Saturday, October 20, 2012

What Makes A Villain Tick?

Happy Saturday in Seekerville! Audra here. Hasn’t this just been a GREAT birthday bash?? All the posts, by Seekers and our guests, have helped me fine tune my writing and marketing skills, and that’s something I always need, LOL!

Today, I wanted to highlight one of the key building blocks of a successful story. Oy vay, you say. There are so many of them! Yep, but let’s go real basic… So, you’ve got your hero, and you’ve got your heroine…AND now you need your VILLAIN! A villain (or antagonist) can take any form you’d like – a person, circumstances, memories or anything that hinders your H/H for achieving their goals.

But, you knew that : )

For simplicity sake, I’ll talk about the human kind of villain—and to keep it really simple, I’ll refer to him as a man despite the fact women make excellent villains. The villain can make or break your story. If he’s too lame, you’ll get a bunch of eye rolling from your reader. If he’s too evil, you’re looking at the Exorcist revisited (and NOBODY wants that!). We need to develop goals, motivations and conflict for the villain to carefully complement those of the hero and heroine.

There are lots of elements that help build the villain, I’m just talking about 5 of them because it’s our fifth birthday : )

5 attributes of a successful Villain

Villains are more than a big ol’ pile of icky

Everyone knows a strong hero and heroine are flawed. They do their best to hide that one characteristic that makes them -vulnerable, human- and helps us relate to them. Root for them more. Villains need flaws, too. They need something deep down in their past that makes the path they’ve chosen plausible. Always remember, flawed villains do good things at the most unexpected moments. Interesting, complicated villains are not all evil--they like puppies or enjoy a great waltz around the dance floor. Contrary personality traits add depth and realism to all characters.




Nothing makes a hero and heroine great like a villain that’s their equal

We’ve all read books where the villain is as predictable as boiling water is hot. Often times we can guess what his next step is and then counter it (in our own minds) with the offense taken by the hero. What fun is that? Dealing with a worthy opponent is the difference between your hero playing ping-pong against the folded side of the table, calculating the result of each slap of the paddle, anticipating the results, and playing an opponent with his own set of techniques and talents that keeps the shots a guessing game, a lesson in strategy. A good villain will make your hero reach deep inside himself and grab every ounce of courage and instinct to win the game and bring home the victory.

Careful not to have too much fun with your villain

Where the image of your hero is always in the back of your mind, there are no limits restraining the villain. Their good and bad side have free reign to run rampant through your story. Think about it. Your hero has to be worthy, likable, and well, heroic. Generally matters like causing an automobile crash, battling the ravages of natural disasters, or even something as simple as his dog digging up his neighbor’s prize potato patch give the hero a platform for his responsibility and ingenuity to shine. He will assess the situation, and even if he chooses poorly, we still get the feeling of general compassion.

Not so the villain. Nope, he can whip through that intersection causing a dually full-ton pick-up truck to T-bone the newly restored ’68 Mustang to smithereens and never think twice about the heartache. He can live by the motto Every-Man-For-Himself when the worst tornado in history flies off the Category # Scale crumbling the local hospital, while he sets up housekeeping in his safe, underground cellar. And really, do we expect him to care if his junkyard dog tears through Grandma Jenkins’ garden after she’s spent years perfecting the giant spud in order to win the Baker’s Challenge contest so her Senior Center can afford matching croquet uniforms?

The more callous and insensitive the villain behaves, the more your emotions rise to the challenge. So let your villain lie, steal, swindle, smoke, and every other vice known to man. He’s met his match in the hero. A strong villain only makes for a stronger hero. 

Villains disassociate themselves with, well, themselves

Every character works hard to be unique. The villain tends to work double time at this. Think about all the bad guys NCIS has brought to justice (don’t you just love a good Leroy Jethro Gibbs thrown in for good measure??). They lead ordinary, everyday lives and are overlooked by the general public until clue after clue uncovers anomalies, contrary traits to their persona, a dark side about them. Hiding In Plain Sight makes a great title for novels, and personifies the mindset of the villain. Make them someone your characters would trust in a heartbeat and unravel the truth, thread by thread. It not only gives your reader a complex puzzle to solve, it makes every other character a suspect for a brief time, too.

Villains believe they are justified in their actions

Some of the best and most memorable villains behave the way they do because they believe they’re acting on behalf of the greater good. The reader recognizes the emotions that fashion this character so opposite their “good” counterparts in the book. Anger, indignation, revulsion, dread, revenge are ignited for the reader due to the villain’s cunning thread through the story. Is there anything more intense than a character committing wrong for all his internally right reasons? A skillful writer will have the reader feeling just as morally intense for the villain as the hero/heroine because the goals, motivation and conflict are just as solidly developed, and his hurts run just as deep.

I know that are lots of other considerations when building a villain, but here are my birthday Five. How about you? What talent or trait do you think needs to be incorporated in a villain? Leave a comment and I’ll be drawing a name for a sampling of my pre-season holiday almond bark.

Chocolate is always good : )

Blessings!!


Happy Birthday, Seekerville!!

134 comments:

Rose said...

Audra,

Fun topic!

You know what I always say: Can't have good guy without a bad one in the story!

Since it looks like I'm the first one here, I brought McD's Peppermint Mochas to share today.

Helen Gray said...

Ooo, can I make a villain of coffee?
It's BLACK, and it will keep you awake nights.
But here's a pot anyhow.

Interesting insights into villains, Audra. Thanks.

Now I'm off to bed so I can get up early and make myself a birthday cake.

Helen

Helen Gray said...

WHY is the word coffee showing up as a link with a weird picture in my post???

I'm not deliberately doing that.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Oh heaven help us a guy who couldn't care less about t-boning a '68 Mustang? Yeeeaah...that guy is automatically at the top of my all-time worst villains list. There are few things in life more precious than a 'Stang. :-P

Oh and as for traits a villain should have, he needs to be smart! There's nothing worse than an idiot bad guy unless we're talking Looney Tunes.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

It looks okay on this end Helen!

Lyndee said...

Hi Aura,
Great post. And yes, it's been a great Oct learning all this valuable writing stuff with the Seekers.

RE Careful not to have too much fun with your villain. At an informal pitch session, I once gave my spiel and the editor said, there are a lot of external challenges keeping the H/H apart. She asked, 'What are the internal obstacles and when do they have time to fall in love?'

Can you hear the DING DING DING that I did? And then the Dings turned into DUH. Needless to say, those were transforming questions for me to answer about my WIP!

Helen Gray said...

Good. Thanks, Renee.

Blogger has had it in for me for some time now. Doing crazy things to me.

Debra E. Marvin said...

A very simple and helpful point: have the villain be someone the h/h can trust. I think we do that naturally but it's a good question to ask while in the WIP

No Snidely Whiplash characters allowed. Unless they are a red herring...

That Almond Bark looks amazing, Audra!

Kara said...

Great post/topic, Audra, and enjoyed the visuals you provided also :)
I think females make much better villains, both in movies and in books.
However, I never considered how much fun a writer could have with their story villain until you mentioned it! Loved your comment on making the villain equal to the hero/heroine, makes sense but forming that balance sounds tricky (the hero is made accountable and the villain is not). Good stuff, thanks so much! Blessings, Kara

Christina said...

Great topic, Audra.

I have to admit I have a lot of fun coming up with my villains.

Carla Olson Gade said...

Great stuff on what makes up a good villian...that's an oxymoron, I suppose.

Melissa Jagears said...

I should think harder about my villians....

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Echoing Melissa...

Audra, I'm totally taken aback. I enjoy a little shock to my system now and again. I haven't thought of the bad guys for a while.


Uh, villains. Let me go check in my WIP. yes, sort of there...

Now I realize how pale they are.

It seems like LI doesn't really let you have a villain (unless they have a little redemption at the end).

So, I guess my villain is secrets, doubt, ummmmm, fire?

Jenny Blake said...

Hi Audra, firstly I will pass on the chocolate almond bark (dont eat nuts and things like this dont go over seas well)
I have to say having a dog (even if it looks kinda cute) in the first point about villains fits for me as to me dogs are villains and today they really were. I got to walk way further cos I ran into one on the way to the shops so went the long way to run into another so came home and tried later, this is a 10 min walk that took 25 mins and I didn't get to my destination! Fear does intersting things to people. I have to say there are some villians I have a soft spot for. Think Wylie coyote and roadrunner. I always want him to win! In Days of our lives when I use to watch it many years ago I always had a soft spot for Steffano even though he was really bad.

DebH said...

when i think of memorable villians, i think of Alan Rickman of the Quigley Down Under and Robin Hood films. Priceless villianany - he does it so well.
why a spoon, Cousin?
Because it hurts more!


has anyone created a villian who readers connected with enough that he becomes the hero of the sequel book? just wondering...

awesome birthday bash month!!

will not be checking comments til mucho later... doing road trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house for the toddler to see them for his birthday. they love getting visits so we try to do so as much as possible even with the 5 hour drive...

C.E. Hart said...

I love it when the sensitive or vulnerable side of a villain seeps through--something that shows us WHY they behave the way they do.

Great post, Audra. :) Thanks.

Almond bark...mmm...

Annie Rains said...

Hi Audra! Thanks for today's post! I love the villian who is the wounded anti-hero (if there is such a thing). The one who is so wounded that he's turned into the villian, but who has so much hero potential if he'd just snap out of it. These type of villians make me wish, wish, wish they would find healing so that they'd stop being so bad, Lol.

Almond bark, yum! I tried my first bacon chocolate bar this week--I think almond bark would be must tastier :)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Audra, what a great profile of writing villains! Oh my stars, you touched on all the points, enough to make the villain spring off the page, ALIVE!!!!

One thing I've noticed in recent books is that there are current trends to tell us a lot about the villain.

I like a little. Not too, too much, enough to make me cheer for the hero and understand why the villain does what he/she does, but if I know too much, then it takes the suspense right out of the novel for me.

But some readers LOVE seeing both sides totally, so that's got to be a personal thing, or the fact that I am "change-resistant"...

Read: STUBBORN.

sigh. ;)

Hey, peppermint mocha Rose-girl, I'm in!!! GIMME!!!! I want to see Helen's demon-possessed coffee...

:)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HELEN!!!!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ruthy, waving wildly!!!

I will take Jenny's almond bark, okay????

Virginia, you would write great villains.

I'm not saying why I know this... but I'm pretty sure I'm CORRECTAMUNDO.

Amy Campbell said...

Fun post. I love a villain in a story.
Campbellamyd at Gmail dot com

Jenny Blake said...

I have to say Happy Birthday Helen I hope you have a wonderful day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great post Audra because I have been working on the villian in my wip this week. smile

Always timely posts. Thanks girlfriend.

Jackie said...

Hi Audra,

I usually write romantic suspense, but I'm beginning a romance.

You said the villain can be a circumstance.

Would this work...H&H start to have feelings for each other until they realize there's a conflict between his grandson and her niece? Each must take sides. Neither teen is exactly a villain, but each adult's view is the situation is skewed to their loved one.

Does my question make sense? Is that a good enough for a villain?
Until I read your post, I thought I might need another character to go after hero when the relationship turns rocky.

Thanks for your help!

BTW, your holiday almond bark looks yummy. I woke up dreaming of donuts, but that looks even better.

Jackie L.

Jackie said...

Happy birthday, Helen! I hope you have a great birthday and that you get a great cup of coffee!

Joanne Sher said...

Audra - your wrote this post for ME! I have been thinking about my villain all week (am I the only one who spells that word wrong by rote?? GOTTA remember to switch those vowels the right way so I don't have to keep backing up) - and this is ALL info I need. (well a lot of it anyway - and I'll check the comments for more.
Thanks a TON! Definitely a keeper.

Pam Hillman said...

First things first....

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HELEN!

Villians who became hero/heroine material: Mary Connealy's Wade Sawyer, and Julie Lessman's Charity O'Connor. Maybe Charity wasn't a "villian" per se, but she was the villian in A Passion Most Pure.

Audra, your almond bark looks good enough to eat from here. Yum!

Working on edits this weekend. My editor is amazing! I love it when someone says, "do this, do that" and does it so sweetly.

Mary Connealy said...

Villains are hard for me because my knee jerk reaction is always to just make them irredeemably EVIL. And I know that's wrong.
Making they evil for a REASON it tricky. They need a backstory. They need a moral premise. They need a goal/motivation/conflict. It's way easier for them to always just need money and not care who they have a shoot to get it.
I repeat: I know that's wrong.

Melinda said...

Audra,

This was great info for every writer. I know I sure will be using your info creating my next villain.

Melinda

Marianne said...

Great for every writer, really interesting for this reader, too. No, i know i'm not a writer in hiding. Does that make me a villian? Not. i blog about the books i read. Happey Birthday, Helen. i'll take coffee.


Audra Harders said...

Hi Rose! How do we know if the good guy is good, if there isn't a bad guy who lives up to the part, LOL!

Good morning everyone, Happy Saturday! Ooooo, it's been such a long week at day job. I'll take one of those Peppermint Mochas, Rose. Great way to kick off a weekend!

Christina said...

Happy birthday, Helen!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mary, I'm with you there. My first villain was so irredeemable I had to disembowel him to give him a fitting end. *g* I've since toned my villain's done. A little. ;)

Audra Harders said...

Happy Birthday, Helen! Sheesh, it's your birthday, let ME pour YOU a cup of your excellent coffee : )

A birthday cake? Hmmm, maybe the gals as the Yankee-Belle Cafe can whip one up for us!

Let's party!!!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

One of my favorite villains ever was in a Linda Howard book, this like KINGPIN of international crime. Powerful, he would do ANYTHING TO ANYONE. He wasn't personally doing much violent crime...he had hired minions.
Then about midway through the book it's revealed that he has a child with a damaged heart and that all he does is to make money to afford madly expensive care for this child.

In the end the heroine has him under her gun and instead of shooting him, she offers him a deal. If you'll testify about everything you know so we can shut down all the bad guys you know, I'll promise you the United States Goverment will find a new heart for your child.
It was really powerful. It's like this offer that was both horrifying to give this man the desire of his heart knowing someone else won't get that heart. And the villain doesn't even pause. He immediately says, "Yes. Deal."
He's going to betray all the bad guys he knows and put himself in terrible danger by doing that. But his daughter is all that's ever mattered to him.
He was a great villain.

Audra Harders said...

You are so right, Renee. A villain who's TSTL has no place in one of our books.

And with you all the way on the 'Stang bashing, girlfriend. Now THAT'S a villainous act.

Audra Harders said...

Lyndee, no matter how long you write, you will always have those "aha" moments. Internal conflict, external conflict, goals, motivationa, bad guys, good guys...

Yikes! It's enough to give you a perpetual headache.

Hmmm, my next post will center around pain medications and what's the most effective for those "too much confusion" headaches, LOL!

Mary Connealy said...

And have you ever noticed that there are 'good' bad guys and 'bad' bad guys? And the 'good' bad guys usually die and the 'bad' bad guys usually go to prison....or else the 'good' bad guys die easily and the 'bad' bad guys die horribly.
You can just how bad a bad guy is by how many times they die.
I remember a Clint Eastwood movie, one of the Dirty Harry movies where the bad guy died FIVE TIMES.
He gets shot. He falls from a deadly height. He crashes through electric wires that electrocute him (on his way down). He is impaled when he lands and then something awful falls on top of him to crush him to death.

THAT was a 'bad' bad guy.

Audra Harders said...

Deb Marvin, I agree No Snidely Whiplash -- Ooo, are we dating ourselves?? In truth those, there were more times I wanted to smack Dudley Doright for making Snidely look GOOD!

Kara, we always look for balance, but how often do we find it? This business is not for the faint of heart.

Christina, you're my kinda gal : )

Audra Harders said...

Thanks, Carla.

Melissa and Virgina, think hard about the villain so they become as real to you as the H/H.

I know LI reeeally doesn't want an ultra villain. But, the villain doesn't have to be a person. I think in LIs, the element surrounding the characters brings in enough conflict to make'em fight for what they want.

Whew, I need a refill on that coffee. I brought a nice Cinnamon Pecan blend because it's my favorite (at the moment) and it's the weekend so I can sit down, talk to you guys and savor every drop! Anybody like a cup??

Audra Harders said...

Jenny, bummer about the chocolate and nuts. Although I'm happy to see you have a fondness for chocolate, you just don't like any ingredients messing with the main event.

I can appreciate that.

Oh my yes, fear can do paralyzing things to people. I don't think I have any fears that prey on my mind enough to make me lose sleep, but I've definitely seen it in action.

Interesting you have a fear of dogs, yet a softspot of Wylie Coyote...

Janet Dean said...

Wow, excellent keeper post, Audra!! I rarely have villians in my stories, at least the flesh and blood kind, but they're fun to write. You've given a lot of help on how to create them effectively.

Your almond bark is making me salivate!!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Happy Birthday, Helen!

I'm chuckling that you call coffee a villain. Obviously you don't drink the stuff. Yes, coffee is dark and keeps you awake like a hunky HERO. :-)

Janet

Jan Drexler said...

Timely post, Audra! I'm in the middle of developing the villain of my WIP.

I've given him an angelic look, a beautiful singing voice, and a fun personality. The guy everyone wants to hang out with - but he has that one fatal flaw that makes him a bit chilling.

He's a lot of fun to work with!

You made a great point with #5: Villains believe they are justified in their actions That's exactly why villains are so bad. They really do think they're right.

You can put me in the drawing, but since it's Helen's birthday, I'll be rooting for her to win :)

Happy Birthday, Helen!

Audra Harders said...

DebH, Happy Birthday to adorable baby! I remember multi hour trips to visit relatives while toddlers sometimes sit and entertain themselves -- operative word here was SOMETIMES...

If you want a villain transformation into a hero, check out the villain in Mary Connealy's Montana Rose turned hero in Wildflower Bride. Wow. Now there's a miracle!

Audra Harders said...

C.E. and Annie, I love the sensitive side to the villains. NO ONE is born bad. I want to see what turned them and have sympathy for it.

Glad to see my almond bark caught your attention. Bacon chocolate bar? Really? How did that work for you??????

Dianna Shuford said...

I like giving my hero and villain similar motivations. In my current WIP both are seeking justice only they choose very different paths to reach that goal. My hero seeks to expose truths and help bring the killer to justice and the villain kills those he perceives as hiding their flaws. Kind of along the same lines as Satan distorting the things of God for evil.

This doesn't make them equal, but highlights how seeking the same goal can be pursued by two very different people.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Good morning Seekerville and Audra and all you villains out there.

This was quite helpful, especially since I don't know how to write a bad guy. Mean little old ladies is about as tough as I get.

Audra Harders said...

Ruthy! Where are your manners? No demanding GIMMEEs! There's enough to go around AND we serve our guests first.

Most of the time, LOL!

I've noticed the same thing about knowing too much about your villain. I want enough to know why he acts as he does and if we make him ultra redeemable, give him his own book.

I want the bad guys to stay bad all through the book!

Audra Harders said...

Ruthy, it's Helen's birthday today. Do you suppose the Yankee-Belle has a confection suitable for such an occasion??

Erica Vetsch said...

Yay for excellent villains!!

When I first started out, I made all my villains Cruella De Ville evil, without a single redeeming quality, nothing to sympathize with, and pretty downright rotten.

Then someone shared the sage advice that "The villain is never the bad guy in their own mind/story."

Light bulb! Nobody ever sees themselves as a villain. Their actions make sense and are perfectly justifiable in their own minds.

And everyone is the villain in someone else's mind. Even me.

Dead humbling.

Janet Kerr said...

I appreciate a post on Villains & I found it very informative.
Interesting topic.
Jan

Donna said...

Audra, thank you for this post. I learned a lot. Especially how not to make them predictable. I enjoy reading about how to constitute and layer a villain as much as I do the h/h. I get a kick out of making them up. Is that weird?? Your almond bark had me wanting to lick the screen.

One of my fav villains in a movie was Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath. Probably because I am so use to him being the hero.

Happy Birthday Helen!!

Joanne, I misspell villain every time!

Mary, I love your take on the bad guys!!

pol said...

Hello Audra and Happy Birthday Helen....never thought much about the villains in books guess I am looking too hard at the Hero. It would seem we seem to miss what is right in front of us if we are not looking for it and I suppose that is how they sneak up on us. I liked your reference to Jethro, ahh he makes me swoon.....
I will have to pay more attention to my books and where the villain is in it.thanks for sharing your comments today-good post.
Have a great weekend one and all Seekerville...
Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cake at the CAFE!!!

Hey, yes, we can celebrate Helen's birthday at the Yankee-Belle Cafe because we're featuring Jeanne Takenaka's Flourless Chocolate Cake there today and tomorrow!

Go here: Yankee Belle Cafe and I'll make you a cuppa and a slice of cake!!!!

Sweet idea, Audra!

Anonymous said...

Villians are awesome. I have a book where my villian is actually the hero. Let's just say he start off as a creep and grows on you. I hope. I was told that he was too mean and needed softening.

Tina P

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

Heros and villians! Love the topic, Audra! I always think a great example is Clark Kent and Lex Luther from Smallville. I thought they did a great job of showing Lex's motivations, past, goals, etc.

Have a great Weekend!

Audra Harders said...

Thanks, Amy!

Sandra, glad I could help you, girlfriend : ) Can you give us a peek into the villain in your story?

Audra Harders said...

Hi Jackie! I think the length of the book determines whether you need a specific character, or whether the circumstances suffice as a strong enough conflict. Consider the word count limit when contemplating the addition of a fully fleshed-out third character.

There's nothing worse than a character stuck into a story where you don't have enough time to give your reader a chance to fully invest in them -- be they heroic or villainous.

Audra Harders said...

Hi Joanne : ) Nope, vowel arrangement messes me up all the time, LOL!

Glad I could help with character issues. It's just my .02 worth. I'm sure there are plenty of character experts that can tell you more.

I'm glad I didn't have to come up with more than 5 points, LOL!

Audra Harders said...

Pammy, so proud of you working on your edits! Of course your editor is sweet to you; you're sweet to work with : )

Yep, all this sweetness is working along the vein of chocolate...

Audra Harders said...

Mary, villains are hard for you to write? I never would have guessed. You do them so well : )

I never really spared villain a second thought. Like you, I figured EVIL was good enough.

It's not.

AND for those of you still shaking your heads over this deeper development of the villain, think about it. When you know your character well, it's easy to work them into to the story so they become an integral part rather than a mere obstacle you keep inserting in place throughout the book.

Audra Harders said...

I know this is going way, way back, but I think the days of the early romance authors who brought our genre to light, did it best.

It's no secret I was, am, and will always be a huge fan of Kathleen Woodiwiss' early novels. The villain in Shanna is the epitomy of evil done well. The character ran through most of the book as an integrated, annoying guest of the Trahern household. You hated him because he was a SNOB, not because you suspected him of EVIL. The way he was developed, you didn't think he had enough chutzpah to be cunning and manipulative. The reveal at the end fit in so perfectly to the master plan, I had a real V-8 moment when I thought back to all the instances that hinted at his darker side.

Wow.

Now THAT'S writing a great villain.

Audra Harders said...

Mary, nothing is ever easy for Clint in good ol' Clint Eastwood movies.

Audra Harders said...

Hi Melinda! Have fun writing your villains : )

Hi Marianne! Have fun reading with thoughts of great villains in mind, LOL!

Christina...Eeeewwwwww!!

Audra Harders said...

Hi Janet! You're so sweet to salivate over my bark, LOL!

Audra Harders said...

Jan, isn't that the truth? The villains think they're right and just don't see the twisted logic in it, LOL!

You're so sweet to donate your share of the bark to Helen if your name is drawn...now that's being a true friend : )

Audra Harders said...

Great, great point Dianna! Looking at the same situation through the eyes of the hero and the villain.

Brilliant. You've got a difficult road ahead of you because that just sounds complicated, but I'll all for it!

Audra Harders said...

I don't know, Tina. Some of those mean little old ladies are every bit as scary as the bad guy, LOL!

Lyndee said...

Happy Birthday, Helen!

Audra Harders said...

Erica!! That same advice was the turning point for me, too. We must be channeling the same speaker/workshop in our sleep : )

You know that whole Cruella deVille persona? When my kids were little, they told me I should go try out for the part when our local theatre put out a call for tryouts. They seemed to think I'd get the part.

LOL! Yes, in my younger days, I was someone's villain : ) and apparently, I was quite good at it, LOL!!!!

CatMom said...

Awesome article, Audra! (how's that for a little alliteration, LOL). Seriously, this is a great post and I jotted some notes as I read. The villain in my historical WIP definitely needs some work, so your suggestions will be put to good use by me--thank you! ~ Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend--it's a gorgeous day here in my part of Georgia. Please enjoy the Pecan Bars I took out of the oven a few minutes ago--with vanilla ice-cream in you like. Hugs, Patti Jo

Audra Harders said...

Thanks, Janet!

Donna, I haven't seen What Lies Beneath. I'm with you, I'm used to seeing HF as nothing but pure hero. Seeing him as a bad guy would be weird. Shows diversification, right??

CatMom said...

p.s. HAPPY BIRTHDAY HELEN!! (I'm sticking a candle in one of my Pecan Bars just for you!). ~ Hugs, PJ

Audra Harders said...

Thanks Paula, in my opinion, ANYTHING Leroy Jethro Gibbs is worth taking note of again and again and again, LOL!

Of course, Tony isn't such a bad act to follow either : )

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

How did I miss that it was Helen's birthday? Happy Birthday! I need to make some cake to celebrate but we're not making red velvet if that's okay with you! hehe. How's about some coconut cake? :-D

Audra Harders said...

Tina P, I think you have your work cut out for you babes! Villain turn hero in the same book. Wow. You go, girlfriend.

Eva, you are so right. I love how they developed Lex as the villain, but the way he nattered about, you understood why he was the villain.

Excellent!

Kav said...

Great post, Audra. It has me thinking about great villains or is that villians? I always mix up that up! I like the idea of digging deeper and giving the reader a bit of background on the villain/ian. :-)

Just finished Lynnn Austin's All Things New and she has two dandy villainous types...both a product of horrors of the civil war. That background made me 'get' them even though I despised them. And an interesting contrast was that the hero also survived fighting in the civil war and though his experiences also consumed him he found a way through -- won't say how because that would be a spoiler but it's a wonderful book.

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

Ooo okay we're having flourless chocolate cake, that sounds great and I love the pics. That poor little baby wants some cake!

Audra Harders said...

Okay, so rumor has it there is flourless chocolate cake happening at the Yankee-Belle Cafe.

And Ruthy is offereing free coffee with refills!!

Isn't she a peach??

Let's go celebrate Helen's birthday!!

Julie Lessman said...

AUDS!!!! LOVE the post on villains, but then I actually like villains because if they are human enough (and not monsters), it's fun to redeem them, like I did with Charity O'Connor. :)

Heck, I even liked the villain in Charity's story, Rigan Gallagher, a bitter rich boy always trying to best his father. There's a part of me that SO would love to redeem that man ...

Anyway, FUN subject, my friend, and now I think I need to go add me a villain to my WIP ... ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Helen Gray said...

Audra, I hadn't given proper consideration to villains in my romances. But I have some killer villains in my mysteries.

Ruthy, your link didn't work for me. So I'll back up to the home page and go in from there.

Here at home I'm have angel food cake with that fluffy white frosting I love.

Helen

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Uhhh, Ruthy...

Are you saying I could write great villains becuase I'm rotten to the core? BEcause that's how I took that comment.

And it's true. That's how I keep my husband in line. He ticks me off enough and I tell him, 'Go ahead. You have to sleep SOMETIME.'




Melanie Dickerson said...

AUDRA!!! This is such an awesome post, girl! You are not just a pretty face, which is what I already suspected. :-) Seriously, this is an excellent post for anyone who wants a compelling villain.

I have to admit, my villains in my fairy tale retellings are pretty much just straight evil. However, I do try to give them a backstory and motivation.

Great post, Audra!!!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning Seekerville--and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HELEN!

Excellent post, Audra. Lots of good points to weave in when writing "villains." Even if we're not writing mystery or suspense, there's often an "opponent" who shows up on the pages to challenge our hero/heroine -- someone who puts them on the spot, who disagrees with a decision they've made or wants to thwart an action they've initiated. And, giving that person a history, even if very brief, adds a deeper dimension and understanding of their motivation and makes them a more "worthy" opponent.

Anonymous said...

Just want to SAY.............HAPPY Birthday to Helen!!!!

Jackie S.

Mia Ross said...

Great points about villains, Audra! By contrasting with the good guys they can give an even clearer picture of the characters we're supposed to like.

Mia Ross said...

And Happy Birthday, Helen!

Debra E. Marvin said...

I am working on my most challenging bad guy now. I'm afraid he will come to no good end but not DIE FIVE TIMES...

Mary, that Linda Howard bad guy story sounds quite compelling and isn't that the point. You remember the villain for the depth of character, and I'm guessing more so than the protagonist.

Did any one bring Cake for Helen?

Ruthy< possibly some of that flourless chocolate cake from Jeanne T?

I think all these pinterst boards are making us fat.
I have enough trouble without seeing new recipes for luscious food while I'm browsing...

Audra Harders said...

Pecan Bars? I'm so there, Patti JO!

This is turning into quite an eat-fest with Helen's birthday celebration and all. Doesn't that flourless chocolate cake sound great???

Sometimes cyber munches make my stomach growl for the real thing...

Audra Harders said...

KAV, what's a few vowel gymnastics between friends?? Okay, so let's talk about the bad guy!!

War does crazy things to people. PERFECT backdrop for villain emotional protrayal. So often, the war IS the villain. Jackie had asked about the general circumstances being "villain worthy" and my answer is yes.

The conveyance of conflict takes many forms.

Audra Harders said...

My son is home from college this weekend and just asked if I'd have time to make his favorite oatmeal cookies.

I'll make enough to share with y'all : )

Audra Harders said...

Julie! You are such a master of creating complex characters. Between you and Mary, you'll have all the villains of the world redeemed to heros and heroines.

It's a gift, my friend.

Audra Harders said...

Angel food cake with frosting? What a novel idea! We're a bit barbaric around here. Anyone who passes by the angel food cake tears a piece off by hand and stuff in said mouth and then continues along their way.

Angel food cake doesn't last long enough to get a proper frosting!!

Audra Harders said...

Ooo, Virginia. Now there's a side of you I hadn't anticipated, LOL.

Hubby? Be afraid. Be very afraid, LOL!

Anonymous said...

Great post! But what if your villain is not a human and just life in general, or the MC's haunting past?

Jenny Blake said...

Audra, My fear is real dogs. there are some I have no issue with and one of my favourite shows was an Austrian one called Inspector Rex and the hero is Rex the German Shephard. I also Loved the littlest Hobo again about a dog. Its just if I come across one on a walk and its lose unless I know it wont move like the little one up the road I cant walk past it and will retreat. But its getting me fit!

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Whooo YUMMO - Gibbs and Holiday Almond Bark, not to mention a great post today.

I'm embarking on book 3 shortly, and need to beef up my villain so... This is EXCELLENT timing, Audra! Thank you soooo much!

Happy Saturday everyone!

(Has anyone else noticed the sales going on everywhere? After we voted this morning, we headed to our favorite craft shop and got some wonderful items for Christmas gifts, then over to the mall, where we found more great deals. Now is the time!)

Anonymous said...

Great post, Audra. And Happy Birthday, Helen. In my WIP the bad guy was fun to write and more complex than my hero. He's badly flawed, but exciting. And definitely thinks his actions are justifiable. Is this a good thing? Happy weekend to everyone.
Pat

Vince said...

Hi Audra:

I hope I’m not too late. I’ve been out of town.

Happy Birthday Helen!

I’m always happy when there is a birthday and it is not mine. : )

A perfect contemporary villain: A-Rod : (

A perfect literary villain: Iago from Othello.

Iago fought besides Othello in war and was a trusted friend and adviser. Othello trusted Iago with his life. Iago acted and advised as the most loyal friend a man could have. Iago was also a genius while Othello was of average intelligence. Yet Othello passed over Iago for an important promotion – a promotion Iago should have had based on loyalty but not based on military merit. Step by step Iago gives Othello good sounding advice that leads to Othello killing his totally virtuous wife and eventually to Othello’s death.

Iago is thought of as the prototype for the most evil corporate infighter. Often the most evil villain is justified in his complaint but not justified in the severe punishment he demands as retribution.

Now, Brutus, on the other hand, is interesting. He is the villain in Julius Caesar but he was justified and he was right. What makes him a villain was that he was on the losing side.

As Julie mentioned, Charity is unique because she was both the heroine and the villain (kind of). Mary had an antihero in Sidney – I never saw him as a villain (his vision was just too great for any of his contemporaries to understand .) In one of Ruth’s books the hero was also the heroine’s villain as he was sent to open a Mary’s Candy store (think See’s) and, in effect, run the heroine out of business. He was also dating her the whole time. Talk about sweet conflict!!!

Now, Audra, after a great post on villains, how about a post on antiheroes? I’m really not sure how they would play in a romance. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read the word ‘antihero’ here in Seekerville.

Vince

Tina Radcliffe said...

OH. MY!!! I forgot to wish Helen a happy 21st birthday. Happy Birthday to YOUUUUU!!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Happy Birthday, Helen!!!

October 20th. Such a nice date on which to be born. :)

Great villain talk today, Audra. Such important folks, especially in suspense--although they play into most stories. Working out the villain's GMC is always a challenge for me. They need to think they're being heroic when they're not at all. (Okay, maybe they have a soft spot of two, but what they want to do to the h/h is never soft nor good!)

Personally, I like mine to be slightly deranged. :)

Cindy W. said...

Wow! Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and Chocolate Almond Bark all in one post....OH MY GOODNESS! Yummo!!!

Thank you for the insight into villains. I think having the villain being the Hero or Heroine's best or close friend works.

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

Helen Gray said...

Thank you, everyone, for all the nice birthday wishes.

Our little town had a parade this morning. I figure it must have been for me. It surely couldn't have been because they have a thing they call a Heritage Festival every year.

I think Vince may have the right take on birthdays. They are to be tolerated.

Helen

Tonya said...

Im not very good at coming up with villians, its something I need to work on,

Jeanne T said...

Audra, what a great post! I loved all the things you shared about making a good villain. I have a bad guy who's trying to woo a married woman, so he's not really bad, just bad in that way. :)

I'm going to have to read through this again, because you include so many great things to consider--making the villain someone who will make/force my hero to grow stronger--that I like.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Walt Mussell said...

Villains make a personal decision to be the way they are. I'll give you an historical example. One of my heroes is a Revolutionary War general named John Glover. Supposedly, Glover got dissed numerous times by powerful people throughout the war and could have gotten fed up with it. Instead, he persevered and is an unsung hero of American history. Compare this story to another Revolutionary War general, Benedict Arnold, who faced similar experiences to Glover. Villains make their choices.

I'm definitely up for almond bark.

Natalie Monk said...

Hi Audra! I've not developed my villain yet, and this post is a much needed reminder to get started!

The villain needs external goals directly opposite of the hero, right?

Does he need to be introduced in the first chapter like the hero/heroine? Or does he need to stay incognito for a while?

Anonymous said...

Ooo, I love Alan Rickman as a villian. He looks likes he enjoys playing the part.

I also think Hannibel is a great villian because even though he was so evil, I kind of like him at the end of the movie when he said he was "going to have a friend for dinner" referring to the jerk DA. Silence of the Lambs was a very disturbing movie but who can forget Hannibel?

Connie Queen

Nicer villians in romance!!!

Jill Weatherholt said...

This is a great post, Audra! I've never written a story with a villian at this point, but your post has inspired me. I'll definitely print this for the future. Happy Birthday Helen!

Audra Harders said...

Aww, thanks Mel : ) After rooming with me at conference and learning all my bad habits, you still like me. YAYAYAYAY!!

Fairytales need strong villains. You can't go mamby-pamby-ing the Big Bad Wolf. Talk about a type of story that needs to be black and white.

And you do it the best : )

Audra Harders said...

Glynna, you hit it right on the head. There has to be something thwarting the H/H actions and intentions or we wouldn't have much of a book to write.

Your books have conflict coming at your characters from every direction. Always makes for a great page turner!

Thanks, G!

Audra Harders said...

HI Mia : ) You just can't recognize the good guys without the bad, right?

Deb, you never know about your bad guy...he may have to have 5 deaths, LOL!

Jamie Adams said...

I enjoy writing villains. Thanks for the input. I'm sure mine need some work... no ones all bad.

Mary Connealy said...

In Over the Edge, the villain who's been developed through all three books, though he was only referred to in book one...I tried to play with him all the way through, lure him into goodness.
I wanted to redeem him.

But in the end I just had him keep thinking, "I'll be a good man, but not quite yet. I'll change just as soon as I get my money back. I'll believe in God and live an honest life and go to church, but TOMORROW."

I think there are a lot of people, not villains at all, who do that their whole life.

Audra Harders said...

KC, would that be you or May em"bark"ing on a new book? Hmm, sounds suspicious to me, LOL!

Sales are everywhere! It's not even November and I've already bought a couple of gifts...which is unheard of for me!

Audra Harders said...

Vince, I loved the brilliance of Iago and the subtle manipulations employeed in seeing his due. Absolutely masterful.

Anti-hero, huh? Where villains are clear cut in their actions and purpose, an antihero is a subtle blend of cunning, wiles, and charm.

Now there's someone who will have to be pieced together very carefully.

Very, very good suggestion!!

Audra Harders said...

LOL, Debby! If you like your villains slightly deranged, there's a whole 'nother side to our Ms. Giusti that you keep well hidden.

I agree with you. October 20 is a lovely day. Colorado is full fall foliage and it just couldn't get any prettier out here.

Thank you, Helen, for being born on this day : )

Audra Harders said...

Cindy, Jethro Gibbs and chocolate are always a winning combination!!

Tonya, you'll get there. A villain needs the same literary parts and pieces that the H/H do. Only their perception is slightly skewed, LOL!

Jeanne, if the villain manages to get the H/H to grow and face their fears, they've done their job.

Audra Harders said...

Walt, very good comparisons. All characters choose which side of the fence they want to be on.

We have characters like Glover who withstood and overcame and we laud him; Arnold chose instant gratification and recognition. Unfortunately, I doubt it ended quite the way he wanted.

Integrity runs deep in some and not in others. I guess that's just the way the story goes.

Audra Harders said...

Hi Natalie : ) The goals of the villain need to somehow cross the hero, whether directly or indirectly, depending on what type of story you're writing. In a mystery/suspense, the villain definitely has to make an appearance ASAP. In a romance, it's not as critical, but don't wait beyond the 3rd chapter!

Connie, Hannibel Lector is the kind of villain you hate to love! He was so intensely intellectual, he forced Clarice to reach deep within herself and become the best detective she could be. Very prime example of the villain bringing out the best in the hero. Good job!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

OH VINCE!!!!

That's so stinkin' true. What the heck?

I have come to believe that any player that gets huge contracts in any sport is totally susceptible to the "I'm too cool for myself" syndrome that starts with not practicing hard, then not practicing often, then not practicing almost ever, not doing strength training/conditioning, running, plymetrics, etc. during the off season because you're just too busy being cool at "Gentlemans' Clubs".

Gag.

Shame on him, but have you ever seen a more sorry performance by any major league team of ANY SPORT??? I was embarrassed for them. Shoot, their mothers!!!! were embarrassed for them.

Not Jeter's. Or Ichiro's. Or Nunez, Ibanez, Chavez....

But the rest?

Shame on them.

And now St. Lou and SF tomorrow.

Buster Posey... the next Jeter????

Maybe. We'll see, right?

Oh, so tired. Can't stop yawning. Must sleep.

Audra Harders said...

Thanks, Jill!

Jamie, to be believable, no one is all bad. Throw in one or two redeeming qualities. It'll be good for them, LOL!

Nancy C said...

Walt -- "Villains make their choices" was a lightbulb moment for me. Villains aren't victims (of their past or bad luck or anything else) no matter how much they believe they are. They could have chosen differently. That helps me understand why sometimes I find myself thinking "give me a break" about a villain in something I'm reading. Wow! Thank you :-)

Nancy C.

Audra Harders said...

Mary said: But in the end I just had him keep thinking, "I'll be a good man, but not quite yet. I'll change just as soon as I get my money back. I'll believe in God and live an honest life and go to church, but TOMORROW."

I think there are a lot of people, not villains at all, who do that their whole life.

Audra says: There are so many people that hold this attitude close to their hearts. They just can't let go. It doesn't make them villains, unless their goal is to hurt or shoot someone along the way. THEN it becomes a bit villainous : )

Audra Harders said...

Ruthy, you got all that out of Vince mentioning A-Rod is a villain. Wow, you're good, babe!

Audra Harders said...

Nancy, it always comes down to choice. That's the way God made us and can we mold our characters any other way??

Nancy C said...

Helen --hope you had a wonderful birthday!

Villains -- there have been several mentions of Alan Rickman. He was my all-time favorite villain as the Sheriff of Nottingham ... and the highlight of the movie for me. Now that I've read your post, Audra, I need to find the movie and fast forward to his scenes to figure out what appealed to me about his character.

Also appreciated this in your post: "Make them someone your characters would trust in a heartbeat and unravel the truth, thread by thread." In one of my manuscripts, the heroine thinks she is in love with the villain (who everyone thinks is a fantastic person)... much to the hero's dismay. When she finally discovers something heinous the villain has done, even the hero doesn't believe the villain would go that far. That story was great fun to write :-)

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

Nancy C

Vince said...

Hi Ruth:

You asked:

“have you ever seen a more sorry performance by any major league team of ANY SPORT???”

Yes, and I did ‘see’ it! The 1954 Cleveland Indians just fell apart after winning 111 games in the old 154 game regular season. The Tribe lost four straight after being heavily favored. Willie made baseball’s most famous ‘catch’. Dusty had his three flashes of fame. And ‘Leo the lip’ won his only World Series. All in just four games. And they played two of the games on a polo field!!! Dem were the daze!

Audra: Of course Ruth got ‘all that’ from just ‘A-Rod’. Have you ever heard of a “New York minute”? A Bronx cheer? It’s subtext! : )

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Audra:

You wrote:

“…it always comes down to choice. That's the way God made us and can we mold our characters any other way??”

This opens the door to the most horrible kind of villain: the insane individual. These are the villains on “Criminal Minds”. You can’t reason with them, they don’t feel guilt, and they do not fear death.

There is another scary case when the hero discovers for the first time that the villain, who he trusted up to then, is actually insane and no amount of reasoning will work to save the hero. That moment of discovery is always very powerful – especially if the reader discovers it for the first time as well. The impact is doubled if there were sufficient clues to tip off the reader and hero that the villain was going mad.

I actually have a villain in my “Characters in a Romance”. She is called “The Wicked Witch of the Eastern Establishment”. She is the President of a Ivy League women’s college and the leading authority on why romances are bad for women and should be banned. She also owns all the major romance publishing houses in Romancelandia – an entire country that does nothing but produce romance novels for all the rest of the universe. (It’s a paranormal.) I gave her a wonderful four page commencement speech giving every known liberal reason why romances are bad for women and all the while she is giving the speech she is wondering how the romance she is currently reading will resolve its conflict. She does have real witch powers just like in the Wizard of Oz. She is not evil for profit or power. She is evil for the pure joy of it. (This is true: the book is 120,000 words at this point.)

Vince

Mary Preston said...

"A strong villain only makes for a stronger hero."

I love this!!

Edwina said...

Great post!

Shelia Hall said...

He has to be evil looking!

authorkathyeberly said...

Wonderful post. Thank you for your insights.

PatriciaW said...

A strong villain makes for a stronger hero, not only in the current story, but the should the villain ever see the error of his ways and become a hero in another story. The meaner he is, the more he has to atone for.

Audra Harders said...

Oh Patricia! How true : )