Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Scary Characters

By Martha Reed

I’ve come upon something in my new novel that I think is worth sharing. When I got my manuscript back from the independent editor I hired, she suggested that I bring one of my secondary characters forward, more into the limelight. Honestly, I think I already knew that in the back of my mind, but having someone else say it made me focus on it and so that’s what I’ve been doing lately. And I have to say I love what is being revealed to me because my secondary character is suddenly a primary bad guy.

Now I’m not saying that all bad guys are men; there are some real doozy bad girls out there too; it’s just in this case my bad guy is male. But once I started thinking about other fictional characters who are bad (versus bad fictional characters), I decided to make a list of my Top Five Scary Characters of All Time:

Dr. Hannibal Lecter – Silence of the Lambs, Thom Harris, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. Simply bad to the bone:

Niles and Holland Perry – The Other, Thomas Tryon. I read this one in junior high school. Thinking about it still gives me the shivers!

Mrs. Danvers - Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier.

Cold as the grave.

Baby Jane Hudson – Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? - Betty Davis. 

Was it the pancake makeup? Or the beauty mark?

Rhoda Penmark – The Bad Seed – story written by Maxwell Anderson, play by William March. 

I’m willing to bet it’s the perfect braids with this one!

Which brings me to my question: 

Who is your scariest psychopath or villain? Male or female characters, please, and most of all, why?


Gina said...

Lord Voldemort, because he is the epitome of evil and we know, despite his background, that he really didn't have to be that way. Even Harry Potter tries to give him one last opportunity to repent.

Jennie Bentley said...

Oooh. Good question. Tough question. Not sure I can answer it. Voldemort, maybe...?

Now, if you wanted my favorite bad guy of the kind that's fun to read about, that'd be a different story altogether. But for me at least, they don't tend to be the truly evil, psychopatic ones. I don't enjoy reading that. My fave fun bad guy would have to be Elizabeth Peters's Sethos AKA The Master Criminal AKA The M.C. - who doesn't actually turn out to be all that bad when you get to know him.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Martha, I think you nailed it with Hannibal Lecter. The American Film Institute aggrees.

I'd have to add a few and to be fair, one male and one female:

Anton Chigurh - No Country For Old Men.
Annie Wilkes - Misery

I think developing a villian can be more fun than developing a hero because we can let our inhibitions go as authors.

Ramona said...

Am I the only person whose response to "Silence of the Lambs" was gimme a break? I never believed the Hannibal Lecter character or that he could do the things he did in the film; I'm not sure why. I thought the movie was boring, but I think I am a minority of one in that.

I think I am less afraid of over-the-top, crazy evil people than I am with everyday, functional people who are cold and cruel. I find Nurse Ratched (Cuckoo's Nest) and Bill Sykes (Oliver Twist) scary because people like this really exist.

But for plain evil, I vote for the Smoking Man on the X-Files. Hated him.

Gina said...

Ramona -
I didn't particularly like Silence of the Lambs, either, so you're not a minority of one.

Joyce Tremel said...

I only liked Silence of the Lambs because some of it was filmed here in my township and featured some of my former co-workers.

Patg said...

Once again I have to say, MOVIES NEVER do justice to books. Silence of the Lambs and its sequels were grim and scary to the bone. The explanation (book 2) about how Hannibal became what he was is a study in childhood traum that makes Dexter sitting in a shipping container full of his mother's blood seem mild.
I think you've mentioned all the best.

Martha Reed said...

Annie Wilkes is a great one; I love that she's so human. Inhuman monsters don't really catch my attention.

I have to say, watching THE KING'S SPEECH and seeing newsreels of Adolph Hitler giving speeches creeped me out more than I expected. Perhaps because I was seeing it in context?