Wednesday, 5 July 2017

GUEST POST : VILLAINS HAVE FEELINGS TOO



Today we have something special, a guest post!! One of my Camp NaNoWrimo buddies, Grace Wesier from the blog Writerly, offered to do a guest post about Villains as you can see. I hope you have fun and I'll meet you again at the end of this wonderful thought journey Grace is going to take us through.


Good and evil, black and white, hero and villain, right and wrong. These are terms we use all the time as writers, showing a world to our readers that portrays the hero as fighting for the good of society, and the villain as trying to destroy it. True, the hero isn’t always perfect (fatal flaws are a writer’s best friend) and the villain isn’t always aaall bad (isn’t it funny how only the hot ones are misunderstood?), but at the end of the day most stories fall into the “justice triumphs and all is well with the world” cliche that we’re all familiar with.
Before I begin, let me clarify by saying this isn’t always the case.  Not everyone writes stories with happy endings, and not everyone likes stories where the hero gets what they most desire and the villain is vanquished in a firey final battle. While that’s nice to read every once and a while, it’s getting a bit old and there are some who don’t find it as compelling as most.
I’m one of those people. I’m also cursed with the ability to see pretty much every side to an argument or problem. Hence this topic. So I’m going to blow your mind for a second.  Hold tight to your seats and buckle in, readers.  It’s time for the roller coaster of self-doubt and writers’ anxiety.



What if your hero is wrong????

Okay now take a deep breath, calm down, it's okay. You'l make it out of this alive.
Walk around the room a couple times, get a snack, drink some water...
Better now?
Good. Time to walk you through developing an amazing an terrifying villain. Let's se numbered points to make this easier.

1. Your villain believes he’s in the right.
Despite what we like to think, bad guys don’t usually go around declaring themselves to be a terrible person.  Some do, we’ll get to that later.  For now, let’s focus on the most important part of this whole thing.  You see, everyone who has a solid belief in something, also holds the belief that whatever they see as truth, is truth.  If they meet someone who doesn’t agree with them, they see that person as being wrong.  And that person having a good argument for their beliefs doesn’t guarantee a change either.

Despite how Right and Good you believe your hero to be, your villain is going to believe that his side is just as Right and Good, and that the hero is the one who should be punished.

2. Your villain is going to fight for his beliefs.
Fighting for what you believe in goes right alongside believing in ANYTHING. It can be something small like how you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or something big, like if there’s a god. No matter what it is, you’re going to fight for it on some scale, and your villain will too. Heck, that’s the whole reason he’s the freaking villain!  Giving your bad guy a passion and an end goal focused on what they believe is the key part of making him an antagonist.

Be careful to remember the first point, though. He’s not going to get fired up and passionate about something he doesn’t hold to be true. Make sure you fully develop a set of beliefs for your villain before you make him fight the hero.

3. Your villain is going to be convincing.
It might be one guy, it might be an entire nation, it might be the whole world. There is going to be SOMEONE out there who agrees with the bad guy in your story. This is because right along with believing something and fighting for it, comes convincing other people that you’re right. Obviously there are some people who will not be convinced, but there’s others who would accept it absolutely and only follow you from then on out. Your villain is going to have to believe that they are genuinely right in order to do this. You can’t always make a rousing speech about something you think is wrong, even if you’re doing it for profit.  People can usually tell.

That being said, using violence is often a very effective way to get someone to at least admit that you’re right.  Don’t be surprised if your villain takes that route.

4. He’s only a villain because he opposes the hero.
Bear in mind that while I’ve talked about using violence to convince people to take a side, fighting passionately about beliefs, and so on and so forth, your villain doesn’t have to be a bad person, a killer, a thief, a devilishly handsome rogue, etc.  All he has to do is stand in the way of the hero, or in some way put the hero in a position which requires action on the hero’s part.  Any political change shows this clearly.  You don’t have to be a bad person to be cast as the antagonist in a story, you just have to disagree. It’s really that easy.

5. A wild soul knows it’s running away.
One kind of villain that I like a lot is the I-Work-Alone-And-For-My-Own-Profit type of guys. I couldn't think of one word to sum up the broad category this creates, but you get the idea.  Assassin-for-hire, smuggler, societal outcast, you name ‘em. These guys may not be fighting for what they believe in, but they certainly believe their life is the best they can do at the moment.  Maybe their biggest dream is to sleep on a bed of money or just stay out of prison, but whatever it is, they probably decided long ago that what they’re doing is the best way to achieve that goal. Your hero can’t waltz in and expect them to fully integrate back into society, and they’re not going to fall down and accept that piracy isn’t a good thing.  Even if they claim not to want the life they’re living, deep down inside of them they believe it’s the only way to go.  Whether it’s because they’ve been hurt in the past or are just really selfish, characters like that still hold beliefs and very rarely let go of them.

6. If someone knows they’re bad, but haven’t changed, why would they?
In the first point I acknowledged that there were indeed villains who delight in being evil.  There are people who just love to pick a fight. Thing is, these people are even worse.  Not because they believe something, but because they enjoy opposition. It takes a lot for these people to change for the better, and they can often be some of the most ruthless villains.  Not only that, but there’s a good chance these guys will refuse to change and brutally destroy your hero inside and out, twice, slowly. And then they’ll bring them back to life and do it again just for the heck of it.

7. Twisted people exist, and can justify their actions.
Some of these cheery rays of sunshine fit under number six. People who find pleasure in seeing the agony of their foes are not characters to be ignored or excluded. But there are others who, because of a mental illness or other flaw, justify their actions to the point of insanity. These villains can reason themselves out of anything, and make a mass killing seem like the only sensible thing to do in that situation. Insane characters are very real, and in my opinion, the most terrifying.

So there you have it!  Try putting yourself in your villain’s shoes.  Work out their thought processes, their beliefs, and their reasoning, however dark.  Make them believable in every way possible. Do you risk your character siding with your antagonist?  Absolutely. But that’s a good thing!  It means you’ve created a well-developed villain with a deep set of beliefs, and that they themselves are completely convinced they’ve found the truth.  In fact, a character who does that is scarier than the flat, only-there-to-fight-the-hero, single-use Bad guy. Someone with their own agenda and the willingness to fight mercilessly for that same agenda is incredibly realistic, and thoroughly terrifying. Giving yourself the ability to work out and see from the villain’s perspective will create a much deeper character than what you might have had previously.

Have fun creating The Most Terrifying and Twisted Dark Person On the Planet!


It was a pleasure to have you on my blog Grace for this brilliant and insightful post into villains. Make sure to visit Grace's blog and add her on goodreads and tell us in the comments what you think makes a villain great and recommend us some books with well developed villains.


2 comments:

  1. Mental illness isn't the same as moral flaws though. That's important to remember. Also, if an antagonist is doing what they're doing solely because they are "insane," you should probably reconsider that. Even insane people have their reasons, as illogical as they might seem. Also, keep in mind that certain mental illnesses are stereotyped as dangerous (schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder, for example) and should not be used for villains anymore. I'm not scared of insane antagonists...I feel bad for them. And if the author acts like we as readers OUGHT to be scared of the antagonist because they are insane, that really turns me off the author.

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  2. Yeah, true...
    I did think about saying, in the mental illness section, that this shouldn't be used very often and you should be careful about it, but it was already a long post. Thanks for pointing this out.

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