Showing posts with label motivation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motivation. Show all posts

26 June 2021

How to Create a Great Villain


Ah, those students of mine.  Here I was, doing the lecture thing about motivation, how ALL your characters need to have believable motivation for what they are doing.  Especially, doncha know, your antagonist (villain, if you prefer.)  "No Cardboard Villains!" I profoundly announced.


And then the question...

"So, how DO you create a great villain?" he asked.

Bless his little heart.

"Em...." I said with scholarly conviction.  "Just what I'm going to cover next week!"

Next day, prof frantically writes a brand new handout, here presented.  With thanks to my beloved students for keeping me on my toes....

 HOW TO CREATE A GREAT VILLAIN

Let's go back to basics.  How many characters do you need for a novel?

Melodie says:  a minimum of three  (and yes, there are always exceptions.)

Your Protagonist.  This is your main character, your main viewpoint character.  We will be experiencing the story through her eyes throughout.

Sidekick.  Your protagonist (and your story) will likely benefit from having a sidekick, some friendly soul to share the journey with.  If you don't give your main character a sidekick, then she will be spending pages and pages talking to herself, which is boring for the read.  

Examples:  Sherlock Holmes and Watson.  In my Rowena Through the Wall series, Rowena and Kendra.  In The Goddaughter series, Gina and her loopy cousin Nico.

Antagonist.  Yes, usually you need someone to provide the conflict.  We might call them a villain.  Your protagonist wants something that isn't easy to get and often there will be a villain standing in his way.

 KILL OFF CARDBOARD VILLAINS

So many times, villains seem cardboard.  This is because the author hasn't spent time building them into believable characters.  Sure, your villain can be a psychopath who is simply insane, but that gets pretty boring for readers.  

The most interesting villains are those who have desires that we can relate to.

Have you ever wished someone harm?  Villains do so as well.  Why do they act on those desires when we would hold back?  THAT's what makes them interesting.

Checklist for creating a Great Villain:

1.  KNOW HOW A VILLAIN THINKS - The number one thing to keep in mind when creating your antagonist?  Villains never think they are villains.  To them, their actions are justified and rational.  They are acting in their own self-interest.  Others simply stand in the way of what they want and deserve.

Get that last word:  deserve. Often, villain feel they have been cheated of what they rightly deserve.

2.  BELIEVABLE MOTIVATION - Make sure your antagonist has adequate motivation.  Don't neglect this!  Why is he doing what he's doing?  What does he want?  Why is he taking the risk?  In many countries and past ages, murder comes with the death penalty.  What is so important to him that he would take that risk?

Motivations for villains:  Revenge for past wrongs, safety, monetary gain, business or professional gain, power of overs, sexual desire (particularly for the protagonist.)  All the traditional motivations for murders:  Revenge, sex and money.

3.  GIVE HIM BACKGROUND - Your villain didn't get the way he is out of nowhere.  He didn't start out a villain.  Make him three-dimensional, and for goodness sake, avoid using trite over-used dialogue ("Now I have you in my clutches...")  I advise doing a character sketch for your villain as well as your protagonist.

4.  A LIKEABLE VILLAIN?  Can you make your antagonist likeable?  Of course you can!  Soren, in Rowena and the Viking Warlord, is a demon summoned from Hell.  Old religions knew him as Baal.  He is scary as all get-out, when first introduced to the reader.  But as you get to know him more and learn his motivations, you might even start to like him.  He's not ALL bad.  Let me repeat that. Not all bad.  Think about that, when creating your villain.

5.  MAKE IT PERSONAL - Finally, when possible, give your villain a history with the protagonist.  Yes, you can write about a psychopath who picks victims at random.  But isn't if far more interesting if the antagonist has a history with the protagonist?  The bad-boy past boyfriend who returns suddenly to your heroine's life and puts it in turmoil?  The girl you hated in high school who is now the defense attorney standing in the way of your solving the crime... Past unresolved emotions can add more power to your manuscript.

Remember:  Your villain is there to provide CONFLICT in your novel.  Will your protagonist get what they want?  Readers keep turning pages to find out, so make sure you maintain that conflict until the very end.

Melodie Campbell has written several series in many genres, but you can always count on them being funny.  Books available at all the usual suspects.  www.melodiecampbell.com


 

 


 

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