Craft: Falling In Love With The Bad Guy

I recently read that a writer should start with the bad guy and create a hero to match. I’ve never done this. The thought of creating the perfectly despicable, dastardly, nasty guy had never appealed to me. I’d always created the hero (or heroine), the nice one, full of goodness and joy. To start with the bad guy first? Oh come on. Who wants to like the bad guy anyway? He/she’s nasty, horrible, we don’t want to barrack for them. No, I say stick to the hero and have a perfectly, nice story. (insert sarcasm here)

Right, so I’m always up for a challenge. If I can write a 70,000 word novel while 2yr old twins sit on my head as I type then I can do anything. (We won’t mention the incident of the leaky nappy, no the scars are permanently etched into my memory already, don’t need to dredge them up)

So the Bad Guy, there’s lots of them out there. What’s so great with starting this way? If you fully flesh out your bad guy/girl/thing then you will have the perfect template to create your hero/heroine. The villain of your story is a megalomaniac with a penchant for pulling wings off butterflies? Your hero is a self-sacrificing animal rights activist.

Captain Hook from Peter Pan: Captain James Hook was an old Etonian, finely schooled, well bred, he could play the flute and the harpsichord, loved Wordsworth and Coleridge. He wanted domination of Neverland, to rule as Her Majesty did England. Until the upstart little child Peter Pan came along, unschooled, unskilled in the ways of society, let alone the ability to lead others. Ah but he proved to be Hook’s undoing.

Voldemort from Harry Potter: Tom Riddle had a very hard upbringing, rejected by his father, subjected to cruelty from his mothers family. Outcast, alone. He learned to survive the best way he knew how. And as he grew he saw the rot of government for what it truly was. He alone could make a change and sort the wrongs that had been done to others. And who dared stop the most accomplished wizard of the time? A baby? Ha. Love? What is love when you can have power? hmmm

I so have to include a link to Heather Massey’s “Galaxy Express” she did a great post on Villains in Science Fiction Romance that nailed it on the head.

Anne Marble wrote about cliched villains:  “The conniving other woman, the evil mother-in-law, the wicked twin sister. Some villains have been used so often that they have become recognizable character types. These characters still have a lot of life left in them, but only if you flesh them out. Make them into real people rather than one-dimensional obstacles with attitude. Many readers like Mary Spencer’s Dark Wager because the “other woman” character was more than just a cliched nemesis. Anne Stuart went a step further in To Love a Dark Lord; in that novel, the “other woman” was a sympathetic character with a wonderful secondary romance of her own rather than a villainess.”

Your villain must have motivation behind what they are doing. They feel justified in doing the bad stuff because they’re working towards a greater good (albeit for their own personal advantage but hey that’s life). They can’t ramble on too much. I am reminded all the time of Pixar’s movie “The Incredibles” about villains monologue-ing. Don’t let your villain waffle on.

Reginald Davenport in Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake had a great background which sucked the reader into having sympathy for the guy. But deep down we knew he was dastardly. I think he even got his own book for his redemption.

So what about you? Who’s your all time favourite villain? What was it about the guy/girl/thing that almost persuaded you to the dark side of the book?

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