this writer on writing, writing

The Boogeyman

One of my favourite posts from my original blog in 2006 was when I wrote about villains and their role in our novels. It has been updated a smidge (hello Thanos you wonderful baddy you) but it’s still a gooder.

Ahhh, the villain. The baddy. The bastard. The bitch. The evil one.

There’s just something about a well-crafted villain to make your story come together. Or fall apart.

There have to be facets to your baddy. He can’t just be evil for the sake of being evil. One of my all time favorite villains is the bad guy in All The Queen’s Men by Linda Howard. Oh he was bad. So bad. So very, very bad. But you saw pieces of him that made his evilness more human. And that made him scarier. He became an arms dealer for his daughter and for his daughter he would do whatever it took including offing the hero or heroine. You could come after him but the minute anyone targeted his daughter the gloves came off. He’d become cold, calculating…ruthless. Soulless. All for his daughter. That made him scarier because his motivation was humanized him.

Even I with no kids but nephews understood his motives. You gonna hurt one of mine…I will beat you down. Making him more human, in my mind, made him that much more of a villain. Sure the villains in a horror flick are scary but there’s nothing to them. Peel back the knives, finger blades, chainsaws what do you got? A sick freako. But put an army of weapons into the hands of man who would sacrifice himself for his daughter. Oh yeah…game on.

What about Thanos in Avengers? He saw himself as a savior, not a villain. The universe was over populated so what did he do? (Spoiler alert) He smoked half the universe population. Not because he wanted to but because he felt it was necessary.

Why is your bad guy the bad guy? Because you need someone to pit the hero & heroine against? Uh-uh. He needs more. He needs depth. Give him a history. A reason. A reason why he’s bad and a reason for how far he’d go. Just like our heroes and heroines need goals, motivation and conflict, so does our baddy. He can’t be cardboard. He can’t be static. He can’t be filler.

There’s nothing like a memorable villain. Give him life, give him a history, give him breath and watch him truly become villainous. Make him human. Layer him up until he becomes a living, breathing 3D person in your head who scares the poop out of you. Yes, make him evil. Make him devious. But make him more. More is good. More is scary. More is risky. More is more.

He has a reason to be there. Make it a great reason.

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