Well as some of you may know I write crime, mysteries and romantic suspense. People always ask me what makes a good villain. What do I look out for or do to make my villains stand out. Villains are my absolute favorite characters and I am excited to tell you why.
For me villains AKA bad guys/girls move the story and carry the suspense. I don’t care what genre you write, there is no way you can have a kick-butt story without a fabulous villain/antagonist. To perfect my creation of villains, I’ve studied what makes villains so effective. The problem is that a lot of authors do not know how to write good villains. There is an art to it. A villain must be more than just a bad guy.
You might like the heroine and you might love the hero, but without that antagonist pulling your nerves or making you jump in your seat, there wouldn’t be true tension. People can only stand to watch squeaky clean characters for too long. You have to shake things up, make folks continue to turn the pages, make your villain someone people WANT to see. That’s the key right there. The villain has to be someone people either care about or are interested in.
I’ve opened my treasure chest of secrets to give you an idea of what makes a darn good villain.
1. Remember that Villains are Human Too
There is nothing more predicable or worse than making a villain all bad and no good. No one is all bad. Even the worst people in the world have a heart. Some of the most unforgettable villains from cinema and literature are heart-string stroking bad guys who win the audience’s pity, sorrow and concern. One of my favorite villains is Norman Bates. Bates was a stone cold killer but through Hitchcock’s brilliant mind and Anthony Perkins’ electrifying portrayal, Norman evokes almost every emotion known to man from the audience. And by the time Psycho is over, we’re wondering how the heck we could feel sorry for someone so twisted and insane. But the point is that we do. That’s a TOP villain.
2. Give Your Villains Real Emotions
I hate books where the villain just does bad things and has no conscience. This is not realistic. Show different sides to the villain. Let him or her go through heart-wrenching moments. Show a glimpse of their softer side. Readers need to embrace characters’ emotions in order to feel the impact of the story. It also keeps readers on your toes. You can have a villain that’s spent his time killing women, yet he cries when he sees the story of a murdered child on the local news. It’s in-your-face realism. It jolts the audience and shows the villain has a heart. It keeps them on their toes and that’s what you need to engage the audience.
3. 3. Avoid Cliches
Last but not least, a big way to make a kick-butt villain is to ditch cliches. I don’t know why authors do all they can to avoid cliches for the hero and heroine, yet the villain or antagonist is a cutout copy of something from a million other books or movies. Go outside the box when creating your villain. Give them lives and circumstances that show they’re human. Don’t have your villains sitting around plotting about their next scheme through the entire book. Show them out of that zone. Show the softer side. Your villain might be a master manipulator, but what kind of job does he have? Is he a banker? Does he work at a zoo? Is he rich? Is he married and in love? Does he have kids? Does he have hobbies? It works for male and female villains. A female villain doesn’t have to be some seductress on the prowl where her only goal in life is to steal the hero from the heroine. Give her a life outside of that. What are her talents? What does she like to do? Show her good qualities outside of the bad. Make your villains REAL people and the audience will remember them when the book is over.
Remember, while agonizing over character development for your hero and heroine, throw that same attention to your villain and you’ll have a tension-filled book of excitement with readers turning the pages.
To get a glimpse of my kick-butt villains, check out my upcoming release, “Giving up the Ghost”(Book 1 in the Bree and Steven Interracial Romantic Suspense series).
It’s now available on Kindle and Nook!
Print edition coming April 1, 2011 (Peace in the Storm Publishing).
To get an inside look inside the series visit the new Bree and Steven Series site: http://breeandstevenseries.webs.com/
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The Season of Sin (Book 2 in the Bree and Steven Series) Coming Winter 2011!