|"Hatfields & McCoys"|
As I’ve written previously about how revenge motivates characters, the cost of carrying out these actions often leads to the climax in the story. Be it unrequited love, family feud, suspected transgression, harm of a loved one, or act of war, revenge moves characters like fuel moves fire, as it has in non-fictional stories.
I’ve read a number of stories by new authors in which the lead character’s main motivation is revenge, frequently non-law-abiding. From taking an entire country hostage, to killing whoever killed his/her loved ones, it usually reels in the reader. In the Gastar novellas, Shevata kills a group of evil priests without a death order, taking revenge for innocent people killed. But she went against the law and used her skills by her choice instead of command. Her story is the payment for that mistake.
The tension leading to vengeance carries a plot with the intensity required to keep readers interested that apply to mainstream thrillers (legal thrillers, murder mysteries), paranormal romance, horror, and of course, my genre, Dark Fantasy. Vengeance translates well across genres because many of us feel wronged in our own lives and can only fantasize the sweetness of revenge if taken the whole distance as it is in many novels.
How sweet is revenge? Often what is left is blood on the floor, with no real winners and many losers. The human condition gives us a conscience (hope so), in the most extremes of “getting even” nobody makes it back to square one, the situation before the conflict began. Savored revenge doesn’t always make peace in reality, but in fiction anything goes. Such stories need careful crafting to gratify the readers along with the characters.
To me, the most compelling message of vengeance is the cost of it to all involved. How many innocent lives, were the guilty really worth it, and whether or not vengeance cures the ills of the wronged. Though a powerful motivator, it’s a fine line, and we fiction writers can learn much about the aftermath of revenge from historic events.