There are just some things that are always evil. Always. Bringing back the dead, for example, is always evil. Except when a god does it, or when they were only mostly dead, or when it’s Joss Whedon/Marvel, or-
Okay, okay, but bringing back the dead as a necromancer is always evil. Necromancy is always evil. And that means that walking skeletons and zombies are always evil!
Look, I don’t really like the undead. They’re against my own personal moral code. Buuut we’re writers, darn it, so we can do basically* whatever we want. So necromancy doesn’t have to be evil. It’s a sticky thing to pull it off, but there have been plenty of times when dead things have been perfectly friendly.
Actually Burton kind of…does that a lot.
I mean, sometimes even when they’re in the middle of being totally evil, an undead horror can still be
my favorite character endearing more than just a tool of mayhem and destruction.
There’s plenty of things we assume are evil. Chaos. Sociopaths and psychopaths. Death. Monsters. The G-Man. Witches. The color black or scarlet or glowy-green. And it’s totally fine to write these things as evil! But they don’t have to be. We’re writers, we can turn these assumptions on their head.
A sociopath isn’t a murderer, a sociopath is someone who doesn’t feel empathy. At all. That’s perhaps oversimplifying it, but a doctor could be a sociopath – someone who sees you as a big, moving, talking It. A sociopath won’t automatically become a murderer or rapist, he just won’t care about people around him. A psychopath is different from a sociopath, but not by a whole lot – it’s attitude mostly, which makes a psychopath a smooth-talking, likeable person who doesn’t care about the people around him.
We fear death. It’s fear of the unknown, really – not a hundred percent, but mostly. I for one am not particularly afraid of death, but I am afraid of dying before I get done everything I want to do, and I am afraid of leaving my husband and children behind before they’re ready. As far as actually dying goes, I see it as an experience that’s intriguing. I hope it doesn’t hurt, I don’t much like pain, but beyond that, I am curious as to what it’s like. You know, one day. In the distant future. When I’ve done everything I want to do and I’ve seen my grandkids and my husband wouldn’t curl up and die like a swan.
Now Death as a person – I always like the representations where Death isn’t out to get the mortals, regardless of what he – or she! – is instead. Actually I’m totally in love with any representation of Death as polite or sassy or lazy or HILARIOUS or anything that isn’t murderous.
Monsters…monsters is a harder one. In one way, the whole point of a monster is to be something horrific that wants to kill you. But then, there are these creatures over and over again that are monsters and that’s what I think might be interesting to break. I mean, look how that turned out for dragons.
A “monster” is a horror, sure. But maybe the things that are always the monsters…don’t have to be. You know, aside from axe murderers and serial rapists and creepy horrible things like that, because those will always be monsters, just like those things will always be evil because murder and rape are evil. That’s not an assumption, that’s not up for debate. It just is.
And on a lighter note, color-coding. Color-coding is traditional, and it’s a terrible cliche-trope. And. It’s. Not usually done well anymore. Sometimes you can’t help it. I mean, my overlord LIKES the colors gray and black. Back before he was a villain, when he was still a good guy, his family jewel was a (fictional) black gemstone – so it’s not like he’s wearing black gems because they’re ominous and evil and color code him as a villain, it’s because black gemstones are rare and symbolized the power of his family and even if he’s turned evil, he’s proud of his heritage. Same story, different villain, likes scarlet. Because she likes blood. I mean, darkness and blood – these things happen, there’s a reason those are the coded colors.
Buuut then you have the villains who like pink and those who like white – President Snow, for example. Red, black, and slimy green (and maybe the one shade of purple) should not be the only three (four) colors your villains get to choose from. Your villain should get to pick from all the colors. They’re allowed to like black and they’re even allowed to like it because of its association with darkness. They’re allowed to like scarlet, even if it’s because blood. But. Just. Stop assuming it has to be?
Break the mold some times. Your writing will be better for it.
*There are some things you can’t do. And I mean you just can’t. Those things are called bad writing and you can’t do them. No one will like your writing if you do them and I’m sure you know what I mean.