Have you ever finished reading a book of fiction and were disappointed it ended? And was part of that disappointment because you were going to miss the characters? You actually liked the characters so much you didn’t want the story to end. You enjoyed your time with them. Why do you think you liked them so much?
The answer is very simple. The author did a fantastic job creating them. But how were they able to be that effective in their creation? It lies in the attention to detail. It goes beyond physical appearance. Go deep within your characters, their minds: how they think, feel, react to certain things, mannerisms. Study other people around you and make notes in a journal. What do you like and dislike about them? Make a list of habits and choose some for your character to have.
Also, consistency is a huge key to creating believable characters. Don’t have them be unafraid of spiders in one chapter and afraid of them in the next. Don’t give them one habit in the first part of the book and it not be their habit in another part of the book. That will only serve to frustrate the reader, and they’ll put the book/story down.
You won’t know if your readers will like your characters or not, but if you do your job and pay attention to detail, the chances of them having such an impact on the reader will go up.
As a kid people always told me how quiet I was (I still am). It surprised me (and still does) that some have a problem with that. The truth is, being quiet is part of my personality. If there is something to say, I’ll say it. I’m not the only quiet human. There are others. But there are times when I’m not. I like to be goofy and joke around, just not all the time.
What I’ve noticed though, after my dad pointed this out, when I am quiet, I am observing other people. How they talk, their mannerisms, their physical attributes, their speech patterns, everything; I take in everything. Here again, that’s how I have always been. Does this mean I observe everything around me? No. LOL. My husband is good at that. We compliment each other in that way.
If you are creating characters, be mindful of them (their mannerisms, physical attributes, language, etc.). Observe other people and write down what you observe in a character journal so you can use that information later when creating a scene/chapter in your story/novel. Or if you’re in the process of creating a character, those observations can come in handy.
Have you ever wondered what a story/movie would be like if there were no clashing forces going against the main character? It would be boring to the point there would be no story. Not really anyway. Believe it or not villains create that extra zing of emotion for the reader/viewer to the point we sometimes feel as though we’re in the story/movie.
I finished reading a book a few days ago that had me talking back to the characters, and I mean saying things like, “Really? Don’t you see it has nothing to do with terrorism?” At one point I said, “Oh my gosh, this author.” My husband asked, “What?” To which I responded with, “The author drug this out way to much.” Actually, the author did his job, and he did it well. The villains were smug, very smug, and they thought they had everything going the way they wanted it to. Well, they did. The reader (this reader) wanted them to get what was coming to them (and they did eventually). That folks is story, suspense, emotion building writing.
So remember….when you are creating your villains, make sure to give them lots of tender loving care. You want them to connect with the reader too.
The book I spoke of above is linked below just in case you might want to read it. It’s book 5 in the Alton Blackwell Files series by Steven F. Freeman.
This type of conflict is between a character and their inner self. Don’t we go through this type of struggle on a regular basis?
Examples include: 1. Lack of self-confidence 2. The feeling of guilt when you do something against what you normally would do. 3. Love conflict: When you hurt someone you love. 4. The struggle of having to do something you don’t want to do but have to do. A great example of this is in Lord of the Rings when Frodo struggles with his destiny of having to destroy the ring.
Other Movie Examples of Man vs. Self 1. Buzz Lightyear in the first Toy Story movie. He’s a toy but doesn’t realize he’s a toy. 2. In the movie UP, Carl Fedricksen the grumpy old man is cynical and struggles with the cynicism that has encompassed him and the adventurous spirit he once was. 3. Tangled. Rapunzel struggles with wanting to stay in the tower or defy her mother and venture outside and leave the tower.
Person vs Technology This type of conflict is where a person(s) go up against the perilous effects of technology moving in a forward direction. Someone had a great idea that sounded great at the time, but when the idea was tried out or an experiment done, something went very wrong. A classic tale that depicts this is the book by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Some other examples are 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, The Giver, The Matrix… The list goes on.
What can you do to make your characters stand out as individuals? Well, there are quite a bit of strategies you can try, but two of the most popular ones to try are to give you characters habits and certain mannerisms. Think outside the box with this. Get creative. I say this because, one of the things you want to avoid is making your characters like everyone else.
Example: Maybe you have a character who, when they are deep in thought, not only creases their brows together, but they also place a hand on their hip and scratch their cheek with the other at the same time. Then they lean on their other hip, place their opposite hand on that hip and scratch their other cheek with their other hand.
Yes, one would normally call this fidgeting, but it is very specific and the reader gets to see just how they fidget. The details of these movements causes this character to stand out. That’s what you want.
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.