Unlike most of my posts with a plethora of different jibberish, this is a guest post by Angela Watts, Christian author of Seek, on how to create better villains. Enjoy!
3 TIPS FOR WRITING A VILLAIN THAT YOU LOVE TO HATE
What do you think of when you think of the word villain? When we were little, maybe we thought of Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmations. Nowadays, maybe Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War crosses your mind. What do most stories all have in common? Chances are, one answer is a villain or antagonist.
I love a good—er, bad?—villain. My taste in villains does vary, and like everything else, everyone is allowed to their own personal taste or preference. There are many controversial opinions about antagonists.
Some people believe a villain will make or break your entire story. Some might say villains are the only thing moving a plot along. I’m not jumping into these kind of debates. Today, I’ll be sharing my tips on how to write a villain you, and others, will love to hate. Or hate to love.
OK, before you think I’m psychotic or stupid, hear me out. What do you do when you have a hero character? Well, I meet them first. I don’t really start learning about a character when I pick up a character development sheet. I have a general or very strong idea of that character before I write anything down. Meeting characters is like meeting real people. This probably varies writer to writer. So, what I’m saying is this. Don’t look at your villain like they must be a mystery to you in all aspects. They are enigmas to your reader. But you? You are their friend. That’s how you must view writing a villain. You aren’t their enemy. You’re the writer. You have to let yourself know that person, even if they’re bound to surprise you later (just like every other character)!
When I wrote the first two drafts of Seek, Viktor Marino was a huge enigma to me. However, as I got older and delved into other stories and met more people in my life, Viktor finally allowed me to truly meet him. The final draft of Seek was so fun because I finally understood Viktor. It often felt like I had to tie Viktor down and beat him with a broom to finally make him reveal his secrets to me, but it is worth it.
KNOW THEIR ‘HEART’
You have many types of the villain. The human, the alien, etc (not including antagonists, which could be a government system, or unit of people, and so forth). They can have no soul or have a soul and just choose to do wrong anyway, for whatever reason. If you look around, or watch the news, it won’t take you long to realize some people truly have no remorse or morals. Whether you believe every person has good in them or not, it doesn’t take many news articles to see some people are deranged.
What does this have to do with villains? Well, in fiction, people don’t often want a bad guy who does cruel things just because they can. Sure, maybe some people in real life are just that messed up—and that’s truly terrifying.
While such a soulless villain type is doable (and realistic), most audiences want a villain they can understand. I love villains I can understand because that makes them human. It is epic to discuss their actions when they have a human desire and/or motivation!
When you meet your villain, you should know whether they have no redemption in their future, or if they can find the Light. This is a crucial thing to know about your villain. If they find redemption one day, you should write in bits and pieces to show the audience that the bad guy is still human. If not, then you need to show just how far gone they are, and how ruthless they’ll be for their twisted goal—depending on if you want the reader to know there is no redemption.
LET THEM LOOSE
Scared yet? Here’s my point… Don’t hinder your villain. Don’t limit them to cliché phrases (“We meet again,” “You think you could *blah blah blah*,” “Say goodbye,” etc) or make them all look like a man who could rip someone’s throat out.
Your villain is more than a plot device. Don’t make them like every other bad guy. Give them a voice that is unique. Let that villain stand on their own. If they are real enough to you and well developed, they will soar past clichés.
As the writer, it is our job to let our characters do what they do, and we can’t limit our bad guys just because they’re bad. Our villains will surprise us, just like our characters, no matter how well we know them when we first meet and outline the draft. So run with that. Maybe you start with the scheme of a villain getting redeemed and as you write, the baddie drowns a litter of kittens and you realize there’s no saving him (ha… you get the drift, right?). In the end, while we might be queasy of our own bad guys (that’s a good thing! Right….?), we can’t water the character down. He or she must be true to himself or herself. For example, if the villain is totally ruthless but ends up saying something or doing something nice at the end, that does not cohere with their personality (unless it is a very three-dimensional antagonist who is mixed on certain subjects; but that’s a whole other thing entirely). It works best to have a reason (and that reason should be shown) for why such actions take place.
Every villain is different, just like every real living person on this planet is different. Don’t be afraid of what people think, just be true and fair to your villain (ha… ironic, yes?) and try to think of what you personally enjoy in a villain you love to hate.
Angela R. Watts
ABOUT THE BOOK
Angel Cutler’s routine life is overturned when local ganglord Viktor Marino tries to kidnap her. When she finds out her adopted sister is back in town and working with Viktor, Angel has to run away with the protection of two total strangers. Can Angel have faith in God to protect her family when she can’t?
Elijah Davis has seen Viktor bleed once, and to save his family, he’ll make it happen again. But who is the One Eli can turn to when he realizes he can’t protect his loved ones alone?
Hiding from gangsters and gunfire, the trio struggle to seek God above all else and trust that His plan is greater than their own. Or Viktor Marino’s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela R. Watts is a Christian fiction author who strives to glorify the Lord in all she does. She’s a homeschooled highschooler living at Step By Step Sanctuary, Tennessee, though with Gypsy and Norwegian in her blood, she tends to travel. She’s been writing stories since she was little, but also enjoys chores, painting, and watching sunsets.