Real-life villains

As we still – as individuals and as a nation – reel from the tragic events on Las Vegas, villainy is at the top of our collective minds. Not only were the events Sunday night horrific, but it brought out some truly dark and divisive comments in society, including people who claimed that the victims didn’t need relief money because “they were rich” to the now-former CBS attorney who said the victims were undeserving of sympathy because “country fans were mostly Republicans” (apology since posted).

Yesterday, Becky posed the question that with all this going on, why do we even need fictional villains? Real life seems more than capable of providing enough villainy for everyone. Of course I–like her–believe we do need fictional villains because we need fictional heroes. We need triumph. And you can’t have a hero without a villain. The bigger the hero, the bigger the villain.

But it strikes me there’s another, more insidious, type of villain at large in society. One that is more difficult to overcome.


Events like natural disasters and mass shootings can bring on despair like nothing else. What can we do? We’re just little cogs in a big wheel. We seem to be doomed, so why bother?

Once again, I think fiction comes to the rescue. If we can write and read about the triumph of heroes, there’s hope for us. Soldiers, cops, firemen, private detectives, fabric store owners, pet shop owners, clockmakers, Quaker midwives–all these heroes look at the circumstances in their own lives and say, “no.” They could turn around and walk away. Yes, even the professionals. There are other jobs out there. But they don’t. They look despair and chaos firmly in the eye and say, “not in my town.”

I think we need that. Too much grimness and depression clogs the news cycle. We need to see someone triumph to believe we can triumph.

Even if that person is fictional.


Image courtest of Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan retreat center, Friendship, NY


Author: Liz Milliron

Liz Milliron has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. She survived growing up through reading, cutting her mystery teeth on Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and, of course, Nancy Drew. As an adult, she finds escape from the world of software documentation through creating her own fictional murder and mayhem. She lives near Pittsburgh with her husband and two teenage children, and fantasizes about owning a dog again - one of these days.

12 thoughts on “Real-life villains”

  1. I just finished reading Catriona McPherson’s HOUSE. TREE. PERSON. and it fits that bill. Her protagonist is an upbeat can-do kind of gal who suffers a lot of tragedy and, of course trips across a murder, but it has such a happy ending that it stays with you. It left me with a light heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Agreed. And maybe the second cousin to despair is ‘but what can *I* do?’ I’m naturally a Pollyanna, but I definitely get bogged down in that.

    The main character in my new Mystery Writer’s Mysteries series is a midlist mystery author who stumbles into escapades she MUST deal with, when what she’d rather do is pull the covers up over her head and hope it all goes away. We write what we know, eh? ;-D

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I absolutely agree. It is difficult to cope with senseless disasters, both caused by human villains, and those caused by nature. The light that overcomes darkness comes from within ourselves. We shine our light, and in turn our light magnifies the lights of others just as their light magnifies the light within ourselves.

    In times of trouble — this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

    Liked by 1 person

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