Today's Friday Friend is Sylvia Ney, a wife and mother of two living in southeast Texas. She taught in public schools for seven years and left to become a stay at home mom after the birth of her first daughter. She has published newspaper articles, photography, poetry and short stories. To learn more about her, please visit her blog: http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/
Loving Your Villain
It’s vital the author know their protagonist intimately or the readers won’t relate and they won’t fall in love with your story. Most writers understand this and have become adept at creating memorable heroes worth falling for.
Yet the villain tends not to receive any love. “But he’s not supposed too,” I hear you silently shout. “We’re not supposed to sympathize with them. They’re the villain—they don’t want your pity, they want your respect, your fear. But sympathy? Villains scoff at sympathy.”
They also tend to make you—the writer—forget that they were supposed to be multi-faceted at all. We want them to be evil. We don’t want to love them. We just need them for conflict and then they fail (maybe even die).
Why should you become devoted to the antagonist? Especially after everything that character has done to others?
The answer is simple: if you don’t love your villain, your writing will show it. Your antagonist will have one side: EVIL, and become the stereotypical bad guy because you didn’t spend enough time getting to know his other side. Your writing will fall flat.
So, how do you create an effective villain?
1. Even Villains Have A Good Side — Remember that no one is all good or all evil, unless your villain is a demon and you’re writing horror. Of course, a demon with a soft side might be interesting as well.
2. What is the Villain’s Motivation? — Take a look at your antagonist. Do you know his family? Does he have siblings? What are his dreams? What does his mother think of him? What is his guilty pleasure? What does he fear? Why does he act the way he does?
3. Don't Overdo It — Don't get "villain-happy;" make your villains as evil as they need to be for the storyline, but no more than that; otherwise, they will either ring untrue or they will take over the story, distracting from the hero, heroine, and original plot.
4. A villain’s Demise — your villain must get his punishment in the end; if he simply disappears, then you've given the villain too much power. Take away his power and give the reader the satisfaction of closure for all the evil that the villain put your hero and heroine through. This doesn't necessarily mean that the villain must die, but he should suffer in some way for his actions.
5. Villain as the Hero — Of course, some villains can become very successful main characters. You may find yourself so attached to a villain that he warrants his own story. Or you may have a “bad boy” hero.
“Do not hesitate to give your hero lusts of the flesh, dark passions, impulses to evil; for these dark powers, fused with their opposites – the will to good, the moral impulses, the powers of the spirit – will do to your character precisely what the opposite powers of fire and water do to the sword blade." - William Foster-Harris
In my story “Broken Angel” we realize the protagonist is far from the savior he appears to be. Many authors use similar tactics for their lead. The whole point is to spend some time with your antagonist. Let him tell you all about himself, get to know him and don’t stop until you absolutely love him as much if not more than your protagonist.
Because once you love your antagonist, something funny happens—you want your readers to love him too. And you’ll make sure they do.
Who are your favorite villains or less than perfect leads?
Thanks so much for being with us today, Sylvia, and for such an interesting post about villains!
Link to Sylvia's story 'Broken Angel'