Exploring Villains: Annie Wilkes
As I mentioned in my first post in the exploring villains series, antagonists or villains drive the story just as much...if not more so...than the hero. If there is no villain you have no conflict. No conflict, no character growth or story arc or anything worth reading really. So, lets continue with one of the most terrifying villains to ever be written...Annie Wilkes.
Anne Marie "Annie" Wilkes-Dugan is the creation of Stephen King and plays a major role throughout many of his stories. But Annie is probably most well known as the main antagonist of Misery.
She starts out as author Paul Sheldon's "number one fan" and seems pretty harmless at first. But as the story continues it is revealed that Annie Wilkes is obsessed with Paul Sheldon and quite crazy.
Wilkes stalks the author and winds up taking him back to her home after a bad car accident. I've always wondered if Annie may have caused that accident herself. It isn't mentioned, but it's plausible.
Once Paul is in her "care" things start to unravel. He is badly injured and cut off from society leaving him at Annie's mercy. She uses an opioid drug for his pain which also has addictive properties making Paul easier to control.
Annie Wilkes is the obsessed fan most authors and celebrities fear. She is bipolar, emotional, and insane. Her love of Paul's writing forces him into a type of slave labor where he is forced to write a new novel or else she will kill him.
The film and the novel versions of Wilkes differ slightly. In the novel, her punishments come swifter and are more severe than the film. For instance, she forces him to drink soapy water and later cuts off his foot to punish him for an attempted escape. In the film version, the "hobbling" scene is done with a mallet rather than an axe but that doesn't make it any less terrifying. That is due in large part to actress Kathy Bates who won multiple awards for her performance as Annie Wilkes.
What Bates did was exactly what I talk about when developing any characters, but especially villains. She gave Annie Wilkes many different layers. At times in the film you can catch yourself feeling sorry for this lonely woman. The next minute she goes on a psychotic rant. It's quite a display of acting gymnastics.
I read the book and I saw the film and Annie Wilkes is equally terrifying in both. You know you've created a great villain when people hear their name and remember their deeds. I don't think anyone will ever forget when Paul Sheldon got hobbled by his number one fan Annie Wilkes.
"Original Cyn" Cynthia Vespia writes fantasy novels for deviant minds including urban fantasy vigilantes and heroic adventure fantasy.