfinger. Notice the pattern? These villains aremen. Where are the evil females plottingto take over the world? All we have are pathetic domestic divas, like LadyMacbeth. We need female masterminds.The forces of good gained ground whenM became a woman in the James Bondmovies. But M has no evil femalecounterpart. Do wicked women lack ambition? Where is their thirst for worlddomination? Or is the female of thespecies morally better?I don’t think so.We must close the villain gender gap. Itried in my Dead-End Job series, withMarcella, the Black Widow. Marcella hassix—or is it seven?—husbands who diedin suspicious circumstances. But behindher murderous marital encounters,Marcella is an old-fashioned romantic.Divorce is just so expensive, even for awoman worth half a billion dollars.In my Josie Marcus mystery series, thevillains are men. The bad women aremostly nuisances. Mrs. Mueller is theneighborhood snoop and powerful churchcommitteewoman. Amy the Slut is thesuburban siren and troublemaker.Fiction has not kept pace with reality. TheItalian Mafia now has several Godmothersin prison or on the police radar.The literary world cries out for wickedwomen to take their place along with malevillains. Wake up, writers, and create theworst women in the world.It’s for our own good.
Dana Cameron’s
short story “The Night Things Changed” was nominatedfor the Anthony Award for Best ShortStory, and won the Agatha Award andthe Macavity Award. The award-winning story was published in
Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
, edited byFemmes Charlaine and Toni.“Keeping Watch Over His Flock,”
ToniL.P. Kelner’s
contribution to
Wolfsbaneand Mistletoe
was nominated for aMacavity, and her pirate mystery story“Skull and Cross-Examinations” from
 Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
wasnominated for an Anthony.

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