Friday, April 18, 2014

The very ordinary villain

Advice in writerly blogs goes in cycles. Lately, several posts discussed villains/antagonists with the usual admonition to not make your villain a stereotype and humanize him/her. After all, even Hitler loved his dog.

The Joker need not apply; but Jack Torrance, come on down.

It's good advice. Notice how whenever someone commits some atrocity and the neighbors are interviewed, they mostly say how ordinary the person was. How they would NEVER have guessed. Not in a million years.

I am one of those neighbors. I dated the brother of a serial killer, last estimated body count was up to 60. Disclosure: he was a serial killer in training when I dated his brother, but I also had contact with him years after his brother and I stopped dating.

If someone had asked me about him, I would have said he was a really nice, polite, young man. Good looking. Smart. Thoughtful, even.

He attended the college where I worked as an administrator. Since we were acquainted, he occasionally stopped by my office and chatted for a few moments. Nothing earthshaking. Hi! How's it going? Read any good books? Heard from your brother lately? He sometimes brought me a donut and a cup of coffee. Thoughtful, right? I sure thought so.

Later, when someone told me what had become of him and gave me the book about him, I learned one of his first attempts at poisoning was when he worked as a med tech. He often brought in donuts for his co-workers, and those donuts were laced with arsenic.

Do I think he tried to poison me? No, I never had any symptoms of poisoning. Although, for all I know, he might have been testing how readily someone accepts food from an acquaintance. Because that's all we ever were. Acquaintances. In retrospect, our interactions probably would have been a moment of high drama/tension in a movie. It still sends shivers up and down my spine when I think about it.

So, for me a very ordinary act takes on a level of horror that I never imagined. It's very human horror that has nothing to do with supernatural powers, drooling and cackling, or overt acts of evil. If I ever get around to writing my Wiccan mystery novels, I know where to look for my villain.