Notorious characters populate the literary world. They are the essential evildoers, the vicious villains, and the compulsory cads that generate conflict and drive the plot. The bad guys of both genders give the other characters something to do, namely avoid their evilness.
The interesting thing about notorious characters is that they are all notorious for the same things. They are cruel, wicked, unfeeling, pathological liars who crave power and world domination, and, oh, yes, they are usually late for dinner. (I made up that last one.)
The point is they all share common traits of notoriety. But what if they each had a unique quirk for which they were notorious among their minions, slaves, and intimate circle of friends?
For example, what if Darth Vadar was notorious for having bad breath? Suppose it was a well-kept secret that he tortured his enemies by breathing on them. That’s one way to strike fear in everyone’s heart.
“Luke, turn to the dark side, or I will Huhh….Huhh…”
Imagine Lord Voldemort as a notorious nose-picker. That could explain why his nails were so long; with such a flat nose, he would probably need a set of heavy-duty claws. I can just see him at Malfoy’s mansion working on his nose while the Lestranges give their weekly terror report. (Ev’ry body’s doin’ it, doin’ it, pickin’ their nose and chewin’ it, chewin’ it. They think it’s funny, but it’s snot.)
A final example is Sauron. We all know him as Black Master of the land of Mordor, the Eye of the Dark Tower, the Enemy of the Free Peoples, and the Lord of Barad-dûr. But what if he were also notorious for being late to everything.
The cover story is that his ring was lost for thousands of years before Gollum happened upon it. But what if Sauron just missed it due to his lack of punctuality? Gandalf said the One Ring was trying to get back to its master, sending out signals. I’m over here, over here. Look in the river, you idiot! The ring probably got tired of waiting and ordered a pizza.
Like Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “It’s always something.” It’s the same with notorious characters. They are either terrorizing the world with their evil, or they are annoying it with their incessant humming.