Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Believable Villains

Bad guys whose sole motivation is "to do bad things" annoy me. I've seen a lot of them over the years--more often in movies than in books. Whenever I encounter them, their unidimensional phoniness kicks me out of the story. They offend me--both as a writer and a psychologist.

If you're a writer, you need to make your characters believable.

Even the villains.

Especially the villains.

What motivates your bad guy? Greed? Revenge? Fear? Even if your villains are insane, their actions need to make sense from their own world view. The crazy homeless guy waving his arms and running down the street does it because he sees bats the size of house-cats flying at his head. They are absolutely real to him. Motivations don't have to reflect reality--they have to reflect the character's reality.

I'm revising book three of Ganzfield right now, and I need to make my bad guy's motivation clearer. It looks like revenge, but it's really fear. There's a desire to "monologue" here--the movie The Incredibles mocked that beautifully--and simply let the villain share his evil-plot-to-rule-the-world when he believes that the MC is helpless and about to die.

When in doubt, try writing a few scenes from the villain's POV. It's quite illuminating. You can also check out Gregory Maguire's Wicked or Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog, if you want to see the great ones build "sympathy for the devil."

To put you on the side of the angels today, though, check out these charity fundraisers that run through the end of May:
Brenda Novak's Auction for Diabetes Research
My book trailer for Nothing But Nets

Yes, I know there's a problem with my homepage (not; that's fine).
Network Solutions is trying to fix whatever's wrong, FTP-wise.


Disgruntled Bear said...

Actually, I've got a GREAT twist on motivating my bad guy in book three--but I'm not going to post any spoilers.

MeganRebekah said...

I love villains! They present an opportunity to be creative and have interesting, complex characters. Many actors even prefer to play the role of the villain, when they're done right, because the character is more interesting.

Disgruntled Bear said...

My sister-in-law is an actor, and she LOVES to vamp it up as a villain.

Carole Anne Carr said...

I write children's books so I always make the villain with a character trait that explains his villany so the hero can be sorry for him! :0)

Taryn Tyler said...

I completely agree. A villain is going to be the main conflict of the story. They can't just exist to be evil or the whole premise falls apart. I try r not to "villainize" my villains. As in, true they are in the main characters' way but that doesn't necessarily make them evil. Just in opposition.

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