What type of villain do you prefer when reading a story? Would you rather be told up front and center just exactly who the villain is? Or would you rather be kept guessing? My favorite villain is someone who lives a seemingly normal life, a likeable or even lovable character with a dark side.
I love trying to guess who the bad guy is. In genre romance it pretty much goes without saying that there will be a happy ending, but in general fiction endings can be anything and that to me is what keeps the suspense high. You never know who will fall victim to the evil ways of the villain and I’ve read some books where the villain wins in the end. Of course I’m not much of a fan of killing off the good guys in a story, but will admit sometimes I like the surprise of it happening because it’s unexpected. Being a romantic at heart though, I prefer the good guys to prevail.
When creating the villain in your story, think about how far you want to go. Are you writing a genre romance and want to have a happy ending? Do you want to keep his evil activities on the light side? Are you willing to push the envelope and have the villain do things that may offend some readers? Is he/she handsome/beautiful, charming? Or are they ugly and monstrous? Do they have a specific motive for what they do—revenge, an axe to grind, or mentally unstable? Do you want your reader to have empathy for them or just be waiting anxiously for them to get what’s coming to them? Do they have a sense of humor? What is their personality like in every day life when they aren’t being naughty? Give your villains a past that ties into the reason for their villainous activities.
In my book, BLACK ROCK: A TIME FOR LOVE, Bradford Wellman is a villain who has specific reasons for what he does, but I had one reviewer who didn’t understand why he did specific things. On the surface Brad loved his mother. Although he didn’t realize it himself, he also despised her—thought her weak. This caused a loathing disrespect for all women, thus his acts of cruelty towards Roxanne.
Write down all the personality traits that you find appealing and then write down all the ones you find offensive or appalling. Give your villain both good and bad personality traits and you’ll have a better character. Also pay attention to the things you have them do. Is doing a specific thing or crime out of character for them? Just as in real life, not all criminals commit all crimes.
Have fun creating those villains…until next time.
© Elizabeth Melton Parsons