Today, lets look at villains, female or male, doesn’t matter.
First, of course, you know these guys are going to be imperfect. They wouldn’t be villains if they weren’t. They are twisted in some manner. You know that as soon as you start to write them. They have flaws, probably several, and they are usually pretty bad. They can be super selfish, greedy, want power, hate someone, or something. In some manner they are really imperfect.
But what most people don’t seem to understand about villains, is to make them real, they have to have some good in them. They can not be all bad, or the reader won’t believe in them. You don’t have to let the reader know right away they are the villains. In most novels, it’s great fun to keep the villain a secret for most of the book. You have to plant hints even at the beginning, but you don’t have to let the reader know until you are well into the story, just how bad the guy/gal is.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say at the beginning of your book, there is a car accident and the car, with the driver still inside and unconscious, is about to burst into flames. The villain can be the one who saves the woman driver. Maybe he was stalking her, but you don’t need to tell the reader that for many pages. At the beginning of the story, he is the hero, or seems to be.
In one of the gothics I wrote, the villain was a charming, fair-haired boy, who was all sweetness and life to the heroine until almost the end of the book, when I revealed what a nasty guy he really was.
As I said yesterday, I love writing female villains, but they are generally a little sneakier, and usually are not nearly as violent as the male villain. That doesn’t mean she can’t be, but to keep it real, if your female villain is going to be a violent villain, then she’ll have to show some of those tendencies in the beginning. Violently killing bugs, or snakes (which most women and quite a few men don’t like) is a good way to introduce a violent type of villain. Remember, the reader has to feel the villain like the hero and heroine is a real person. No person is all good, or all bad. They are a combination. What makes a good villain is a character that’s a surprise to the reader, someone who appears to be good, but turns out to be really bad. And they are fun to write.
Just be sure you give a couple of hints toward the beginning of the book that’s indicates, the villain is just that. The villain. And the rule of thumb is to mention some characteristic three times. Readers remember something if it’s mentioned three times – or so they say. And, I’m not about to argue with the experts. So give three hints of the evil nature of your villain along with the charm, or skill or what kindness you are going to use to make him/her a real person.
Oh, and you don’t have to limit yourself to one villain. Villains can come in pairs, or trios. Just make sure you leave some hints. Readers like surprises. They don’t like something pulled out of the blue, with no hint it was coming. It’s great praise if they can say, ‘Oh, yeh, back on page 14, I knew this guy was going to be a bad one.” They’ll thank you for the hint, and maybe even look for your next book.
I’m taking the rest of the week off. See you after Easter. We’ll start looking at what I’ve learned about Character goals and what they do for your novel then.
Have a great Easter!