A guest post today by Anne Michaud. Do welcome her with lots of commentary and read till the end where there might be a goodie for you.
5 tips to build a realistic villain
by Anne Michaud:
Villains are my favorite people to write into my stories. No need to check a conscience at the door, they want chaos and nobody can stop them in their mission – nobody but your hero, of course. For readers to believe antagonists are real, villains need to be… well, realistic. So here are my five tips to writing up one of these bad boys or bad girls.
1) Villains are flawed. No one is all good or all bad, we are nuanced, (almost) balanced people with qualities and failings. We work hard to stay on the good side of the line and be able to look at ourselves at the end of each day – and so do villains, in their own twisted way. Since their purpose in your story is to be bad and mean (qualities in their eyes), then their flaws should be a quality in our eyes (to their downfalls). And always remember: subtlety goes a long way.
2) A villain’s identification. To build a plausible villain, readers need to identify with their goal, their relationship, their flaw, their reaction – anything that makes the villain accessible and human to the reader. When a reader understands the villain’s motivation to be mean and do bad things, there’s no need to explain every action. And instead of having the villain angry all the time, play with their emotions, make them more human than not. Because when a villain has a bad day – which is a good day for your protagonist – everybody can relate to that.
3) Villains have lives. And they do: they sleep, they eat, they have friends/coworkers/minions, they have parents/family/lovers, they love certain things and hate others – multidimensional, quite like the hero of your book. As you character-build your scenes, always remind yourself that at the end of the day, your villain will have dinner and go to bed, they have routines and stuff to do. And yes, part of that is being an obstacle to your protagonist, but that’s not all they do, unless they’re obsessed and sick in the head.
4) Villains have goals. To rule the world and kill everyone is getting old. Villains are people, too, and everyone has a goal when they wake up to face a new day. Of course, the villain’s goal will clash greatly with your main character’s, but that’s the purpose of having a villain in your story: an obstacle, someone that brings out the best in your hero by being the worst of human kind. For the villain’s goal to be directly linked to your main character’s is the best way to bring up tension whenever they face off each other.
5) Know your villain as much as you know your main character. To write a believable and strong villain, the writer must know their background, their taste and thoughts, their very reaction to anything happening in the world surrounding them. Bad people are people, too – never forget that doing a villain’s profile can help bring out your story forward, can add depth and maybe inspire a twist or two, just as much as your protagonist’s profile will.
Once you establish that your villain is a powerful, breathing character, their involvement in the story won’t only be crucial as an obstacle to your protagonist’s goal, but their mere presence will heighten your reader’s interest in your story. Regardless of the genre you prefer to write in, never forget: there’s no light without darkness.
She who likes dark things never grew up. She never stopped listening to gothic, industrial and alternative bands like when she was fifteen. She always loved to read horror and dystopia and fantasy, where doom and gloom drip from the pages.
She, who was supposed to make films, decided to write short stories, novelettes and novels instead. She, who’s had her films listed on festival programs, has been printed in a dozen anthologies and magazines since.
She who likes dark things prefers night to day, rain to sun, and reading to anything else.
She tweets @annecmichaud
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