Postcard For Reader + TIME

The Perfect Villain?

The perfect villain. Is there such a thing? A villain’s just a bad guy, someone who’s evil, does awful things—and we should hate him—right?

Nothing is ever that simple, that black and white. Human nature is so complex that even serial killers have people who love them (um… Dexter?) And let’s be truthful, we all have a dark side.

But villains—good ones—walk a tight rope between good and evil. Take an iconic bad guy: Darth Vader. He did monstrous things: murder, torture, maiming, lying, betrayal. But, if he was as totally black as his outfit, he wouldn’t hold any allure. When Luke insists that there’s something good buried deep within, it piques our need to know what that good thing is—and why Dad’s being so bad. It’s the same for Damon Salvatore on The Vampire Diaries. So many terrible things he’s done—and then we come to find out that he was the good one, corrupted by Stefan.

In Sirenz, the villain (or is he?) is Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Yes, he lives down in the earth where rumor has it there’s lots of creepy, dead bad things. He uses deception, self-interest, fear, human shortcomings and any other method he can to achieve his ends. That’s what villains do.

Yet... Hades is vulnerable. He has a spark of something that makes you take a second look and ponder his story. Of course the tight pants, chiseled body, drop dead looks and sultry ways help. A lot. Our sequel, Sirenz Back In Fashion, begins to answer “What is that something?” So sorry, no spoilers. Sirenz, like Star Wars IV (the first one released, starting with Luke’s story) only gives you the dark side of Darth as did the first season of The Vampire Diaries with Damon—to draw you in, make you think you know him and what he’s all about. Only as the story progresses do you realize that there is mystery to them.

Neither hero nor villain should be absolute—because we aren’t. Even in movies like Alien or Night of the Living Dead, there has to be some empathy; the aliens were trying to survive and humans were—yikes—lower on the food chain, and the little girl who wants to chomp on your intestines was a sweet girl who caught a virus and died, so her carnivorous ways are not her fault.

So when you read about or create a villain, look for what’s not being said or described about them; wonder what spark lies beneath the darkness.

Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman are author of the Sirenz series, out in stores now.

guest post, and more:

The Perfect Villain? + TIME