"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Crafting the Villain

It's confession time. I've been guilty of ignoring the bad guy.

A few years ago I realized why I wasn't happy with my fiction. I had been guilty of creating flat villains. They were simply in the story so the hero/heroine had an enemy. However, there wasn't a whole lot to them. They were boring, cardboard creations for my protagonists to react to. That's it.

There's an old saying that actors would much rather play the bad guy than the good. Why? Because they can be just as, if not more, interesting and in depth than the hero. The same can certainly be said of writing stories as well.

I began reading specifically to study villains. I soon realized there were three types of antagonists I found the most interesting.

1) The villain as the complete opposite of the hero - this could be in looks, experiences, preferences, or abilities.
2) A villain who is just like the hero except with one major difference. This shows how easily the protagonist could have become the villain, or how close the antagonist came to being the hero.
3) The hero and villain is one character. "Every villain is a hero of his or her own story" - Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey.

I tried to keep all of this in mind when I created my short story "Broken Angel." I was so pleased with the outcome that I've dedicated myself to crafting better villains. I'm revisiting old manuscripts that I felt were weak so that I can flesh out the villains side of the tale.

I have a few ideas for new stories as well, and it's difficult to focus on one at a time. However, I'm too excited about the possibilities now to give up. So, I'm diving into villainy to save my manuscripts.

How about you? Have you been guilty of ignoring your villain? Who are some of your favorite villains?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Often the villain isn't really evil, he's just going after the same thing as the hero, which would fit well in the second category.
My heroes tend to be their own worst enemies.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

This gives me food for thought. I have a story that has stalled, and the stall may revolve around the villain question. I'll have to think more about that. Thanks.