Sunday, March 27, 2011

Getting to the Heart of Your Villain


Photo snagged by Denny S. Bryce

I love villains, and even find them easier to write some days, especially after a hard week of work...but I read in one of my many craft courses, or in a book, that in order to create a really good bad guy or gal - keep in mind that the evil one, doesn't think of themselves as being bad. And they have as big a journey as the hero or heroine. A favorite quote of mine from Whedonverse was made by Anya who said "Evil things have plans, too." (or something like that:). 

So dig into your bad guy's head/backstory--what motivates him? Give him a vulnerability. A 'wound' so deep that even at his (or her) most badassedness there's something sympathetic you know about the bad guy. His motivation can help make him more terrifying and/or dangerous to your hero or heroine. Also, play with contrast. Let's say your main character has a 'wound' from his past that is central to him or her being the hero they are, or become in your story...for example...

On the TV show "Criminal Minds" one of the smartest, most vigilant special agents is Aaron Hotchner (this is a favorite show of mine, except for once I'm not talking about Shemar Moore:).

A few seasons back Special Agent Hotchner was interrogating a vicious serial killer. As two cops led the confessed murderer away, the guy asked Hotch, 'How did you know about my father? I never told anyone." Hotchner's reply went something like, "Some kids who are brutalized by their fathers turn into serial killers, others turn into people who hunt and find those killers." (Definitely paraphrasing here...). But that character reveal was well-executed IMHO. Throughout the episode, that bad guy was toted as the most brutal ever, having killed more than 100 people over the years - a real monster. But why it sticks in my mind is the connection the writer established between two opposing characters and how well it emphasized good versus evil. It gave the scene more weight than the typical we caught the bad guy ending. And I imagine for the writer of that episode - made it easier to write because in the back of his mind, he was working toward a goal: to deliver that line.

Anyway, it's Sunday morning and I've had a big cup of coffee...but I must credit a question from a member of my Savvy Authors critique group, which led me to this subject. So after brainstorming there, I decided to re-edit my response to her question and re-post it here. 

The topic is definitely one I often debate as I work on my manuscripts.

So tell me, what inspires you when writing/creating your bad ass bad guy?

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