Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Q&A #3

Keep them coming Anna. I've got four more days to go!

Q: Got any advice on how to write really awesome villains? They are so hard! The one I have now also has a pretty dumb name. I think my plot is improving though, and the over the past couple of weeks I somehow came up with some really good plot twists. Surprising, but I did.

A: Keep working on that plot. Remember, it's easier to go back and edit later, than to get the momentum back if you stop and rewrite all the time.
The key to good villains is giving them real motivations. Just like your hero needs a noble quest, your bad needs a reason for being bad, other than that he/she is evil. For example, in the first chapter of Farworld, I have a dark wizard named Bonesplinter. He is going to meet with the head of The Dark Circle. In the first draft I had him simply be scared of the Master. But in rewrites he turned into a power hungry schemer. Even while he is groveling before the Master, he is thinking about what he would do with that kind of power. By adding more depth to him, it makes him more real and gives me options down the road.

The other thing to think about—especially in a fantasy series—is the hierarchy of bad guys. If I start with the top bad guy in the first book, where do I go from there? As my hero/s become stronger, I want my bad guys to become worse, so I need to use balance and restraint in the first book.

Another thing to consider is language. I am writing a YA novel so I don’t want my bad guy to be cursing up a storm. But I do want the reader to get how bad he is. So I use imagery in his language that makes you go, “Oh, this guy is creepy.”

For example:

Marcus says, “What are you going to do to me?”

Bonesplinter answers, “I’d like to spend a little time getting to know you. I’d like to study you like a fine watch and see what makes you tick.”

And later

“Unfortunately,” Bonesplinter whispered, “it’s not up to me. It won’t be long before the others come looking for you, and my orders are quite clear. I’m afraid, little bird, that you won’t be returning to your nest.”

See, I don’t use bad language, but the reader hopefully will get that this is a bad dude.

So what do you like to see in your villains?


Brian said...

If you've checked my website, you'll know that I'm trying again to write another story. So far, I'm just creating characters. I haven't created the bad guy yet though. Not exactly anyway. But thanks for the advice. I'll be sure to use this.

onelowerlight said...

I like to see villains who become evil without knowing that they're becoming evil--or villains who do evil things rationally and out of good intentions. I like this because it makes the story feel more believable, since most of us have good intentions but if we aren't careful we can end up becoming evil, even with those intentions. That can be really scary.

Also, I think that villains need to be powerful. They need to be able to hurt people, otherwise they don't drive the conflict. When one of the major characters dies at the hand of the villain, that really draws me in and makes it real. In fact, I can say that I prefer stories where the balance of power lies more in favor of the villain than the protagonist.

So, in short, I like powerful villains that I can understand. And I don't really like it when villains have cliche motivations, like trying to take over the world.

Anna said...

When I read villains or watch them in movies, I want them to be either really scary or really daunting. I actually like funny ones....the kind that are so darn terrible and immoral and stupid that they make you laugh. Count Olaf, for instance. Or Hud. :) I never finished that movie though.

In LOTR, Sauron is purely evil. His country is evil. His minions are evil. He is a scary evil, because everything about him and about the way he works is WRONG.

Another really great villain that may be one of the scariest I've come across is Voldemort. How evil can you get if you have snake eyes and a snake nose too? Seriously though. He's a creepy guy.

I also like villains with a conscience, because those are the ones that might turn good again. (Spider-man three, Sandman, is a good example.)

Thanks so much for the advice. I hate to keep asking questions, since I've taken up two this week already, but if you need stuff to post on, you can chew on this.

What do you think of talking animals in fantasy stories? I don't mean like Warriors, where they talk to each other, or Lady and the Tramp. More like how the spider talks to Harry and Ron and Hagrid...or how Aslan and countless other animals in Narnia talk to Lucy and the others. I love the thought of talking to animals, and animals had to be in my story since I'm so attached to them. But then it seems to easy to just talk to them. It feels like each should have their own language or something. What do you think? I know this comment was long....really though if somebody posts a question or you want to blog something else, I don't mind. Thanks for answering my question about villains!!!

Lauren said...


You asked what books where most helpful to my mom. She said the best one was Children's, Writer's, and Illustrator's Market. Sorry to say I don't know how much it costs.

Lauren said...



Anna said...

Oh thanks Lauren! I'll have to check that out.

Queen of Chaos said...

Oooo, bad, bad villian.

Ya know- I think it takes a lot more work to be a good writer such as you were showing in your example. Bad or foul language is not necessary. You can portray evilness with a twist of your words. Good example, Scott.

My villian is the villian of all villians. Satan. {and a few of his eveil spirits who followed him in the pre-existence} It's been hard to write about 'SATAN'. I guess I am safe in that anything bad I write would fit his profile huh?! But I want to write it WELL and very believable. That's the real trick.

-Autumn Ables