Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Shakespearean Villains

The play is the thing. In his plays Shakespeare had his villains and heroes give long soliloquies about their motivations and feelings. I've always loved how those speeches brought the characters to life. I loved how Star Trek TOS was greatly influenced by the Bard and TNG took it up a level. My writing is definitely influenced by Shakespeare. Unfortunately I'm not writing plays, I'm writing novels.

A critiquer told me, “You know that spot where your villain goes on an eight paragraph diatribe for over an entire page? You might want to trim that a bit.”

Looking it over I can see how it just might task the reader a bit.

This is one of those problems where reading it outloud makes the problem worse. When I read it aloud I summon my best Malcolm McDowell voice, add all the dramatic tones I would if I were on stage. It sounds great.

Of course not every reader can cast Malcolm McDowell to do the reading. Some are stuck with Hayden Christensen delivering the lines with all the drama he put into, “What about the other Jedi.”

So I summoned my best Hayden Christensen voice and tried it again. I fell asleep in the second paragraph.

I compromised and had my Mac read it to me. Obviously my Mac doesn't have the dramatic flair that McDowell has, but does deliver lines with more emotion than Hayden Christensen did in Star Wars.

I can see where it could be trimmed a little, like at least half.

So now I have a problem, I have a larger than life villain, with an ego to match. Such a man would naturally be fairly verbose when he outlines his goals to his latest victim. But when his speech is written out it is a bit much for the reader.

I'm wondering what are some of the great villains in literature that managed to strike the balance between being verbose without making the reader feel like they are listening to a John Kerry speech?


Disclaimer: Hayden Christensen actually can act, he just didn't in the Star Wars movies.