Imagine someone whose only desire is power, world domination, and/or gathering riches beyond the average dreams of avarice. Such an individual represents a classic villain from the SciFi or Fantasy genres, like Darth Vader from Star Wars or Voldemort from Harry Potter. At times, this archetype makes an appearance in other types of narratives, i.e. Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes.
Of course, every great villain needs a hero (and vice versa). Typically, any given pair uses the same means to a vastly different end. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader use The Force, Harry Potter and Voldemort use magic, Moriarty and Holmes use their accentuated intellects. They are opposite sides of the same coin, made good or evil by circumstance, and not so different at their core. In this way, the villain is often a dark reflection of the hero. I took this notion of reflection to the Nth degree in a short story called “A Purveyor of Odd Things” from the Ragged Souls collection. In its pages, Detective Renner Branson solves a peculiar mystery which leads him into the clutches of his doppelganger.
In a related trend, many authors spend time in their villain’s point of view, showing what turned him down that path. It humanizes this horrible person, makes us sympathize with his situation. Little Anakin was cute, wasn’t he? Knowing his backstory, can you truly condemn him for turning out how he did? Did you find yourself hoping that he may find a way back to that innocence? In this way, we authors (and filmmakers) leave a door open, teasing the reader with the possibility of the villain’s redemption.
The formula is tried and true, but sometimes the old ways need shaken up a tad. This is why I decided to shy away from the typical villain persona for my first novel, Storm of Divine Light. For starters, the hero and villain are not similar. The protagonist, Dagorat, is a well-meaning rogue with the barest whisper of magical sense, while the villain, Lamortain, is a powerful dark mage bent on domination.
I originally wrote the chapter “How to Roast a Goblin,” my first introduction of Lamortain and his sidekick Xantasia, from Lamortain’s POV. But a beta reader pointed out that no one – probably not even Ted Bundy – actually thinks of himself as evil. This would mean I’d have to work in a rationale for Lamortain being the way he was, let the reader sympathize with his backstory and give him hope for redemption. But in the end I was dissatisfied and somewhat frightened about making my villain more interesting than my hero. I wanted to make a character readers love to hate, with no hope of a change of heart, no chance of turning away from his wicked ways.
So how could I do that from Lamortain’s own head? It bothered me incessantly, until it dawned on me to present him through the eyes of his main servant/slave, Guilder. Once I rewrote the chapter from the new perspective, everything changed. The words flowed, his character shone, and my beta readers enjoyed his chapters, even if they couldn’t put their fingers on why.
As for redemption, I took the typical “conflicted villain” construct and altered it to create a conflicted hero instead. The protagonist, Dagorat, is a reformed villain of sorts. The main story arc involves his seeking a normal, meaningful existence, and trying desperately to avoid a lapse into his former nefarious lifestyle. Like Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi, there are points where Dagorat teeters on the edge of turning to the dark side. Whether he does or not, you’ll have to read to find out.
I’m certainly not the first author to play around with the general roles and themes concerning heroes and villains. I simply hope that my spin on one formula makes Storm of Divine Light an entertaining read for fantasy and non-fantasy fans alike.
Link to Storm of Divine Light https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZY8C9CB
Link to Ragged Souls https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J6NGWVS
About the Author
Ernesto San Giacomo was born and raised on Staten Island, the forgotten borough of New York City. He spent part of his working life in retail management, and the rest of it teaching high school – and surprisingly still has his sanity. Ernesto married a military woman and moved to Mountain Home, Idaho a few years ago, leaving behind his teaching career and everything he’s ever known. Having always been the creative type, he took up a new career as an author. A few years later, he was blessed with two boys who now take up all of his time when he isn’t cooking up something new.
On November 8th, 2019, Ernesto proudly released his first novel, “Storm of Divine Light.” A 300-page epic fantasy focusing on the rogue Dagorat, it interweaves themes of darkness and light, romance, adventure and mystery, all with a healthy dose of humor, magic and swordplay.
Ernesto’s short stories tend to focus on the dark side of American culture, but the underlying themes hold true for societies around the globe. As human beings, we all experience wants, joys, sorrows, and regrets, and have views of how things ought to be. Ernesto enjoys exploring what happens when the ways in which we deal with those emotions and worldviews are taken to extremes.
His short story “Stasis” and the first chapter of his new novel both won Honorable Mentions in the San Antonio Writer’s Guild 2013 contest. His short story “Roadkill” was published in the anthology “Dark Visions,” and “Gematria 2” appeared in the 2017 edition of the Whistle Pig, an Idaho literary journal. He is currently working on the sequel to “Storm” …when he isn’t changing diapers.
Find and Follow Ernesto
Books By Ernesto San Giacomo
The Tales of Tyrennia, Book One
A disturbance in the night and an unlikely stranger force the exiled master rogue Dagorat into a perilous quest. Along with his oldest friend Cyril the Wise, he sets off to retrieve a powerful weapon stolen by the dark mages of the Golgent. Together, they brave the journey across a continent to Dagorat’s former home of Easterly, where discovery means certain execution. Along the way, he uncovers hard truths about his past, and finds new hopes for his future. But the rising threat of war means those hopes tremble on a razor’s edge. Can he ever find his way out of the shadows and into the Light?
3 Tales of the Holy, the Strange, and the Bizarre
Plunge into the supernatural in the first tale, A Purveyor of Odd Things. Terrifying secrets are revealed to Detective Renner Branson – not just about the world, but about himself. What he finds may shatter his mind, or may salvage his wasted life.
Then visit Martha’s Kitchen, where gruesome horrors and the Sunday Special are served cold with a smile by the deliciously insane sisters Martha and Jillian.
Finally, the eternal battle for souls continues between the ancient forces of good and evil in Cactus Valley. Which one will claim victory over Bradley and Andrea?
In these pages, you’ll find angels, demons, doppelgangers, murderers, mummies, a healthy dose of the surreal, and a glimpse of the tantalizing world beyond human senses. This collection’s cold-blooded murderers, spirits made flesh, and characters teetering on the edge of reality are sure to entertain – and to haunt your dreams at night.
Praise for Ernesto’s work:
“A spoonful of horror and a dash of quirkiness” -JanJenn, online reviewer
“Ernesto San Giacomo has a wonderful way with words and a keen imagination that makes his readers delve past the surface to peer into what really makes people tick.” -D.J. McCrary, online.
Short Stories available on Kindle
Strange, terrifying images plague the mind of Peter the artist. Are they memories? Nightmares? Visions of the future? What is spawning them, and how is his wife experiencing the same delusions?
In this short story, explore the mind of a man in the grip of an obsession so intense that reality has faded from his consciousness. His fixation on Gematria leads him to a terrifying place where memories and thoughts become his only tools in the search for truth.
This is an unconventional literary piece that explores psychological themes and delves into the world of numerology. As a bonus, Gematria2 also contains extended excerpts from the author’s other short stories: Stasis, Martha’s Kitchen, and A Purveyor of Odd Things.
In this short story, Kurt Williams has spent the last twenty years as a Libertarian refugee from a collapsing society. On his return to civilization, what he finds is nothing short of devastating. In an America where big government has run amok and nearly everything is outlawed, will his defiance and courage be enough to restore sanity?
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