Monday, February 16, 2015

5 Tips to Writing Villains

Almost any story you write needs a bad guy or woman, someone to be defeated or whose deeds have thwarted the hero and heroine.  Sometimes they can be a machine, an alien race from another planet, a deadly bunch of vampires or a whole slew of zombies.

But more often than not, your protagonists are taking on one dastardly dude or some underhanded woman. How can you make them come alive without meeting all the clichés.

Try some of these ideas and you might find yourself coming up with new villains.

  1. Use your hero/heroine goals to build a villain – This is rather simple. What does your hero want? A new job? To learn who killed the boss because he is being suspected?  If you use those goals, the villain will be diametrically at the opposite end of the spectrum. This is the person who is keeping your hero or heroine from getting what you want. That is what happens in most stories, but take it one step further. Make it personal as well. Bring that villain to life with his/her own backstory which shows why they might be battling the hero and why they want to keep the hero from attaining his goal. Hannibal Lector was an overall bad guy as a cannibal, but he zeroed in on Clarice Starling and Will Graham. He made his battle personal with both of them.
  2. Try the 7 Deadly Sins to create their bad traits – This is a good way to create a villain. Give your villain the sin of greed, pride, wrath or even gluttony to make him want to come down on your poor hapless heroes and heroines.
  3. Make villains loveable, sympathetic or redeemable – this can be a fun way to write a villain. Not everyone needs to be killed off and vanquished. Sometimes it is more fun to simply put the villain in his place or put a mirror to him and show him for who and what he is. This can be a real lesson for him. Or defeat him and make him wish he hadn’t been so bad. As for the sympathetic villain, I always find the Phantom of the Opera as someone who is very sympathetic. He is hideous and that has made it impossible for anyone to love him. Doesn’t it make it more understandable that he might go to any lengths to get his true love, Christine?
  4. Make your villains memorable – We all want our heroes and heroines to be remembered by the reader, but what about the villain?  If we are going to make our heroes strong, then the villains should be too.  Anyone can overcome a normal bad guy.  If you want to make your heroes come off as invincible, given them a worthy opponent to defeat and that should be the starting point for your villain. Make them so strong the reader doubts whether your heroine will beat him or her.
  5.  Keep future stories in mind – do you want your villain to survive and come back to fight another day?  Find clever ways or reasons for why the villain might survive this time around.  But if you choose to do that, let the hero or heroine still solve some sort of issue in this story. You don’t want to leave the reader hanging. Something must be resolved.
    But mostly when writing a villain, have a good time with them. You can make them as mean and dastardly, or cowardly as you want. Remember you get to destroy them at the end so make it an exercise that stretches you as a writer.

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