It’s all about the villains of Richard Gough, author of The Cheerleader

We’ve all been there. Reading a novel and a character we have joined on a journey that has become close to our heart perishes and all we are left with are tears. We were emotionally invested, we agreed with them, my God, we knew them. What a loss. Why would the writer do this? Of course, when we move away from the liberation of reading, we understand. The writer’s intentions had been realized. What is bad makes a good story. There has to be sorrow for there to be joy. It’s the proverbial oxymoron.

Richard Gough, the cheerleader

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been interested in villains. In every story I read, every movie I watched, and every game I played, I always wanted to be the bad guy. It wasn’t mean, I just liked them because they were different. There was usually an interesting story that created them. When I watched Sleeping Beauty, I couldn’t identify with her, but Maleficent – now there was someone who was different. She didn’t follow the rules. She had the nerve to suggest that the rules might be wrong. In some cases, it’s the bad guys who have been the bravest for standing up to societal norms.

When I started writing “The Cheerleader”, it wasn’t the hero that initially interested me. “Doing the right thing” is a no-brainer. There are different types of heroes – anti-heroes, super-heroes and underdogs, to name a few. But being bad, well, that really opens up questions.

I started with my villain. I needed my killer to have a reason for murder. It had to make sense. Why go on a killing spree in the first place? It made me think of the bad guys in society. We find them everywhere. Some come from broken backgrounds and never have a chance. Some wear suits and sit behind desks crushing the lives of their employees (I’m sure we can all relate to this at one point or another.) Others are more overt and are outright dictators. Some are not bad at all, just portrayed that way by the media.

Can there be a good villain? Is there a badness scale? This is what forms the basis of The Cheerleader. What would happen if a villain systematically murdered other villains? We go about our daily lives meeting a wide variety of people. Every time we sit on a train, there might be a potential villain in our vicinity. Heck, we might even be that potential villain in the eyes of some.

For me, it’s the aspect of secrecy that makes detective stories and thrillers so enjoyable to read. We suspect everyone. That’s what keeps us going. It’s the unknown and our thirst to see if we were right. So why not have a killer who kills the bad guys? Why not have someone trying to make the world a better place, sincerely believing they are doing good, while adding to the problem?

Either way, it’s the villain that’s at the center of my focal point. He is the villain for whom I write and for whom I read. I still remember the days when I would go to toy stores and always ask for the “bad guy” toy despite my parents’ wish that I go down the “candy” route. He never sat down well with me and still doesn’t.

You see, it’s all about the bad guy. It’s easy to be good, but it’s fun to be bad.

By Richard Gough, author of The Cheerleader. Published by The Book Guild and available on Amazon, The Book Guild and all good bookstores

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