Donovan Reza = Best Villain Ever?

I've always been a pretty fearless person, when it comes to fiction. I grew up watching Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees and laughing when they eviscerated people. Not because I'm sociapathic or something, but because it was make-believe and sometimes pretty cheesie. That skewed perspective carries over to other situations. I can watch surgeries on television, E.R. or Grey's Anatomy never freaks me out, and violence in movies doesn't bother me. I've always been able to separate fact from fiction in my head.

The only movie that ever frightened me was Schindler's List, because the violence and horror actually happened. The disregard for human life was appalling. And Spielberg ratcheted up the tension constantly. I would never say it's a "favourite" movie because "favoured" implies enjoyment. But it's one of the best films I've ever watched, because of how emotionally affective it was.

So, imagine my surprise when I found myself a little afraid of a fictional character.

Donovan Reza.

I began writing No Man an Island more than ten years ago. It was supposed to be simple enough; I was going to write an apocalyptic story with angels and demons from the perspective of a normal human being, and it would closely parallel events in the Revelation to St. John. It was linear and straight-forward. But that wasn't enough for my imagination -- I started visualizing scenes in the book, and they had nothing to do with the original plotline.

What's the big deal, visualizing a scene? Writers use their imagination all the time, right? Yes, but I'm not a big visualizer. I'm primarily a linguistic person -- I don't often picture things, I tell myself stories about them. I deal with ideas more than visions. Actually picturing a scene meant my imagination was working over-time, and I thought it worthwhile to listen. That's how Mara got into the story, after I saw Ethan attacked in the cemetery and rescued by an angel. I needed to know where she came from.

Reza, however, snuck his way in. I had a character sketch for what would one day be called the Samaritan Project, since grade nine, and it just stuck in my head. I started seeing this character attacking the companions in NMAI and wondered how he got into the story. I was once writing a scene for an entirely different, fantasy-based novel and he showed up there to break someone's legs, a scene I moved to NMAI because he obviously wanted to be written about. He wouldn't take no for an answer.

The scenes where Reza captures and murders the companions are by and large some of the most visceral, sensory and well-written in the entire novel. People commented on their effectiveness on the old site, and people I know in person who have read the book have said similar things. Looking at the text, the scenes themselves "show" without "telling" and actually teach me a lot about my potential as a writer.

One of the greatest compliments to my writing came about in an odd way: my brother took me to see The Dark Knight this past summer, and afterward commented on the Joker, saying "He's SO Reza!" My character had been so compelling to him that he felt the need to compare the best villain in a film that I've seen in years to my creation. Joker's nihilistic tendencies, his glee when he's destructive, they're amazing to watch in performance. And my brother saw shades of Donovan Reza. My make-believe villain.

So why am I afraid of him? Because I always believed that my characters were pieces of me, tiny little shards I could blow up to life-sized people and write stories around. If Reza's a part of my psyche, he's a pretty twisted part. If he's not, then that's even more frightening. Because where did he come from?

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Even in the story it's kind

Even in the story it's kind of ambiguous where he came from. How did he become the shadow side of Ethan?

I've only been folowing The

I've only been folowing The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin, but it holds up Pretty F*ckin' Well against any other serialized web fiction, or webcomics, that i currently read. F*ck it, you rock dude!

Thanks Mark

I f*cking appreciate the compliments, dude, I work hard to make sure Diggory is entertaining. I'll try and keep it up. :)


@Fiona -- I didn't realize it was that ambiguous --- the first time Ethan ever narrates in NMAI, he tells us about his spiritual vision, received after he finds the holy sword. The vision shows how he was called by Mara on the plane, and then led by the Holy Spirit through the mountain to the wilderness. In the wilderness he confronts his adversary -- all parallel to Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness. In the story, it even happens during Lent.

All of this can be found starting around chapter 120: I use the old site because for some reason I didn't number the chapters on the new one, my bad. ;)

In chapter 243 Ethan and Raphael discuss the demon in the desert. Ethan had assumed it was the literal devil, but Raphael reminds him that Satan is also the Hebrew word for a block or adversary, not always the Devil. This adversary was instead Ethan's shadow side, as you and Jung would point out - his own personal inner demons given physical form in the spiritual world. That shadow merged with the demon Rage, one of the seven heads of the Beast from Revelation controlled by 666, the demon "who had horns like a lamb and spake as a dragon," our Simon Drake Lamb.

Thanks for the memory jog -

Thanks for the memory jog - so in the story, D.R. = (should maybe be = with a ~ on top) the sin of Rage.

I would argue that one way he's different from Rage, is Rage is usually directed at a certain target ie the source of the perceived injustice. As such, it can sometimes be a positive force, in that it can motivate one to take action against an injustice, although this can also turn out to be a two edged sword.

D.R. - and maybe this is an example of a charactor getting away from the role he was supposed to play in the plot - seems to evoke pure Evil, or Sadism - causing destruction and pain just because he can and he enjoys it, not so much that he is angry at his victims. D.R. seems too cool and composed to represent Rage.

Is there another sin that's missing from the 7 Deadly? What exactly motivates the sicko's that went around chopping off people's hands, feet, or heads in Uganda? Or the atrocities still underway in Darfur - today's holocaust. I personally don't know, because I can honestly say although I may have felt all of the other 7 deadly sins to some degree at some time, I have absolutely no urge at any time to go around chopping off body parts, just because I can and it's so cool. It's not really that cool, it takes much less imagination to be a destroyer than a creator. I'm more towards the view of "the banality of evil". However, now I think about it, I would have to say, in real life, its probably about Power.

But as for where nasty D.R. may have come from out of your mind, I think the answer might lie in the quote "If you look long into the abyss, the abyss looks also into you." All those Stephen King novels and slasher movies have an effect in the end!

Reza and Justice

Oh, I'm totally aware of the Nietzshcean abyss factor -- that's why I started with that little piece of my history. NMAI and my own self are so inter-twined that I know they affect each other constantly.

"Rage" is perhaps a misnomer, in that psychology uses it for uncontrolled, spontaneous anger in the face of danger -- part of our adrenaline fight/flight response. Perhaps I should be more consistent in the use of "wrath" -- sustained, grudge-holding, intentional anger that is incorporated into planning and vengeance. In this sense, Reza's cool demeanour is evident of his sharpening his anger over years into a useful weapon, to exact his vengeance on others.

You're right -- "rage is usually directed at a certain target, ie the source of the perceived injustice" -- an underlying subtext to Reza is that he only attacks sinners. He murders the other companions, who represent the other six sins, and absorbs their power into himself. Even at the end of the novel, when he murders an entire city and mounts the tower to open the gates of Hell, he's inflicting damage on a world he perceives as oppressive -- because Ethan, as a child, felt he didn't belong to this world. It's never mentioned in the story because I wanted it to be subtle, but he never harms an innocent. Even Hope's murder is motivated by the fact that he believed she lied to him.

Power is certainly a motivator in genocidal situations like Darfur, Uganda and the Nazis. Power is tied to pride, and also greed. Hitler's fascism targeted outsiders for destruction, and I would argue that meant he roused angry emotions and sharpened that resentment into destructive wrath, for the purposes of power and greed.

I think it does "take much less imagination to be a destroyer than a creator" - and, being a creative person, it makes some sense that my shadow self is a destroyer. It also makes sense theologically, that evil can only ruin things, while good tries to construct.

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