Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Heroes and Villains

Confession time! I’ve been totally gorging on J. R. Ward’s dark and sexy Black Dagger Brotherhood novels. Honestly, I’m totally addicted! These seriously delish novels along with the fact that I’m working on the final rewrite of an epic fantasy novel got me thinking about heroes and villains. First of all, I want to be almost as afraid of the hero and I am of the villain. Secondly I want to be almost as attracted to the villain as I am the hero. Oh the angst! I honestly can’t think that anyone could really fall for a vampire or a werewolf or a ghost or a powerful witch, or any other paranormal or fantasy hottie and not be terrified at the same time. For that matter, even in just a really good erotic romance, the hero is so much hotter if he’s dark and dangerous.

A part of what makes good story that has even an inkling of romance in it, work for me is knowing that the hero could easily turn and destroy the very thing he loves and longs to possess. More often than not, the best heroes are really antiheroes, striving, or being forced by circumstances, to be greater than their nature, and the more difficult the struggle, the more endearing I find them to be.

In fact, there are times when the only separation between the hero and the villain is how willing he is to do battle with his own flaws. The fact that the lover is not safe raises the level of the tension and the excitement. And yet that danger makes the sex all the hotter and the angst all the angstier.

I remember seeing Frank Langella’s Dracula back in the day and thinking, as I watched the horribly delicious scene in which he takes Lucy, even with the terrible truth of what the end result of his sexy attentiveness to her would be, who could possibly refuse even if they had not been under his thrall? He was a gentleman, he was charming and mysterious, he was hypnotic, he was gorgeous, he was terrifying. And I wanted him!

NBC’s new steam-punkish re-think of Dracula with Jonathan Rhys Meyers blurs the lines between the hero and the villain still further in the battle with flaws. I want him too! In fact I want him much more than I do Jonathan Harker, but then Jonathan Harker has always taken a sad backseat to Dracula in his full glory.
Dangerous heroes and seductive villains aren’t just for paranormalsies though. Writing as Grace Marshall, I found that the villain in The Exhibition, the third of the Executive Decisions novels was an evil nasty piece of work, and yet oh so fuckable, even though, like Dracula, the chances of surviving such a shagging intact weren’t good. And yet …

It’s not so much that evil is sexy as it is that nothing is really all that black and white. It’s the contradictions that make for a good, chaotic story, and it’s the shades of grey (Oh please tell me I didn’t just say that!) where the story takes place. If I want to shag the villain and run from the hero, then how can I trust my own heart, and how can I possibly keep from turning the pages? Those flaws are oh so sexy and oh so scary and those endearing character traits in a truly delicious villain make us squirm, makes us uncomfortable in our fantasies, and from a fictional point of view, what the perfect place to be.

But what happens when I write the baddies? Why do I love being in their presence so much? And even more to the point, what does it say about me that I find them so easy to write? Am I all of those people, the heroes, the victims, the incidentals and the baddies all rolled into one neurotic, twitchy woman? Do I have all of those traits somewhere hidden inside me — the fantasies about being the evil tyrant as well as the fantasies about shagging him? I doubt there’s any way to peek into the strange depths of my own psychology that’s quite as revealing as writing a baddie. I shiver at the thought.

On some level we writers live on the page in all the characters we create, whether they’re hot and gorgeous and deliciously flawed in sexy ways or whether they’re evil and twisted and scary as hell. The darker parts of me are kept in check and held in balance by all of the other parts of me, all of the other parts that participate in the tenuous semi-democracy of my inner workings so that the evil demon in me and the potential sociopathic tyrant in me and the petty back biter in me are all channeled in full bloom onto the written page. Instant therapy? Am I scaring you yet? I promise, I’m harmless –ish.


  1. Mostly harmless?
    This post reminds me of the Old English word aglæca. It is used not only to describe Grendel but also Beowulf. The monster and the hero and the line that doesn't separate them.

  2. I've had long conversations with Garce about villains. He claims (and I think he's right) that the villain and the hero should mirror one another, that they should be subject to similar stresses but make different choices. Another bit of wisdom I've gleaned from him is that an effective villain does not believe he or she is evil, but justified in his or her actions.

    I know exactly what you mean about that Frank Langhella scene! Definitely the stuff of erotic fantasy.

    One of my all-time favorite villains is Glory, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She's almost omnitpotent but keeps complaining about how rough she has it.


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