Developing Villainous Characters – Part 2

Just coming into my three-part series on developing villainous characters? Make sure to read my suggestions in part one!

For part two, we’re going deeper into the mind and actions of the villain. We’re going to try to see the entire plot from the villain’s perspective, push ourselves to the limits, yet attempt to moderate how far we push our villain’s actions. So let’s get going! First and foremost, here is something that really helped me get into the mind of my villain: I suddenly realized that…

The villain in your story is the hero of his own story.
We always hear how we should write each scene from a single point-of-view. That is, no head-hopping to get multiple perspectives within a single scene. This fact helped me realize that if I were to switch around each chapter so that I told the story from the villain’s perspective, rather than the hero’s, I would have a greater, more realized understanding behind the villain’s actions.

By doing this, I grew to love my villain almost as greatly as I love my hero (that is, heroine), and sympathize with him as things didn’t go his way. As I wrote one of the villain’s climaxes, which happens to be different from the heroine’s, I wrote it with tears in my eyes because of the unfairness of it all. Yet, when I wrote the same scene from the heroine’s perspective, I felt sad, but justified.

Which leads me to my next point…

Don’t be afraid to go beyond evil in describing the villains actions.
It seems to me that, as writers, we tend to write what we want to read. At least, that seems to be what I do. And for some reason, readers like to read about particularly bad people and see what happens to them.

I used to be the sort of writer who didn’t make my villain to mean, or his actions too hurtful. I thought there was enough evil in the world, why should I write about it? And then it occurred to me that it is how we face evil that defines the good in us. That led me to writing villains who really do hurt others. But I still held back. I could write the scenes no problem, even chuckling along with the villain as his plans unfurled.

Which meant I wasn’t making him villainous enough. Rather than chuckling, I should have been shaking my head in dismay, because that is the sort of villain I like to read about. I want to see a villain that is cruel, and suffers the consequences for it… but it needs to be bad enough to warrant said consequences. So if you’re cringing while writing a scene, or reacting in some other way, you’re probably doing something right.

That being said, don’t overdo it, either.
Only make your villain as evil as he needs to be for your plot, and no one else’s. A sweet romance like Bright Arrows doesn’t deserve a Hannibal Lector, the same way Barnaby Barnacle from Babes in Toyland wouldn’t do Silence of the Lambs any justice. Determine the theme and purpose of your work to define the level of evil and goodness which should occur. Certain actions and motives won’t work for young adult, others won’t work for inspirational fiction, etc. Read books in your genre to get a feeling for what is appropriate.

For part three, I’ll finish my series on developing villainous characters by helping you flesh out your villain even more by adding unexpected details.

Do you have any other tips and hints for developing villainous characters? Leave a comment and let everyone know about it!

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