A Villain to Die For
Perhaps one of the most important elements of finishing a story is deciding what to do with the villain. Do you kill them off? Leave their fate unknown until the next book? Incarcerate them? Or do they have a change of heart, and realize the error of their ways?
The preceding is a list of just some of the many ways that a writer can deal with their villain. Some writers are even so bold as to combine several of these options into one very poetic end.
***Example death of a villain.
Jhobehr looked into the eyes of his adversary. Robert Frazier was an American. He stood five foot nine inches, with a perfectly groomed goatee and a thin manicured moustache. His appearance, in his tailored grey suit and understated patent leather shoes, belied the depths of malice contained in that mind. Jhobehr knew that he was looking into the face of true evil, the face of the man French newspapers referred to as the Paris Ripper. He held in his hand a slender blade sixteen inches in length, and gleaming like a sliver of light. It was pointed at Jhobehr.
"I ave you monsieur Frazier." declared Jhobehr. He was bluffing, but he hoped that Frazier would not notice. "It is no use. You must give up." Jhobehr cast his gaze about him looking for a weapon. He was surprised that monsieur Frazier had not seemed to notice that the detective had dropped his pistol in the pursuit of his quarry. There seemed to be nothing within reach he could use to defend himself or subdue Frazier.
"No my dear inspector you are mistaken." replied Frazier. "Things are proceeding just as planned. You know and I know that I am evil. There is a part of my mind that screams in horror at the things I have done. It is that part of me that left behind the breadcrumbs which have led you here. It wants you to stop the evil which lurks beneath my flesh."
"Then you admit defeat monsieur?"
"I admit nothing inspector. Evil does not surrender. It does not cease. It breeds in darkness and thrives in secret. It plots and it schemes, and it does not feel remorse. Evil does not fade away, and it most certainly does not give up! It must be vanquished!" With a scream Frazier launched himself at the inspector, his blade leveled at the heart of his foe. Jhobehr tried to step back startled. He threw up his arms in defense, and that was when he discovered the one item he could have used for defense. His right foot came down on a twenty inch length of pipe. The pipe rolled beneath his weight throwing him off balance. As Frazier's blade came within striking distance of Jhobehr's chest, the inspector’s arms deflected the point upward. Frazier had not anticipated the inspector’s actions or his clumsiness, and therefore his momentum carried him forward, and off balance.
***Jhobehr was trapped beneath Frasier’s weight. He struggled rocking back and forth until he was finally able to extract himself from beneath the body. Frazier had a frozen look of surprise on his face. His deadly blade that had carved the flesh of thirty-seven victims had been deflected up under his chin and exited through the top of his skull. The most feared man in Paris, the man who had held a whole nation in fear for the past 23 months lay still at Jhobehr's feet. His reign of terror had been undone by a simple trip.
***If the writer chooses to end the life of his villain then they must be sure to make the punishment fit the crime. By this I mean that if your villain was rather a nasty sort, then your readers are expecting him/her to meet with a rather nasty end. If your villain was merely an antagonist that spread rumors and lies, then they can get off with a bit of embarrassment and die peacefully in their sleep.
If the writer chooses to let the villain escape then they must find another form of closure for the story. One or two cliff hangers in a story ending are acceptable, but not too many. The reader needs to be left in a spot where they can take a deep breath, and relax. (Anticipating book two of course.) A good way to do this is to find personal closure between friendly characters or form temporary alliances. Making a profound discovery is also a good form of closure in the middle of a cliff hanger. Give the reader hope that good things could or will happen in the future.
Letting your villain escape can open your book to a sequel. (Readers today love series.) If your villain is well written then your readers will love to see them face off with your hero for round two.
Some of my favorite novels ended with the villain coming face to face with themselves and realizing the error of their ways. Let us take for example Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. In this story the villain/antagonist does a complete one hundred and eighty degree turn around to become one of the good guys. If you should choose this route you really must make it plausible. I.e. the villain cannot merely be confronted and then say "oh yeah, right. I hadn't thought of that. Let's do lunch and be friends." and then walk off into the sunset singing the Barney song "I love you. You love me...."(A sure sign of evil in itself.) Your readers would scream "OH COME ON." and burn your books for kindling. If your villain is going to change character at the end of the story and become good then they must be confronted with some degree of angst throughout the story. MAKE IT BELIEVABLE.
I like the ending I term (The Satisfying Crunch). An ending so poetic and extreme the reader cannot help jumping up and yelling "YES!" in an otherwise quiet room, and then dealing with their embarrassment after. This can lead to breaking the ice in a conversation, and maybe to a book sell when the reader has to explain the book, and its awesome dramatic ending to observers and passersby.
This style of ending was personified in the old Road Runner cartoons. Wiley Coyote would set an elaborate trap for the road runner. The viewer (usually in the age range of 5 to 12 years old) would watch enraptured fearing for the Road Runner’s life. The villainous coyote would lay in wait for the heroic road runner looking to spring out at the right moment and capture the unsuspecting bird. At the last moment something would go wrong and the trap would instead poetically be sprung upon the coyote. Not only did the bomb explode in his face or the trap suspend him above the canyon walls, but a new chain of disasters were let loose upon him. With each boulder that rolled over him, or anvil that landed upon his head the viewer screamed YES! They then proceeded to jump up and down with joy and satisfaction.
Ah yes. Now that was a satisfying crunch!
Whatever choices you make in dealing with your villains remember two rules.
Make it poignant.
Make it believable.
Until next time, good writing!