Hidden venom

I get Real Simple's Daily Thought in my email every morning. This morning's thought was:

"The more hidden the venom, the more dangerous it is." ~ Marguerite De Valois

It made me think of villains. Some who come specifically to mind... Marquise de Merteuil in Dangerous Liaisons, Cousin Bette in the book of the same name by Balzac, and even Caroline Bingley in Pride & Prejudice (in her treatment of Jane) is a creature with hidden venom.

Villains who appear honorable on the surface are far more frightening than villains who are unquestionably evil (like Voldemort!)

Which do you prefer? The outright evil villain or the inner venomous one? Which one frightens you more? Which is easier to hate?

8 comments:

Shelby said...

I'm a fan of the inner venom brand of baddy. They're so much more realistic, to me. They're also easier to hate. You just so desperately want that facade to crumble...

Petra @ Safari Poet said...

I think the inner venomous ones are in some ways more frightening. They're usually someone the characters thinks they can trust or doesn't really think is a big threat when they should. With outright evil villains, you know whenever anything bad happens that they're involved and watch out when they're near. That's why I don't find them as frightened as venomous ones.

Bittersweet Fountain said...

I think both are needed and both are scary in their own way. It's basically the Sarumon vs. Sauron debate--who's scarier? On the one hand, you have someone who seems to be a good guy, who you thought you could trust, but who is actually evil and working against you. On the other hand, you have someone so evil that you know that no rationalization, no reasoning, and no begging will save you.

One is scary because they take you in and fool you--they use your trust and sense of honor against you. The other is scary because no matter what you do, no matter what you say, they will never stop.

Both are scary.

Brenda Sills said...

Guess what? I like both! Since I love to read all types of genres from all eras, I relish a variety of villains. Each offers their own brand of chills, turmoil, and agony. And the hero can be twisted in endless ways as a result. So for me, it's all about the struggle - emotional, physical, mental - between the villain and the hero.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

Guilie said...

Definitely the "hidden" kind. I find that so much more threatening, somehow. As if those villains that are immediately identifiable as such are, at least, true to themselves that way. Those that aren't, the ones that seem kind and likeable at first, are worse to me because of the betrayal, the double-facedness.

Tiffany Garner said...

Both can be scary in their own ways, and I have both in my writing. Personally, it doesn't matter to me if they're hidden or outright evil--if they can play with my mind, or if they're going to hurt people (or characters) I care about, I hate them just the same.

Sometimes I think the hidden ones are easier to hate, because in many of those situations they're also what I call the "Best Friend" villains. These are people who you as a reader trust, and who your characters trust, but who end up either switching sides or having been on the other side from the beginning. Mad-Eye Moody is one person that comes to mind, but there are many many others. Readers sometimes hate these villains even more than the outright evil ones because of the betrayal.

Julia Karr said...

Great comments everyone! I like (and write) both - because they are both terrifying in their own ways to me!

BrittLit said...

If it's a thrilling tale that is shrouded in mystery, I like my venom hidden. It's always interesting trying to figure out who the good guys and bad guys are. If it's a fun adventure though, I like the obvious villains.