Sunday, October 14, 2018

Villains in Everyday Life, by Michele Weber Hurwitz

I've never been big on including traditional villains and monsters in my books. After all, I don't write fantasy, where many of these characters are a natural part of the stories. All of my novels are contemporary and realistic, set in present day.

I've had several readers email me when they're doing a book talk or project on one of my books, asking -- who's the antagonist in this story? I usually ask them who they think it is :)

Since our topic this month is on villains and monsters, that got me thinking, who are the antagonists in my stories? And the answer is that I like to weave my "villains" into occurrences and circumstances in the characters' everyday lives, so they're not obvious, but are very real, which is probably why it's a challenge for young readers to figure that out.

In my second novel, The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, the antagonist is not a person, but a situation. The neighborhood cul de sac in which much of the story takes place has become detached and distant. A 5-year old character, Thomas, senses this, as he fights invisible "bad guys" in the circle of eight houses. The main character, Nina, starts doing some anonymous good deeds with the hope of bringing people back together. There's an older neighbor who's suspicious of all these unusual happenings and many readers think she's the antagonist, but she's really not. She's just a nervous ninny with a temperamental poodle.

In my first book, Calli Be Gold, the antagonist was the overwhelming pressure that parents can place on their kids to succeed in sports and activities. And in the novel I'm currently working on, the villain is the effects of climate change on a small lakeside Wisconsin town.

Things like that scare me more than Voldemort, even though he's one of the best villains ever written.

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of Calli Be Gold, The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, Ethan Marcus Stands Up, and Ethan Marcus Makes His Mark. Her next middle grade novel will publish in May 2020. Visit micheleweberhurwitz.com for more info.

2 comments:

  1. I love that your readers have to ask who the antagonists are.

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  2. And I love that rather than demonizing individuals, you find your villains in the institutional, cultural, and political forces that are the real menace to us. I'm totally with you on finding climate change scarier than any Voldemort - definitely!

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