Saturday, March 13, 2010

Creating Lord Voldemort

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever wanted something bad enough to be willing to do anything? I’m not talking about Almost anything, I’m talking about a desire so intense you would throw your life away?

Recently, on another blog, my friend wrote about passion. Her words made me think about the driving force behind what we do as writers. Then, I realized the subject was multifaceted. I considered the ramifications of the depths our passions can take us.

Life is full of temptation. My religion tells me it’s all part of God’s plan. It truly is the choices that define us. Have you ever wondered where some of those choices, if left unchecked, could lead?

In Harry Potter we read, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." Let’s use that story as an example for a moment. Basically, when you remove the supporting cast, there are two characters. There’s Harry, the protagonist, and Voldemort, the antagonist.

Harry is a nice guy, and we love him as he stumbles through life, reacting to forces he doesn’t quite understand. Even in death he chooses to sacrifice for his loved ones out of a sense of honor and duty. He continues the battle because he is the only one who can.

On the other hand, Voldemort followed his passions and made irrevocable choices that led him down a path of more passionate decisions.

As an author, It’s easy to use evil to paint the picture of a true antagonist. If we need motivation for why Voldemort is the way he is, we assume he’s evil. But, how did he get that way? Over the course of the whole series we discover some of the back-story. We learn about a boy named Tom Riddle. Somewhere along the way, the desire for greatness, and living forever, possessed him. He made irrevocable choices, and followed the path.

Clearly, the antagonist in this story is the more developed, passionate, character. Perhaps it’s wise to follow this example in all our character development. So, I ask you, what would your character be willing to throw their life away for? What are the passions motivating them?

If you’ve ever been driven by a desire, you know how it feels. You block out everything. Things that mattered before no longer have significance. From the time you wake up until you go to bed, everything is about your desire. Then it keeps you awake at night. Your obsession has relevance in everything. People worry about you, but you don’t care.

This is only a brief picture of obsession, but maybe you will get an idea of how Tom Riddle became Lord Voldemort. I think of the characters in my books, and I realize some of them are not fully developed. More than that, I don’t write strong antagonists. (I wonder if its because I’m afraid I can’t control them).

However, I write feel good women’s fiction, and there’s not much of a need for a Voldemort character. Still, some of my characters could use a little passion. I need to draw a line in theproverbial sand and ask them what would it take to make them cross the line. Then with a greater understanding, I can show them as people with passion. They will be alive.


L.T. Elliot said...

Voldemort is one of the most fascinating characters to me. There's so much about him that I think isn't deeply understood and you're right--it all comes back to the passion. (Or sometimes, the fear.) I don't know that I've asked what my villain is passionate about. I've got it down for the hero but I think my villain could take a lesson from good old Voldy. Or you, rather. ;)

Kimberly Job said...

Great post, Keith. My own life has definitely been ruled by passions--some good, others not so much. It's a new idea to explore the passions of my characters, but I like it--a lot!

Nishant said...

I don't know that I've asked what my villain is passionate about.
work at home in india

Nisa said...

For me, villains that are well done like Voldemort become my favorite characters. You love them for their passion even though you still want them to lose. I hope my "evil" character turns out that way! He is one of my favorite characters. Thanks for an excellent post

C.L. Beck, author of Mormon Mishaps said...

Good post. It's easy sometimes to forget to give our characters passion.

Nichole Giles said...

I think what you've described here is obsession, which is very different from passion. Don't get me wrong, obsession might start in the same department as passion, but in my opinion, passion is what drives a person, something we believe in and which makes us who we are. Of course passion can get out of hand, but that's when it moves into the realm of obsession.

For instance, I feel passionate about writing. Because of this, I'm often willing to give up sleep, exercise, and free time. And because of that passion, I won't give up writing, even after 50 or 100 or 1000 rejections, because I know that someday I'll be successful.

However, if I were to become obsessive about it, I would completely ignore my family, give up showering, eating, kids' sporting events, and other important life moments in other to focus on the only thing that mattered to me.Writing.

See the difference? However, when you're talking about characterization, I think most antagonists probably are obsessive. That's what makes them evil! Great post and I'm glad I could make you think.

Keith Fisher said...

Thanks for the comments all of you. No, Nichole, I mean passion. Passion is obsession, in differing degrees. As I said in the blog, I was describing obseesion. When a person falls in love, they often describe their feelings like, I can't eat, I can't sleep. I just want to be with them all the time. the person feels passionate and they get married. when the same feelings are described by a serial killer, some people call it obsession - its the same thing. one is rightous, one is not. THere are rightous passions and there are unrightous ones. Its still passion.