Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Writing Villains-Embracing your Inner Dark Side

It's said that there is always a little bit of you in all your characters, but that can't be true for those really evil baddies too, can it? Think again. Though you may not have the psychopathic tendencies of your villain, the knowledge to write him or her well has to come from somewhere!

To write a convincing villain, you're going to have to do something a little scary... make a visit to your dark side. However you accomplish this is up to you. Do something a little diabolical; kick over a trash can at the office and laugh evilly--then clean it up of course, you're not really evil. Okay, so that is a pretty lame thing to do, and it might get some weird looks from your co-workers. Something a little more fun and less weird is to write a diary for your villain. Get into his head and let him tell about normal every day things he does. All his little evil plots to destroy the world and plans for revenge against his hero. This is a fun exercise and it will help you connect with your villain. Connecting with villains is just as important as connecting with your heroes, though a lot of people overlook that. I know I have written several villains that I really hate--but then some I kind of like as well, and then there are always going to be those that give you chills... you might not want to go too far into their heads. Trust me.

There is nothing that breaks a good story like a poorly crafted villain. First-time authors, I think, make the mistake a lot of times by distancing themselves from their baddies because they think they are just supposed to be bad and unlikable. This will just get you a one-demential villain that does way too much evil laughing and plot telling. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to quote something from the 2011 Three Musketeers movie that made me laugh:

Richelieu: "I suppose this is the part where I'm supposed to laugh maniacally and regale (you) with plans for some diabolical plot?"

That describes one-demential villains. Don't feel bad if this is the kind of villain you have. One of these days, I'm going to post excerpts of some of my very old stories and let you see how bad they were!

Diabolical laughing does work for some people though. Chauvelin from The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy did a lot of it, and he was just as chilling as ever!

The kinds of villains that are easier to relate to are the ones who you can't help but like--even if they are complete scoundrels. Like the way Buckingham was portrayed in the 2011 Three Musketeers film. You hated him, but yet you couldn't help but like him. Be diabolical and have fun with it! These types of villains are really fun to write diaries for. Seriously, my inner dark side is more like this... or not.

The scary villains with psychopathic tendencies are going to be harder to deal with...I hope anyway. You might have to put on a mask to help you write these types, but, in the end, they end up being the more complex villains and I always love complex villains. Mystery writers are going to need to know this. You can't get away with a cartoon villain in a mystery, I'm afraid. Check out the villains post to see some more examples of different types of villains.

So if your friends look at you weird because you're grinning evilly while steepling your fingers and looking like you're thinking of a diabolical plot, just ignore them until they go away. Someday they'll be jealous that you're a published author with good villains and they aren't!

Sliante, Hazel


  1. It is a bit scary to pull from your dark side. Kind of like Star Wars and the dark side of the force. Your idea about keeping a journal for your villain is a good one. I'll have to try that for the baddie in the new novel I'm writing. I've been having trouble "seeing" him. Thanks for the help, Hazel!

  2. That's right, Just think of Anakin going bad ;) Hope the journal works for you!

  3. Great post, and very helpful! I like to think that I am bad at writing evil characters because I'm nothing like them ;) However, I really like the idea of writing a diary for the villain of the story. I often wonder what villains thoughts must be like, it'd be fun to write them out in first person!

  4. I think most authors are scared to sometimes think about where their minds have to go in order to write a villain, but you just need to think of it as a costume you put on for that moment. And I always have a rollicking time writing villains. Sometimes I even have more fun with them than the heroes ;) Glad this could help!