Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Secondary Characters and Villains

Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

December, the time of Holiday cheer, parties and family. Of course, for authors, it's still writing time. For me, the longer nights sometimes translate into more writing or at least more reading. It is definitely watching DVDs and streaming old Westerns time.

I am a huge fan of the old B Westerns and older TV Westerns. When I say B Westerns and Old TV Westerns I'm talking about the movies from the 1930s to about 1950 and TV shows from 1950 to 1962. I have many of them on DVD or stream them. There is nothing quite so much fun as watching episodes of "The Cisco Kid", "The Rebel" or "Yancy Derringer". Of course, anything with Alan 'Rocky' Lane or Charles Starrett is quite fun. I will also point out, I'm always watching to see who wrote the stories for the episodes or film. Many of the early pulp authors who later became well-known did stints as scriptwriters.

Charles Starrett 1940.jpg
Charles Starrett - 1940
from Wikipedia
Looking back at these various works brought home how important villains are to a story, but the secondary characters also. In "The Encyclopedia of Feature Players in Hollywood", Jim Goldrup, one of the authors says this in his introduction about secondary characters: "Principle characters are bound by hero or heroine rules, “the others” aren’t, and they of necessity must not be, in order for the good guys to look good, in order for them to play their parts."

For me, as an author, I try to have a strong villain, and additional characters that enhance the story I'm trying to tell. Additionally, because of my background in theater, my villains have to believe in what they are doing as much as the hero/heroine does in their actions. Their misguided humanness can be some of the most powerful storytelling. Some of the best scenes happen when the two clash over their viewpoints. The movie, "The Ox-bow Incident" is so powerful because of that clash and the reactions of the secondary players.

Would "The Magnificent Seven" and it's predecessor "The Seven Samurai" be the powerhouses they are if the villain were not a strong as the leads?

I confess, even though I write romance, with the happy ever after, I am at heart an action-oriented writer. I love the hero who is strong enough to save the day, but his partner, the heroine has to be his equal in strength of character. They both have to be strong enough to survive the dangers of the Western landscape along with the depth to understand what the other is going through. It can sometimes be a fine line between strength and overbearing. That is where the secondary characters add so much. Many times the leads need someone as a sounding board, someone who can listen without judgment and give advice when needed.

Villain, secondary characters, heroes, and heroines can create a world where the author can tell their story, and the reader gets to live the lives written on the pages. So this Holiday season, enjoy family, friends, books, and movies. Then authors, if you so desire, write a few more lines on that story. Readers, look to see how the storyteller combines the pieces to create the world you are enjoying.

For those how would like to check out some of the old shows, The Cisco Kid - YouTube,
Yancy Derringer - YouTubeAlan 'Rocky' Lane movies - YouTube

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


Elizabeth Clements said...

I love the old westerns,both movies and tv series. They have a certain feel to them that singles them out as an "oldie". Even when I'm listening to the movie from another room, I know it's a black and white from the 50's by the sound of the voices, especially the heroines. Some of it, perhaps, is due to the quality of the sound. It's interesting, too, that the heroes usually wore white hats and the villains always black ones. And we knew there'd always be a satisfactory ending where good and right prevails. I so agree with your comment that the villain has to be a good match for the hero in their opposing beliefs and actions. Conflict drives any good story. One of our favorite "oldies" is with John Wayne in The Angel and the Badman. Have watched it so many times we've practically memorized the movie. I always enjoy your posts, Doris.

Renaissance Women said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. Sometimes ideas I'm working on end up in a blog post. And I agree, you can tell when you're listening to the older, classic films and tv shows. I personally enjoy taking the trip back to those times.

Hoping you have a wonderful holiday season, that you are getting back go telling your stories. Your readers await. Doris