Friday, July 16, 2010

Confessions of a Nazi - Sympathetic Bad Guy?

Hello there! I'm doing another blog chain (yes, yes, we already covered the addiction problem last month) with AW members. This time, the fascinating topic is to show your antagonist in a sympathetic light. I LOVED the idea, but had quite a hard time figuring out how to do it. The problem, y'see, is I very rarely have an ANTAGONIST. Not the capital letters type. More often the antagonist is a situation; the person themselves; or the entire Nazi army. The few novels where I have a definite antagonist are mysteries. You don't expect me to reveal my carefully-hidden villain, do you? Well, it doesn't matter - I'm not going to. :)

And since it's a bit difficult to paint the entire German army (or Protectors, or CIA-gone-wrong, or Black Ops group) in a sympathetic light, I tried to find one specific antagonist. I found him (a Nazi captain) hulking and lurking his way through three chapters of A Fire Is Woken. He doesn't have a pronounced role, but readers have said he's chilling and completely evil, so I sat down with him this morning and we had a nice little chat about WHY he's evil.

Found out some interesting things! He didn't very much like talking to me (apparently there was some left-over resentment from WWII) but he agreed to write a letter to his wife explaining the situation, and it's that which I will present here. But before the letter, I'd like to post a short snippet from the novel, showing him in fine fettle as the evil villain.

Backstory for the snippet: Julie works as a secretary for the SOE (British secret service during WWII). Through a complicated series of events, she's now on an emergency mission in France with four other trained agents. A few hours previously, they've been captured by SS troops, and are being held in SS headquarters by aforementioned SS kapitan.

Iron scraped against iron. Light flashed down the stairs, bounced off the wet walls, glinted off the round helmets of the descending German soldiers. Their rifles banged against their shoulders as they dragged a formless shape down the stairs.

The cell door rattled open, and Trese's limp body slumped to the floor. In speechless horror, Julie watched as his head rolled sideways. Bloody bruises swelled his face out of shape; his mouth hung half-open over broken teeth. His shirt was ripped, and chunks of flesh stuck to bloody fiber.

A scream of horror built inside Julie, edging her vision with black. Oh God! Then, as Trese's body twitched and his eyes rolled open, she crawled forward. What do I do. What can I do.

Her hand reached out, slipped behind his head, lifted it off the floor, even as she ripped the sweater from around her shoulders and and put it beneath his head. Caught up in the desperation to help, somehow, anyhow, she forgot the Germans...

...until the cool tickle of a whip touched the back of her neck.

The kapitan's mouth pursed thoughtfully as he looked down at her. “This one,” he said in English, “this one will talk. Take her!”

The two Germans leaped forward. Their hands, sticky and wet from Trese's blood, closed around her arms, jerked her to her feet.

Time stopped. Unable to breathe past the terror, she stared around the cell, begging wordlessly for help she knew wasn't coming. Richards met her gaze for a split second, then he turned away and stared at his hands laced around his ankles. Bonvie didn't even look up.

Help me!

At her feet, Trése looked up through bleary eyes, and seemed to see what was happening. His mouth worked, as if he might be trying to speak, and then a bubble of saliva formed and deflated on his lips, and his head fell back.

This is it. In that moment Julie knew. She was completely alone and help wasn't coming.

The cold slick whip curled around her wrist. The cool blue gaze of the kapitan appraised her. For a split second, he seemed to hesitated. Emotion flickered through his eyes; his mouth twitched.

Let me go. Please let me go.

Then he smiled, and let the coil of whip slither from her wrist. "You will talk," he said again in English. "Oh yes. You will."

Inside Julie a scream began to build. I'm not ready to die. Oh God, I'm not ready to die.


And now you (hopefully) have been creeped out, here's the letter he wrote to his wife the morning before.

To my wife Minna

You will never read this letter. I will destroy it the moment I finish it. I am a fool to write it at all. It is a weakness, an act of foolish desperation: a child throwing blocks at a wall. Unworthy of an officer of Germany. I do not say an officer of the Reich, for there is no worthiness there at all.

Our son is dead. You have received the telegram today, doubtless. You have read the high-minded words of his noble sacrifice, and the condolences and assurances of his painless, brave death in battle.

What you will never know is they are all a lie.

Our son did not die in battle. He did not die nobly. And he did die screaming in pain.

You have heard Hitler scoff of the secret agents Britain has sent to French soil, but what you have not heard is that they are a deadly weapon. These people are without honor, soul, or truth. It was to them that our son died. He was lured in by a girl, apparently from the local village, sympathetic to our cause. Our son, as you know, had a kind heart and the girl's pitiful story moved him. He went, finally, to “visit” her – and there was captured by her colleagues, enemy agents all.

The rest I pieced together only with guesswork...and by the hideout, which we found and captured. Too late. I found our son's body there. He had been tortured to death. He died screaming in pain. I saw him lying there, Minna, saw his blood and his broken body.

And yet I could have born that, but for the destruction of the weapons train the night after. The weapons shipment from the Homeland was the closest kept secret of the month. Only five officers knew of it in our sector. Myself, three others...and our son.

He died screaming in pain, Minna, screaming out the information they sought.

Our son did not die a hero, Minna. The enemy made him a coward, a traitor, and deserving of death.

I prayed once that this war would end, that Hitler's insanity would end, that our men would return to our great country to the arms of our loved ones. In the moment I looked down at the body of our son, my prayers ended. All I wish for now is to destroy every man, woman, and child who destroyed my son.

I will not rest until I have brought them down.

What do y'all think?


Check out all these posts as well to see more interesting and unusual looks at the traditional Bad Guy!


Katherine Sophia said...

That was very good. Oh, I wish you would get published so I could read an entire story! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow...the initial snippet was definitely a cold, scary man who sent a chill down my spine. The letter gave him more humanity, even while showing that he had at least some coldness in him before the loss of his son. Well done.

Nona King said...


I LOVE IT! What a glorious idea for a blog chain, although I cannot imagine doing the same for one of my antagonists. If I were to understand why they were evil, TRULY understand, I would have a hard time preventing myself from writing their salvation. If I don't know what motivates them, I can continue writing them in all their infamous glory... you know?

Regardless, it was a gripping post.

Lady Blanche Rose said...

Ahhh, I loved that excerpt and letter, Nina! That is such a fascinating idea to paint the antagonist in a more sympathetic light...I've found that it makes accounts of war even more gripping, because you know that all involved were truly human.

And I echo Katherine Sophia's really must get something published SOON! :)

Adam Collings said...

Wow. That is powerful. This is a great way to bring our antagonists to life, and make them breathe. Very well written.

Nina Hansen said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone!

Katherine and Blanche - I'm working on it. ;) Hard. The first novel of this series is sitting on a publisher's desk - we'll be hearing back from them in a few weeks. o.O

Nona - I used to write all my villains as totally heartless, but now I try to write them a little more human. In a way, I think that makes them more frightening, because we can put ourselves into their shoes a little more...

Amber J. Gardner said...

Oooo! I like this! I like cruel evil men, who show signs of being capable of love. Though I guess he probably and will die, which I'm sure if for the best lol.

thebigguyinSF said...

I love it I could envision his German accent as he was reading it over to himself. Another disenchanted German soldier. There were many including Himmler who remained loyal to Hitler till the end, though the thought Hitler was a total Dumkoft.
Good job.

Nina Hansen said...

You could envision the accent? Ah... that's very cool. :D

I'm always interested in how many soldiers hated Hitler yet kept fighting because they believed in Germany. Endless story conflict!

Thanks for commenting!

C Scott Morris said...

It was the letter that made him sympathetic. I can be easy to understand the motivations of our antagonists, but difficult to make them sympathetic, and that's why I offered up this idea.
Good job.

Aimee Laine said...

Still think he's pretty evil sounding. :) But the letter was a distinctly different 'feel' that moved instead of grossed out. :)

Nina Hansen said...

Great idea, C Scott Morris!

That's exactly what I was shooting for, Aimee - squee that it went over! :)

Hillary Jacques said...

Very good. He does still sound twisted. But it's interesting to see what he believes, and to see that it's not entirely the same set of beliefs as the Reich. A very complicated character, and an excellent bad guy.

Q said...

This was very intriguing. It reminded me of the Milgram experiment defence which basically concludes that people will do horrible things if a person in authority tells them to. I want to read more!

Anonymous said...

Gulp a misguided man with a blood grudge to settle is an antagonistic force to be reckoned with. But even a villain can be compassionate enough to swallow thoughts hurtful to those he loves. I hope he really did shred that letter.

Nina Hansen said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone!

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