More Thoughts on Villains

Some years ago, I saw an interview on TV with the warden of a jail. He said that in his experience the only thing that reformed criminals was time and “growing up”.

I mention this to a lawyer I knew and he agreed. He added that you could see the different stages.

In first stage, the criminal was very resentful that the police caught them. They saw the police and courts as oppressors. They blamed the police for all their problems.

In the second stage, they blamed themselves when they were caught. They no longer saw the police as the cause of their problems. They blamed some mistake they made for their problems.

In the third stage, they blamed themselves for falling back into the criminal behaviour. They recognized that what they did was wrong. They saw it as their own failure. Their regret was not that they would have to “pay the price”, but that they recognized their own responsibility.

There is a fourth stage where they do not succumb to criminal behaviour.

Of course, different people progress along these lines at different speeds. Some never reach the final stage. Some don’t make it out of the first stage.

From the perspective of a writer creating a villain, this pattern provides a path for the growth of the villain. We have a temptation to create a villain who stays evil right to the end. It would be more realistic to show that the villain does develop through the course of the story.

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