Hey, Minions! (I hope you read the title in the Unreal Tournament voice because that’s how I read it.)
Remember when I suggested that perhaps the villain could, just possibly, have some concern for the sanctity of life? I want to talk about that first step to losing that respect of life. That first kill.
See the thing about it is that most of us are born with an innate respect for life. You get the sociopath or psychopath who doesn’t, someone who is detached from reality enough to cause a death, but that’s not typical. There are many reasons why one may hesitate to kill, an actual respect for life, moral beliefs, fear of death that’s aggravated with any death; most people have at least one good reason why they would, could never kill.
Villains are people too.
You should know about your villain’s first blood (or otherwise the moment he became okay with killing another human being) because, barring a sociopath or whatnot, that moment will have meant a significant change in your villain. Now I’m not talking about wanting to kill someone, or even planning it out. Words are cheap, and so is idle thought which goes nowhere. We joke about killing people all the time, consider these memes:
That’s three that I could think of off the top of my head at 6 am when I’m sleep deprived from baby. They’re readily available, jokes about ending another person’s life. Twitter is full of death wishes on others. But these things are not remotely the same as actually killing someone. Nor is apathy at death. I once, as stress relief, planned out the entire murder of an awful roommate with one of the icicles outside our door (hey, I have never claimed to be a good person) but that’s very different from actually going through with it. I would be a very different person if I’d even tried, let alone succeeded in my plot.
Part of the problem with killing someone is the permanence of the action. It’s not something that you can change your mind about after you do it. It’s not something you can fix. And that’s why it’s such a changing experience.
Killing an animal, by the by, is not at all even remotely the same as killing a human. The twisted “I started with animals” story is great and all, but it only really works if the villain is a psychopath working his way up to getting to kill a human. Killing an animal does not really do the same thing as killing a human would – perhaps it would be different if the killing was malicious and torturous, I have no idea. I have killed, by hand, an animal, however. I was on a church youth trip where we re-enacted the pioneers and I killed a chicken by hand with a knife. Well, actually, I didn’t do the actual killing because I was so weak of arm that for all my trying to decapitate the chicken, I couldn’t get through the stupid windpipe. On realizing I was causing the thing suffering, I quickly nabbed one of the men there and asked them to finish the job. I didn’t not kill the chicken because I couldn’t do it; I didn’t manage it because as hard as I tried, I was physically incapable and its eyes were rolling back into its head. I still stood by as its headless body flailed and only flinched as its neck jerked and splattered my dress hem with blood because there was no way I could wash it and I was afraid it’d smell. And then I took that chicken and I stripped off its skin to spare the monotony of plucking and I gutted it (THAT part was way gross and I nearly threw up) and I took it back to my “family” (other youths and youth leaders) and “Ma” cooked it up in a stew and I ate it and I liked it. There are other people who would have had a really hard time killing that chicken, for a variety of reasons, one being the sanctity of life. There would be those, I’m sure, that would kill the chicken and then be unable to prepare or eat it, grieved by their action of “murder”. Please consider this – I’m the kind of gal, being evil and all, who can name the chicken something other than “dinner” or “drumstick”, not get attached, and take delight in killing it because that means we’ll eat well tonight. And yet the experience has not changed me, has not made it more reasonable in my mind that I could kill a human. I couldn’t do that. First off, it’s morally abhorrent, but second, it’s, as I said, so permanent. If I want someone out of my life, I just need to find a way to not have them be around me anymore, not talk to them, but I can’t actually kill them.
I imagine that having someone killed would also change a person, if not differently than directly killing them. Same as not preventing a death, or arranging an “accident”. I have no idea, I’ve never been in that situation and can’t really imagine how I’d feel. I do imagine if I witnessed an accidental death (that I couldn’t prevent) I’d be horrified. I can’t imagine causing, indirectly, a death – I can imagine the action happening, but not the inner results.
I imagine just witnessing a non-natural death changes you a little. Haven’t ever seen anyone die, so I don’t know. I actually honestly hope I never do.
So consider this. Even if your villain doesn’t really care about other people, even if he puts himself and his own goals first, killing someone is still a big step, still a major, life-changing experience; your villain may not kill someone just because that’s kind of a big deal, not because they value life. And if they have, that will matter to them. If they’ve only killed one person, does it haunt them? Do they ever think about it? How do they dismiss it? What did that do to them? If many…what does that mean to your villain? Nothing? At what point did death mean nothing to your villain? Does he delight in it? When did that happen? You may never show the audience, but you need to know this.
Killing people changes people.