From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Javert, Ben Linus and Severus Snape

Yesterday a group of us went to the Broadway touring production of Les Miserables. I won't go in to huge details, but suffice it to say, I really liked it. The majority of the cast was great, and production wise they did a great job for a revamped, smaller, tour-only version of such a huge play.

Here's the thing: on the way home, my sister and I were talking about types of characters, and I said that Javert in a way reminded me of and then at the same time we both said Severus Snape. They both seem to be characters that have this negative, rigid, basically unlikeable exterior, but then in their moments of exposure you realize their true intentions, how bad they've had it themselves, or at least how misunderstood they are. Benjamin Linus also falls in to this category. I have probably written about all three of these characters before, but when they stick in your head as much as they do in mine its worth finding out why, and how to write characters like that in your own work. Javert hasn't exactly made the horrible choices that Ben and Snape have made, but all three of them are what you could call "villains-but-not-really."

There are not very many other types of characters that I like as well as these. In fact, I have a hard time writing them because I sympathize with them too much for them to have a true "villain" feel. But I'm working on it, because they're my favorites. I love how complex they are, how you have to peel away the sharp, rude, mean, antagonistic exterior to find the lost, scared little boy underneath, and how special and intelligent and needed it makes you feel as a reader or audience member that you're the one whose found what they truly are on the inside. Don't we want to do that in real life, and have it done for us?

Do you like these near-villain, anti-hero type characters as much as I do? What do you think makes them so intriguing? What other character types do you find fun to find and write about?

Sarah Allen


  1. I have to say I never thought about Javert being like Snape but now that you mention this I can kind of see the similarities.

  2. I couldn't even begin to write a character like Snapes. I have a few villains in my own writing but nothing that comes even remotely close. I spend too much time on my protags but you've sparked a few thoughts. Maybe I should spend a little more time with my villains. They truly are important.

  3. Yes! I love these characters. FOr my G post in the a to z challenge, I did Great Characters and Gertrude. It's about great characters who aren't nice people. My grandmother, Gertrude was one of those people! The thing with writing the villian is this: The villian doesn't THINK he's the villian, he THINKS he's the HERO! I have a great quote in my post from actor Willem DaFoe about this. Severus Snape and Benjamin Linus are two of my favorites too.

  4. I was saying "Yes! Yes!" all through this post! I love all three characters. I always felt from the beginning that Snape had some redeeming qualities that would be shown at a future date. I love it whenever he is onscreen in the movie (no one could have played Snape as perfectly as Alan Rickman!) And Ben was my favorite character on Lost! I cried when Javert sang Stars. I'll have to take your inspiration and channel these characters for my antagonists.

  5. Yes, I think Severus Snape is one of THE BEST characters ever! I have to say I doubt my ability to ever create such a character, but I can always hope :)

  6. I tend to have a heart for the near-villain's! Something about them that just draws me into their world.

  7. I LOVE these sorts of characters! I have to stop myself from putting one into every book I write.

    My absolute favorite sympathetic villain would have to be Prince Nuada from Hellboy Two. I know you're talking about near-villains, but this feels so close that it feels relevant.

    Prince Nuada is the antagonist, but I find myself rooting for him the entire way. His people (the fey) have been forgotten about and marginalized for centuries so now he's decided to take back their land by starting a bloody war.

    His actual plan is awful, but you can't help but wish that he finds a place for himself, that there might be a better solution than totally annihilation of either the humans or the fey.

    Wonderful post! I love anti-heroes. If you've never read it, you might enjoy Jessica Page Morrell's book on them called "Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches"

  8. GREAT stuff to ponder, especially as I re-envision my antagonist/villain for my rewrite for my agent. Thanks!!

  9. completely agree with U, they are more tragic than evil, actually none of them should be called 'black character', they are more characteristic than all truly good characters in movies. I feel terribly sorry, when they die... really big respect for Alan Rickman and all actors play Javers role!


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