“Edward Ebb opened the door and walked a few feet into the Revelation Room. He put the petrol can on the floor and walked back outside and retrieved the shotgun. He aimed it in the general direction of the people cowering in the corner. ‘Good afternoon, bunnies.”
Welcome to Edward Ebb, the fictional bad guy in my first book, The Revelation Room. I love the baddies. They really seem to get my creative juices flowing. The bad guy prowls around in the back of my mind, demanding to be let out. He wants to cause mayhem, and he wants to cause it now! He’s been really patient, watching me plot all the nasty things that I have in store for him and now he can’t wait to get going. He even resents me for holding him back. Why create him, he argues, if he has to sit locked up inside my head like a prisoner on death row? He even accuses me of being no better than him, arguing that he is merely an extension of my own macabre nature. At this point, I generally laugh and try not to sound as nervous as I feel.
Where does the fictional bad guy come from? I often wonder. Is he lurking about in my subconscious waiting for the right plot to come along and release him into the wild? Have I dreamed about him? Is he some wayward spirit floating about in the ether waiting for someone to write his life story. The old maxim, ‘write what you know’ doesn’t really apply, does it? I certainly don’t know anyone like Edward Ebb. I’ve never rubbed shoulders with any egotistical psychopaths, at least not that I know of. He first spoke to me one evening when I was completely absorbed in trying to learn something new on the guitar. He said something like: “They must go down the rabbit hole where all the burnt bunnies go.” I looked at the guitar as if it had just turned into a lamp about to release an evil genie. I sat there for the best part of an hour wondering what the hell it meant! Who were the so-called Burnt Bunnies? Over the next two or three weeks, I started to understand who Edward Ebb was, and I have to say, the more I got to know him, the more I loved him. The Rabbit hole turned out to be the Revelation Room, a locked vault deep in the bowels of a farm where a dangerous religious cult carry out the warped wishes of their illustrious leader, Edward Ebb. The burnt bunnies are the people (including his own mother) who happen to fall foul of Ebb and wind up murdered and tied to a cross in the Revelation Room.
I’m currently working on two new antagonists for my second novel, The Eyes of the Accused. They both have different wants and wishes to Edward Ebb, but would be more than capable of holding their own in his company. In some ways, they are more sinister and deviant than Ebb, and it’s an absolute pleasure to be working with them!
So what makes a really good bad character?
I guess for me, the ultimate baddie is Annie Wilkes from Stephen King’s brilliant book, Misery. I just love the contradictions in her character. The way she abhors swearing and will fly into a fit of temper if it is used in front of her, but she is quite happy to chop Paul Sheldon’s foot off with an axe and cauterize it with a blowtorch. She also cuts off one of his thumbs with an electric knife when he complains about a missing letter on his typewriter.
King does a masterful job of giving Annie her own brand of strange language. Words and phrases such a ‘cockadoodie’ ‘mister man’ ‘dirty bird’ and ‘fiddely-foof”. She occasionally lapses into more conventional profanity and has violent tantrums over insignificant matters.
King portrays Annie Wilkes as a cunning, brutal and devious woman who hides her malice behind a cheery façade. She is paranoid and possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. She has lengthy periods of depression and she also self-harms. She gorges on food and displays obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. What a bag of horrors. But here’s the thing I love about Annie Wilkes: she is so utterly believable because of all the contradictions to her character. If she’d been a screeching banshee howling at the moon she wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting or believable. On occasions, Annie Wilkes is almost as caring and considerate as her background in nursing might suggest.
Who are your favourite fictional baddies? What do you think constitutes a completely believable nasty character?
As always, thanks for reading
All the best