I was doing a bit of research (OK, I was goofing off) following the bread crumbs wherever they took me. I started looking at events in 1941 and wound up reading a review of Saving Private Ryan written by a former soldier of the Waffen SS, those guys in black with the Death's Head on their caps. The guys who ran the camps. Yeah, those guys. Real nice. This old soldier's movie review is written as an open letter to Steven Spielberg and I'm doing fine with it until I hit this:
"...almost all the German soldiers seen in "Private Ryan" had their heads
shaved ... something totally in conflict with reality. Perhaps you were
confusing, in your mind, German soldiers with Russians of the time.
Or else, your Jewishness came to the fore, and you wanted to draw
a direct line back from today's skinheads to the Waffen-SS and other German
soldiers of the Third Reich."
The rest of the review is more anti-Jewish spew, inadvertently revealing more about the man than the movie and reinforcing all those negative things we thought about Nazis.
And that got me thinking about writing bad characters, the kind of person who would spend all day counting shoes at Auschwitz and then go home feeling like she'd done a good day's work, blind to their role in the evil that surrounds them.
If we're to write these people honestly, we have to climb inside their skin and walk around a bit. We have to know how they were bent as children in order to grow up so twisted as adults. When they say things that we find unacceptable, and there were plenty of things people said in 1941 that we would find grossly inappropriate today, we have to understand the context, right or wrong, because no one except Richard III has ever set out to be a villain. They rationalize. They accept the unacceptable. They twist things around in their heads so that they're right and everyone else is wrong. They're human.
See where following bread crumbs can lead you?
I'm curious how you write villains, if you'd like to comment. But it's Monday, so there's no pressure.
(Originally posted at A Dark Planet)