Hey, Wonkoverse, I need your help! More specifically, your recommendations.
I’ve just gotten a new series proposal assembled, and during the final round of polishing, my agent stuck in a note that read (to paraphrase), “This guy is such a dick. I’ll be curious to see how you turn him into a hero.”
She was remarking on the villain of the first book, who is a colossal dick. Or perhaps more precisely, a manipulative, self-aggrandizing prick. Whatever the flavor of ass-hat, she probably would have assumed he’d get done in by the end of the first story, if not for the series overview informing her he’s the hero of book two. I’m not too worried about de-villain-ifying him, though—frankly I’m looking forward to ripping him apart via hot monkey sex and excessive man-doubt, then reassembling his broken parts into a delicious wreck of an unlikely hero.
But her comment got me thinking: how does one redeem a villain not just enough to make him sympathetic or love/hate-able, but to transform him (or her!) into an actual hero—even a romantic lead? It makes me want to explore the art form, to see how others have pulled it off.
I’m off on a two-week vacation next Monday, the perfect opportunity to suck down some great storytelling. To that end, Wonksters, I want your recommendations for books, movies, and TV shows that boast this characterizational sleight-of-hand—where a villain gets transformed into a hero over the course of a story or series. I’m not talking dick-bag alphas who get broken by the love of a good woman; I mean actual baddies who become lurve-worthy leading men. Think Spike from Buffy, or to a softer degree, Sawyer from Lost. Or non-romantically*, Snape from the Harry Potter opus.
Conversely, feel free to warn me away from villain redemptions that totally didn’t work for you, either because they were too convenient, too unbelievable, or sucked all the spine out of a previously kick-ass heel.