I debated about this post since there have been quite a few others on this blog that are pretty similar, but this is a question that I’ve been thinking about in my own writing of late and I think it’s worth revisiting from a writer’s (and reader’s) perspective with a slightly different bent. I’d imagine the answer’s more than a little subjective, dependent on individual fears.
So, my question:
What makes a character (in particular, a villain) truly scary? What traits–physical or emotional–give you chills?
As a jumping off point, here are the top ten scariest children’s book villains as voted on by 600 adult readers (surveyed by Penguin Books around this time last year). I wonder, do they have anything in common?
1. White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis – 1950)
2. Captain Hook (Peter Pan by J M Barrie – 1904)
3. The Grand High Witch (The Witches by Roald Dahl – 1983)
4. Wicked Stepmother (Snow White by Brothers Grimm – 1810)
5. Cruella de Vil (The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith – 1956)
6. Voldemort (Harry Potter books by J K Rowling – 1997)
7. The Child Catcher (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming though in the1968 film not book)
8. Miss Trunchbull (Matilda by Roald Dahl – 1988)
9. The Wolf (Red Riding Hood by Brothers Grimm – 1810)
10. Long John Silver (Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – 1883)