When you’re in a competition, you give it your all, everything you’ve got. You may be nervous at first before you start because you want to win. You don’t want to lose. Then your mom, dad, or friend says, “Just do your best. That’s all you can do. That’s all anyone can do.” In your mind, losing is losing, not winning. But…..in your villains mind, losing is winning.
What do I mean by this? Remember in the previous post (Villains Part VI) I said villains take pleasure in the protagonist’s pain. Well, yes. If burning everything down so your main character will lose everything but gives your villain pleasure in that main character’s loss, then the destruction of all is worth it to them. Go for the gusto with your villain’s actions. Have your villain throw ‘fuel on the fire’ (so to speak) as many times as it takes to cause destruction.
Ultimately, what is the reason behind the importance of making a great evil villain? Readers who continue turning the pages of your story all the way through to the end.
Watching someone open a gift, listening to your favorite music, a day at the beach, or even a walk in the woods; might give you pleasure. Now, normally, activities like the this would. But for villains in your stories, what gives them pleasure is none of the above. Oh No. They get pleasure from the pain of others. To your villain, other peoples’ pain is climactic, exhilarating, and releases the feel good chemicals inside their brain. They thrive on seeing others’ hurt and to the point where they have to continue in their hurtful behavior so they can continue to feel that pleasure.
Types of pain they inflict can be:
Worse yet (and most preferable) a combination of all of these
When it comes to dreaming up ways your villain could possibly hurt your main character, think outside the box. Be creative about what you want them to do. What makes your villain’s actions different than others you have read about in other books. Mold them. Make their pain causing actions unique.
How many times over the course of your life have you played a game with that one person who can’t help cheating to win the game? They are out there. In stories, they most definitely are there. They are called the antagonist, your villain. And they don’t play by the rules. In their minds the law doesn’t apply to them. If they can get what they want by breaking the law, so be it.
Their drive comes from interest in themselves. Their behavior is immoral/amoral. They lie, cheat, steal, deceive, and manipulate. If it puts money in their own pockets, they will take a bribe, blackmail, or do whatever it takes. Whatever the case, they always have ulterior motives.
When creating your villain, think outside the box. What are some creative ways your villain can break the rules to achieve their goal(s)?
Years ago, I had this “friend” who, when I first met her, appeared to be very nice. I’ll call her Gina for purposes of this story (It’s not her real name). She invited me to her house. We talked and shared information like pre-teen girls usually do. We had a lot of fun…..at first. Then the blowback came. One day she started telling all the other girls in our class all the information I shared with her. I’m not the only one she did this too. She would apologize and gain my trust again then turn around and manipulate the situation to her advantage. From that point forward, she began pitting all of us against one another. She was so good at trickery and conniving that she was never suspected of anything. This story could go on and on but for purposes of this blog, I’ll just leave this story here, LOL. This went on for two years (7th and 8th grade). During my 8th grade year I stopped hanging around her and that group of girls all together. She didn’t make it easy on my though.
I can honestly say that Gina is the perfect example of a story villain. They can not be trusted with anything whatsoever. This doesn’t mean they won’t try to gain one’s trust. They will because they are masters at knowing how to do that. Keep in mind, villains have very high social IQ’s and so they know how to manipulate people and situations. Ultimately, gaining the advantage and keeping it in any situation that serves themselves is what their goal is.
People are naturally trusting, so use this to your advantage when plotting your story. Here again, the villain will exploit the trust of others to obtain the advantage. And, YES, they are ALWAYS looking for ways to back stab anyone, this means adversaries and allies alike.
You’re running in a race. You’re ahead. But, in order to keep your lead you must keep going strong. If you let up even once, you risk losing or falling behind. Think of your villain as running in a type of race. It’s the kind of race where he/she is coming at your main character (MC) and not letting up (remember, this is their job). So much so, that your MC gets kicked back down before they get even half way back up. Your villain is on a roll. They can’t stop because, if they do, they run the risk of losing and the MC overtaking them.
Think of many different ways for your villain to trip up your MC. Think outside the box. I am currently reading a set of books by Jeff Carson. They’re David Wolf mysteries. OH MY GOSH!!! Talk about heart pounding suspense. The villain(s) never let up. Often times, while in the middle of one of these books, I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, so I went to Amazon and read the summary of the next book. Doing this reassured me things would turn out ok in the current book I was reading. Then I would start the next book right after the one I finished and go through the cycle all over again.
What caused this mind blowing suspense? The villain(s). AND, in most cases there were more than one. All from multiple subplots and all out to get the MC. If you want a great example of a true villain(s), read those books. You can find them on Amazon. See the link below for book 1:
Have you ever played chess? If you have, you know that it’s imperative to stay one or more moves ahead of your opponent in order for you to have a chance at winning the game. The same goes for the villain in your story. They must always be thinking ahead of the main character. They have to do this so they are doing their job within the story. Otherwise they won’t be believable. Villains are devious. They plot and scheme, making your main character’s life miserable. They love it when the main character is down because that’s when they have a better opportunity to take advantage of them.
To best get a hold of your villain and understand him/her, do a character analysis of them just like you would your main character. They are three dimensional characters too and come with their own set of “baggage”. What in their life infected them so? To the point they are so nasty and evil?
In this character bio also include (and most importantly) a list of ways they can stay ahead of the MC. You might not use all of your ideas. That’s ok. Work what you can into your story. If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like to think in terms of evil, don’t worry about that. It’s only fiction.
Never underestimate your villain. They are more clever than you think they are. Creating them goes beyond having them do bad nasty things to your main character. Oh no. They go much deeper than that. They must know your MC well in order to know how to act against them. Part of the villain getting to know your MC means they must get to their weaknesses, AND they are well gifted at getting to know this information, AND they will know exactly how to use it against them.
Your villain is the architect of the inciting incident and the stories plot twists that follow. Their job is to create tension. Think of them as the mudslingers. They throw everything they can think of to thwart your MC.
When I am reading a work of fiction, I hear the voices of the character in my mind. No, I don’t hear voices literally. I imagine I hear them. That’s quite different. But, when I hear each of them as I’m reading, they all sound different. I hear them that way because the author did such a good job with creating a voice for each individual character that they all sound different.
So how do we make our fictional characters sound different? It comes down to choice of words and how those words are said. I think body language/facial expression also plays a part in that it helps with how the words are intended when spoken on the page in your dialogue. Think of their character too. Is how they speak out of character for them. If so, why?
Look at the different ways to say something.
Example: “You heard that? Really? I didn’t think I was that loud,” said Bill.
“Hey ya. Serious now, ya’ll hear that? How? Not like I was ‘at loud or nothin,” said Bill.
Play around with your words. See your character in your mind. Imagine them talking. How are they saying what their saying?
What holds you back? What is one of your character traits that works against you more often than you care to admit.
When I was younger, and for many years, I was very naïve. I hadn’t had the experiential knowledge of many things that would have allowed me to make the correct decisions. In other words, I hadn’t learned anything about life. Worse yet, it took me a while to get past that naivety. Some individuals learn life’s lessons quicker because they are willing to rely on new information without letting their own opinions get in the way. Well…I wasn’t one of those people. I had a stubborness to me which made me more headstrong than most. The result is that I didn’t listen to good advice. Because I didn’t listen, I ended up hurt (not physically, but a lesson learned type of thing). It cost me financially at one point. That was one instance. Another example came in the form of a relationship. I became involved with someone I had no business getting involved with. I let my heart guide me and not my common sense and certainly not the advice of others to the contrary.
I should have listened to what others were saying. I should have listened to that conscience of mine. But I didn’t. I truly though I knew better. I learned my lessons in the end, but it took a long time to get to that point. It shouldn’t have taken that long, but it did. The silver lining came when I FINALLY learned. When I learned my lesson, that’s when things started to change for the better. I now knew how to avoid those missteps. I knew what to look for. My story changed and the ending was GREAT.
My character flaws at the beginning were naivety and stubborness. Over the course of my life (or story), I was presented with challenges that created setbacks based on my own behavior (character flaws). In the middle of it all, once I ended up hurt, these instances made me rethink what I was doing. I was able to go back in my mind and go over what wasn’t working, THEN I was better able to correct and attack my issues head on and take them in a more positive direction by changing my behavior. THIS IS THE PATH YOU MUST TAKE YOUR CHARACTERS ON when you are writing you story/novel/book. The character flaw(s) in your main character is a large part of what carries them on their journey throughout the story. If they don’t learn anything by the end of the book, how are they able to overcome the antagonist?
How do you choose a character flaw for your main character? That is up to you. I centered it around the story. Once you choose a flaw, how do you use it within the story? Is it just there throughout and that’s all and the character goes about their business within the story and never learns anything from circumstances or their actions, etc? If that’s the case, do we even have a story? No. Not really.
The protagonist in your story is supposed to learn along the way. Their character flaw inhibits this at first, but gradually he/she comes to realize they need to change in order for their mission/goal/quest to succeed. By the end of the book they will have overcome this flaw.
Let’s say you have a main character named Molly, who’s in high school. Her flaw is that she’s timid/shy. She doesn’t like confrontation or violence and prefers to avoid it at all costs. She doesn’t like to hurt the feelings of others, so she avoids situations where she might have to speak up and maybe make people angry. Therefore, she doesn’t speak up for herself either. So, how does she learn to overcome this and become stronger inside? How does she get others to stop picking on her? How does she speak up for the truth and defend her friend Johnny?
In the above example, you have to get Molly from point A to point B to point C to point D; point D being the end of the story where she finally speaks up and gets over her shyness. Getting from one point to the next will involve a series of events called trials and errors that will serve as learning opportunities for her grow, but she can’t do this without these trials and errors.