Looking for the perfect, or not so perfect, villain for your story?
Finding a hero, well that is perfectly simple. A dash of Prince Charming, a sprinkle of Albert Einstein, a quarter cup of Fred Astaire, a hint of Hans Solo. . .well, you get my drift. A quick whisk or two and TADA! You have a hero!
Not so, with a villain, that is an entirely different cup of (hemlock) tea.
Deeply flawed, and driven by: dark forces, questionable morals, a wounded soul, or simply bad fashion sense, villains must connect with readers in some realistic way. A strong villain forces the hero to step up, demanding more moral fiber than he, the hero, knew that he possessed. Remember, there is no “Happily Ever After” without the twists and turns supplied compliments of the villain!
Remember unless your villain is a serial killer, or the embodiment of pure Evil, he—the villain, must possession a rich and complex character and past. He must be a worthy antagonist for protagonist (aka: Our Beloved Hero). So, how exactly do you plan to come up with the perfect villain?
I like to start with back-story (of course for most of the novel this is known only to me). I pepper hints and drop in a few clumps of info. Later, the reader will say, “Of course! I should have guess sooner!” The reader may harbor sympathy (which I like to develop in my Tween stories). Everyone can relate to an event, which made a profound change is his/her life. Sometimes this even makes a person better/stronger. Other times (as in the villain’s case) it drives them to the edge of insanity, or damages them beyond (mental/emotional/physical) recover. However, in the beginning, the story all about the hero.
It is not until the middle of the story; we appreciate the villain’s ability to set those nasty plot twists into motion.
Your villain can be your hero’s mirror. Oh, you can go for the classic blonde vs brunette, if you are looking for campy. Or, you can look to character traits. The hero may be shy, fearful of horses, and a back-words sort of dresser with a gentle way with those in need. While the villain is confident, articulate (with a sexy accent), owns a stable of show-horses, wears Armani suits, and (at times the veil slips) he sees gentleness as weakness. He discovered as a child, only the strongest survive!
Give him quirks, sensitivities (remember the movie “Red Dragon”), an awareness of himself. Your villain must evolve also. He may escalate into pure Evil, or see the light. Or, perhaps, reside somewhere in between the two places.
Remember to open his old wounds. Something, be it a place, event, smell, or sound must trigger his behavior. Show the villain trying to avoid a situation, event.
I can’t divulge too much about my “villains” due to the manner in which they tie into a story’s plot. However, I will give you a hint, or two.
Whisper upon the Water, my YA/Tween novel set in the late 1880s in a Native American boarding school deals with the aftermath of the Indian Wars. The story also addresses the way the children were treated and forced to become “White”. My villain is Sister Enid. The reader will discover that Sister Enid as a story of her own. My romance and romantic suspense novels, Lynx and Brede (Rodeo Romance Book 1 & 2), also have carefully constructed villains.
My next BWL release, is an anthology, Gumbo Ya Ya has five separate stories. And, a myriad of delightful villains to boo and hiss at!
· “Marrying off Murphy” my villain is a friend who shoves my hero into an ‘unwelcomed situation’.
· “Love Potion # 9” brings us two villains: “element of magic” and. .well, that’s enough of a hint.
· “A Slice of Scandal” is a murder mystery where villains abound.
· “The Ghost of Gombi Island” we have a pirate, a ghost, and a witch on the high seas (I will let you ponder the villain’s identity.)
· “1-800-Fortune” (a T.A.R.A. and Fool for Love, finalist). Brings us an unnamed villain (at least until the final pages—remember, no peeking when you purchase the book).
What character traits.
Or what I’ve discovered usually irritate me, and, consequently, my hero the most. Remember, just like the menu at “Denny’s” you can mix or match your selection.
Abrasive, Antisocial, Catty (one of my personal faves), Confrontational (perfect for a co-worker when combined Catty and Devious). Or, Obsessive (no wait, that’s me!), Paranoid, Perfectionist, Self-Destructive, Vindictive. These are just a few traits, I am certain you can name many, many more.
Does you villain need the limelight? Alternatively, does he prefer to hide in the shadows? Does he have a driving need to belong? To be loved?
Your villain did not just crawl out from beneath a toadstool.
Write that backstory and make certain your villain is the worst that he can be!
Reader, who is favorite villain--the person you love to hate? Why?