Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Write Believable Villains

 with guest Jessica Keller.

There are so many blog posts out there about how to get to know the hero of your story. Interview him, they say. Sit down and have a chat. Spend time learning his secrets and past hurts. So much time is given to the hero but know what? No one thinks about the poor little villain. The truth is the first step to writing believable villains is to brew some coffee/tea and pull up a seat at a secluded table to visit with the villain of your current manuscript. Just maybe go into the meeting with a knife tucked in your boot….he IS the villain after all.


Warning: This post includes spoilers for Disney’s Frozen and Star Wars, although if you haven’t seen the later, I urge you to come out from hiding in your bunker. Anyway. Continue reading at your own story-spoiling risk.

Everyone has been Frozen crazy lately (I promise not to burst into song. Okay, I’m singing about a snowman. But you have my permission to press mute). One of the aspects of the movie that I really loved was the villain (Hans) was not the normal obvious badie. At first we have a hard time not liking Hans. Sure he’s a bit cheesy (someone else tell me he reminded you of Donny Osmond … just me? Um, I never said that then) but he’s perfectly supportive of Anna until we see his true colors very late in the game. While we end up disliking him greatly, Hans is a great villain because he has motivation and layers that many of the other Disney villains lack. Which got me to thinking. What makes a really great villain?

When my debut Home for Good released one of the things I wasn't expecting to hear feedback on was the bad guy. But again and again, readers wrote to me and said they loved that they couldn't figure out who the villain was until the reveal. Crafting villains doesn't have to be difficult. I always keep these five rules nearby when I'm writing:

1) Do not make them cartoonish.

Twisting their mustache and cackling whenever things go according to plan is not allowed (embroider that on a pillow if needs be). Evil for the sake of being evil is incredibly difficult to write without the character becoming a cardboard cutout. It’s far more chilling to make an vile character that has actions and behaves in a way a typical person would react given the right set of circumstances and a hard enough push. Think about it, what’s more scary: some pure evil abstract character who is trying his hand at world domination for no reason in particular or the-neighbor-you-have-bbq's-with-who-really-is-a-murder-type who just walked past you in the grocery store?

2) Play on real/current fears.

Why did the Joker in The Dark Knight chill us to the bone? Because even though Gotham is a fake city it feels like we’re watching a post-9/11 world much like our own. It terrifies us because it could become possible. Look at global news stories and take them a step further (hijacked planes, biochemical warfare, engineered food, the list goes on).

3) Make your villain intelligent and challenging.

A stupid and easily overcome villain just means that your hero was equally stupid. It’s just says your hero can’t handle anything harder. Craft a villain that makes the reader think there is no hope for the hero. When a hero is forced to go above and beyond to overcome a villain it makes your hero more credible in the end and his journey worthwhile. Along the same lines, give your villain interesting and meaningful things to say. Make them both compelling and convincing. One of the greatest things you can do as an author is to have the reader believe that the villain has a valid point in his motivation.

4) Give them qualities that are sympathetic.

The best villains are the ones we as readers—despite everything—feel a connection with. Remember, no person is all good or all evil. Just as much as your hero should have flaws, your villain should have some admirable qualities. Does your villain, like President Snow from the Hunger Games, enjoy cultivating roses? Or does he provide care for his sickly sister? Rescues abandoned pug puppies? Possibly he’s like Darth Vader and the love of his children holds him back in the end. Give the villain some secret like this that the hero can discover—then you can explore if your hero is the type of person to use the villain’s vulnerability as leverage or not.

5) The villain should have sufficient motivation.

The villain wants something, or needs something to occur, and they have a belief that what they are doing is necessary in order to accomplish their goal. I once heard the saying, “Everyone is a hero of their own story” and that thought has stuck with me. See, no one views themselves as the villain. Repeat that.

No one—not even your villain—thinks they're the badie. Your villain thinks he’s the good guy!

Remember that as you write. In his head he has formed justification for why he does what he does. His reasons may be completely delusional but to him they’re very real. And these motivations must come across on the pages. As a reader I must be able to process that maybe I would have chosen a different path than your villain has, but I understand why the character is the way he is and feels the need to take the actions he does.

If you master these five, then you’ll have one excellent and compelling villain. After that, you can play around adding deeper layers. Think Darth Vader (in the original trilogy) his character arc serves as a lesson for what will happen to Luke if he doesn’t get his act together. Or, the musical and book Wicked serves as an excellent example of seeing your villain in a different light. One of my favorite examples of this is the show Once Upon A Time where the viewers have been able to see fairy tale villains in a new light and root for many of them to get happy endings (FYI: I’m 100% Team Captain Hook). Constantly ask yourself while writing: if given different circumstances to view them through, would my villain still be a villain?

Who is your favorite (or the best) villain in a movie or a book? What makes them stick with you? What have you found most annoying about villains in books? Did I miss an ingredient to a good villain? What would you add to the list?


I'm currently working on book two of my TimeShifters series (which includes massive amounts of time spent with the villain to end all villains) but want to give away a copy of the first book, Saving Yesterday to someone who leaves a comment today. Here's the back cover:

Her blood holds secrets she never knew existed.

Despite the fact that she acts as a parent to her alcoholic father, Gabby Creed feels pretty normal. But her life is turned upside-down on her seventeenth birthday when a bracelet appears on her wrist and sucks her back through time.

Turns out she’s not even a little bit normal. She’s a Shifter—a protector of humans and of history itself. And she’s not alone. The other Shifters believe Gabby is special, even more special than the mysterious Michael Pace. Oh, and the Shades—seriously creepy creatures who feed off of human despair—are determined to capture her.

It’s all a lot to absorb. So Gabby’s grateful to have Michael as her Trainer—or she would be if she could get her rebellious heart under control. Then again, if the rumors about her blood are true, saving yesterday will be the least of her worries.


Jessica Keller holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Romance and has 100+ magazine and newspaper articles to her name. Her latest release is a Young Adult Fantasy - Saving Yesterday. You can find her at, on Twitter @AuthorKeller, on Tumblr, or on her Facebook Author Page. Jessica is also a contributor to writing focused blog: The Write Conversation. She lives in the Chicagoland suburbs with her amazing husband, beautiful daughter, and two annoyingly outgoing cats that happen to be named after superheroes.


  1. Welcome Jessica! Thank you so much for sharing this, because my villains certainly need some work, LOL. When I read your comment about "no twisting the moustache" I felt a little guilty, because the villain in my current historical WIP does that a couple times. Yikes! I need to change that.
    This really is a helpful post, and one I will add to my Keeper Files. Thank you again.
    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

    p.s. I was happy to read you have 2 cats. ;)

  2. Jessica - wonderful post. I love writing villains. That said, I never thought about looking at one as a hero in his own mind. You've given me a great idea for a book I'm just beginning to plot.

    One of my favorite villains would have to be Richard Crenna in until Wait Until Dark. He is bad, but redeemable. I can see him as a hero. I also like Alan Arkin in the same movie because he is so decidedly wicked!

  3. Patti Jo - we are staying up too late!

  4. Welcome back to you, Jessica. Last visit you were like a brand new, one week old mom. How are you juggling all your roles?

  5. BTW, best post on bad guys ever. I never thought about this..."No one—not even your villain—thinks they're the badie. Your villain thinks he’s the good guy!" But you are sooo right.

  6. Hi Jessica!!

    LOVE YOUR BOOK. Super good. Lots of fun. And you make it all looks easy.

    Such a great post but I have one nitpick. I think stupid villains (villainesses) are scarier. Maybe because willfully ignorant people scare the patootie out of me. There's no reasoning with them.
    But when you have a brilliant villain, I always think, "can't we just talk this through? let's just reason with the world-dominating dude!"

    But if the villain is lacking some smarts, I get chills. Smart villains you could think around, like a big chess match. Dumb villains? Well, no telling what stupid thing they'll do to bring down your hero!

    I don't write dumb villains, but I've read a few and they are freaky scary!

    1. Ha, ha! I agree, much harder to get inside a dumb villain's head. Nevertheless, ultimate scary villain would have to be smart and diabolically manipulative, IMO. Oh, and ruthless.

  7. I'm struck by the villain not thinking he/she is bad too. Good point to ponder.

    As to villains I love to hate? Hmmmmm....will we count Snape has one? (Harry Potter) Voldemart is too creepy so I can't say he's a favourite. Or how about Regina on Once Upon a Time. The writers have done a great job of fleshing out her background so we get her motives. Definitely a villain who doesn't think of herself as one.

  8. I haven't seen frozen but have seen star wars. When you mentionted villians I was thinking one that I began to actually like even though he was bad was Steffano DMaria from Days of our Lives.
    I also love Once upon a time. I too like captain Hook and have to say like Regina this season.

  9. Tons of quotes to lift out of here. Ditto what Tina said.

    We watched Frozen for the first time this past weekend. And of course our grandboy had to tell us about Hans as soon as he appeared on the screen. We kept saying, "No, he can't be." Opps.

    Peace, Julie

  10. CatMom - Sorry to make you feel guilty at 12:13 in the morning! ;) Twisting moustaches don't HAVE to be cheesy if the action is done for a purpose (other than just its the James Bond villain thing to do). A good example is Goob from Meet the Robinsons (yes...a random Disney movie). Good comes off as the typical stupid/bumbling badie who wears all black, falls for anything, and twirls him mustache constantly! Then we get to know his motivation--young Robinson cost Goob his chance at getting adopted. Because of that Goob grew up unloved, alone, and has never known family. His entire thrust for his actions is that he wants to change the past so he can be adopted and grow up loved. And THAT'S when the villain pops. Goob becomes real because I believe that he'd do anything to achieve that end and he really feels his actions are justified. I buy it...twirling moustache and all. :)

  11. Welcome Terri! I love writing villains too. I'm in the midst of writing the second book in my TimeShifters series and the villain in there is evil incarnate (like, he's the devil character in my fantasy story). But I secretly love writing his scenes.

  12. Tina - thanks for having me back. Love it here ;)

    One week old mom seems like a long time ago. Right now as I type at 5 something AM I have a 16 month year old climbing up my side and sprinkling cheddar bunny dust al over my keyboard. She can talk in sentences. What happened to my little baby?

    Juggling my roles happens better some days then others. I work full-time and my husband has a second shift job (meaning I'm on my own with a toddler in the evening). So I do the mom thing until bedtime and then allow myself 30 minutes to take care of anything house wise (or shower) before I sit down to work on my writing which can go late into the night (with a break for dinner when my husband gets home).

    It doesn't always go as smoothly as that. My daughter has been having sleep issues lately so on nights when I'm getting 3-4 hours of divided sleep (max) writing just doesn't happen the next day. But my husband is very supportive and I run away to the library for chunks of time on the weekends. And write like mad the last two weeks of a deadline :)

  13. Virginia - Oh. I hear you on stupid villains when their stupidity makes them not consider the consequences of mass actions (like killing hundreds). Stupid villains are fine as long as they have motivation. My main point in this post is to encourage writers to go beyond the cardboard "badie" that I see in many storis. A stupid villain still has a reason for doing what he does and that needs to come out at some point. It doesn't mean we the readers have to agree with the villain or sympathize at all (there are plenty of good badies that I don't sympathize with at all), but we must get why they're acting the way they are. Hope that makes sense.

  14. Kav - yes, Regina was a good villain! I don't know if she's a villain any longer (we'll see next season how she responds to Emma's change in the time line). Rumple is a great villain too. He's evil (even now as he lied to Belle *blood boils*) but even still, I 'get' why he's choosing to act the way he is...even though I don't agree with his choices.

    Is Snape a villain? Hmmm. I don't think I can comment without ruining the HP stories for others. Snape is one of my all time favorite characters in literature. :)

  15. Morning Jenny - Steffano is a good one! He was a mobster and somehow I still wanted him to have a happy ending. Soap Operas are actually excellent at crafting believable villains.

  16. Great post!!! Creepy villains are so fun to read. :-) Love the cover of your new book!

  17. Julie we've seen Frozen at least 20 times and my husband still walks around and will randomly say, "But I LIKED Hans better than Kristoff." He chooses to picture Hans as the overly nice guy from the start of the movie ;)

  18. Jessica, what a great post. I grew up on Batman and have seen all the movies. Star Wars, I loved those movies, and because I have sons, I've played the bad guy often so the boys could be the good guys.

    Julia Roberts' husband in Sleeping With The Enemy totally creeped me out! Yikes!

    You gave me some great things to consider as I create future villains and edit my current WIP.

    Thanks Jessica!

  19. Hi Jessica! Thank you for a wonderful post! I love sympathetic villians. They're my favorite.

    Hope everyone has a wonderful Thursday!

  20. My favorite villian is Marstin (sp???) in Quigley Down Under played by Alan Rickman. I think he has too much fun playing the bad guys.

    Great post Jessica.

  21. Thanks for these great tips Jessica. It's a great reminder that the villains require the same kind of attention and development as the protagonists, if they are to be effective. I've developed them so much that I've toyed with writing novellas for them to explain their outlook. Fun stuff!
    My favorite movie villain is Loki. No wonder they keep bringing him back. He's just a delight in such a villainous way!

  22. Good points, Jessica! I love a good villain, and as you mentioned, the cartoon villain kind of turns me off. I remember reading one of Brandilyn Collin's books where she made the killer so human that I seriously almost wanted to take his side at one

  23. Awesome post! Printing out and keeping this nearby as I work on my current WIP. Giving my villian his proper motivation to make him 3D. Love the list! So helpful.

    I'm with Connie Queen: Alan Rickman's character in Quigley Down Under was awesome. Actually, any villian played by Alan Rickman is awesome. He's great at playing villians. Would be pretty cool to see him as a hero in a film just for juxtaposition.

    Your back blurb catches my interest. Will have to put Saving Yesterday on my wish List just in case my name doesn't get drawn for the copy you are so generously offering today.

    Great keeper post! THANKS for sharing with Seekerville.

  24. Jessica, thanks for the much needed information for my 'villain' file. You gave some great tips!

    Printing it out.:-)

    I don't enjoy creating and writing about bad people. It helps to remember, nobody is all bad...are they?

  25. "Your villain thinks he's the good guy!"

    What an insight! Thank you! You've made me realize some of the best 'villains' I've read are convinced they are doing the right thing. Wow. I seems so obvious now :-)

    Best wishes with your writing.


  26. There is an episode of Criminal Minds where the bad guy doesn't even realize he is committing the murders. The people he kills murdered his fiancé and left him for dead. He is constantly calling her cell phone wondering why she never answers. At the end of the show you just want him to be ok and let go even though he killed probably 6-12 people.

  27. I would have to say one of my all time favorite villains is Silva from Skyfall (Bond movie). He's dangerous. He's terrifying. And he's brilliant. Every time I thought Bond had won, Silva outsmarted him. It added extra creep factor that Silva used to be an agent. I didn't sympathize with Silva at all (he made me not want to close my eyes at night!) but I did fully understand his motivation. He felt that Q had betrayed him and all his sacrifices in life had been for waste. It's believable that he'd turn bad after going through that.

  28. Alan Rickman has played a good guy before!! I always think of him first from being Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility! He gets a soft place in my heart for that (and Snape).

  29. Piper I LOVE the idea of novellas with the villain's backstory. That would be so great and on trend because there's a movement right now in fiction to re-imagine villains from their POV. Once Upon A Time does this, Wicked did it, and I'm pretty sure the new Maleficent movie will do that too (among many many others).

  30. Mary - that's just it, isn't it? Not one human is all good or all bad (save Jesus who was all good). So even the villain isn't all bad, just they're actions in the story are.

  31. Was anyone a fan of the show LOST? The writers were MASTERFUL at making 3D villains and making us understand what kept driving the badies to make the choices they did.

    Ben Linus was terrifying, and yet I understood him, sympathized for him, and wanted to see him turn good.

  32. Cheers to you for being a grab the time when you can writer!!

  33. My favorite villain is Snidely Whiplash. Because he's right, Dudley is a bit of a dud.

  34. Super post, Jessica--thank you!

    Oh my. Frozen. Those songs were hanging in the air around our house for weeks after our 9-year-old granddaughter saw the movie. Then bought the movie and watched it dozens more times!

    You're right about Hans. No one saw that coming!

    It really is important to make sure the villain is appropriately motivated. The "villain" in my novel When the Clouds Roll By just wants a normal life with the woman he loves, and it drives him to do a very bad thing.

    But he's redeemed in Whisper Goodbye, sorry for his evil ways and doing all he can to set things right.

    Kind of like Regina in Once Upon a Time. She started out a real baddie, but look at how she's come around--and all because people believed enough in her inner goodness to draw it out.

  35. Yes, definitely a LOST fan!!! I was always on pins and needles for the next episode!

  36. I know most of these villains are from movies etc. but some of the suspense novels I've read do this too, and though it makes for very intense reading, I do love them...the hero IS more heroic when he overcomes, I guess. Thanks, Jessica, and welcome to this corner of cyber space

  37. JUST A MINUTE. (looks around). THERE'S NO FOOD HERE.

    I left the bagels and cream cheese in the fridge.

    Sooo sorry. Toasting Jessica with an Asiago cheese bagel. Now, let's eat.

  38. Hi Jessica! I loved this post on villains. I loved the villain in "The Villain" movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kirk Douglas. Douglas plays Cactus Jack Slade who is trying to kidnap Charming Jones. However, Handsome Stranger, Schwarzenegger, has been hired to escort her to collect her inheritance. It's a roadrunner and coyote type western spoof, but after having seen this movie years ago, I still remember Cactus Jack Slade and his horse Whiskey. I haven't seen Frozen or Star Wars. Thanks for the great post!

  39. Dear Jessica, I read an article where one of Donny Osmond's nephews was one of the Frozen rendering artists. He did say that he fashioned one scene with Hans in the image of his uncle. (So you're not only not alone with the Donny Osmond takeaway, you're actually right on the money!)
    Thanks for the post. I loved your line about villains thinking they are the good guy. Thanks again.
    P.S. I loved Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon and as Alexander in Galaxy Quest so I always think of him in those roles before his villainous role in Die Hard.
    P.S.S. As far as villains, and for all you old movie buffs, I think Mrs. Danvers' eyes say it all. (Rebecca-the book and the movie).

  40. You know, I've never tied a heroine to the rail road track. I need to explore that. :D

    It could be fun to go in a Dudley Doo-Right and Nell direction.

    But you're right Jessica, it would have be done RIGHT.

  41. Wow, Jessica. What a great post! You give so many great tips here, that I need to apply to my antagonist. :) I think with your suggestions, I might just be able to figure her out more clearly now. :)

    Your book sounds amazing.

    And yeah, now that you mention it, Hans did look a little like Donny Osmond. :)

    Thanks for your post today!

  42. The book I just turned in ... the villain ended up being really CREEPY.

    For Shannon and Tucker's story, if you'll remember I did a series about creating characters and focused on Matt Tucker.

  43. This is an exciting day in Seekerville and I hope Jessica is okay with sharing the Killer Voice news at 12 noon EST.

    BTW, Congrats to Jill Kemerer who just sold to LOVE INSPIRED!!!

  44. Snidley btw is a cartoon character but he's a very realistic cartoon character. I believe he surpasses the rules. Only he is allowed to mustache twist.

  45. Hey Aus Jenny! Long time no see. Missed you.

  46. Random note to Tanya Agler: LOVE ALAN RICKMAN in Galaxy Quest

    Dr. Lazarus: "By Grabthar's Hammer, you shall be avenged!"

    He was a villain in Die Hard?? Must find this movie. Which one?

  47. Great post, Jessica. Glad to have you in Seekerville.

  48. Congrats to the following authors who will be moving on to Stage 4 of The Search for a Killer Voice.

    Team Elizabeth

    Dana R. Lynn

    Leigh Herren

    Lucy Sawyer

    Lynn Huggins Blackburn

    Mary Ellen Porter

    Team Emily K.

    Annie Wright Burnett

    Karen Collier

    Nancy J. Farrier

    Janelle Mowry

    Team Emily R.

    Lauryn Eason

    Lorelei Bedford

    Meghan Carver

    Michelle Karl

    Mary Curry

    Team Giselle

    Jodi Anderson

    Victoria Austin

    Sybil Bates McCormack

    JoJo Sutis

    Team Shana

    Shanda Arnett

    Deb Harkness

    Tammy Johnson

    Angela Ruth Strong

  49. LOL Tina - I was just about to say...I think I forgot to bring some food. You've got the bagels and my daughters down for a nap so I'm busting out the ice-cream :)

  50. Thanks, Jessica! GREAT thoughts on villains! I always enjoy the folk tales retold from the misunderstood villain's point of view. Now to think about improving the bad guy in my WIP........

  51. Tanya - good call on Mrs. Danvers! Talk about the creeps! Rebecca is one of my favorite books and movies and Danvers definitely has some motivation behind all her crazy evilness.

  52. should def explore tying a heroine to the railroad tracks! Hmmm...what other old villainish tricks can we do?

  53. Jill Kemerer just sold to Love Inspired!?! That's wonderful! Welcome to the family :)

    *busts out kazoos, cake, and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey*

  54. Big congratulations to those moving on in Killer Voices! VERY EXCITING!

  55. Congrats to all the KV entrants moving on!!!

    Mine did not advance, but that didn't really didn't come as a surprise as I began to see more issues. :)

  56. Rickman from Die Hard is classic. Its the first one Tina - he plays Hans Gruber.

    In related news I think we've learned today to NEVER trust a man named Hans.

  57. Congrats to all the killer voices!!

  58. But the beauty of Love Inspired is now you can work on the manuscript with less pressure and can submit through regular channels on your own time!!

  59. So true Tina about LI.

    I'm looking forward to the editor's comments and I have my own growing lists of changes I'd like to make...

    I just hope everyone who didn't make it will continue on and finish their books.

  60. Tina's so right. Let feedback make your book stronger. Most authors I talk to didn't get a sale on their first book without some major revisions.

  61. Welcome, Jessica! Such a great post. I don't really write villains in my straight romance LI's. But I have written a mother who basically served as one. :) So fun!

    BTW, I lOVE Saving Yesterday! The book sucked me right in!

    You know, as you wrote about villains, I thought of Gone Girl. Have you read it? :) :) It's really impossible to talk about it, though, without major spoilers, so maybe we shouldn't.

  62. Thanks, Jessica, for the very timely article. I definitely plan to incorporate your villain pointers into my Killer Voices entry as I tackle completion of the manuscript.

    And thank you, Tina, for posting the list of Killer Voices finalists. I am beyond surprised and humbled by this outcome. God is great and greatly to be praised!

  63. Tanya, I agree with Mrs. Danvers! That movie terrified me!

  64. Congratulations to the Killer Voices finalists who are moving on to the next round!!! So happy for you!

  65. Hi Jessica, great post.

    I love to hate villains. Most of my villains don't get a chance to be redeemed because they die, although I leave that question open sometimes.

    Just saying as a reader I don't like going into the villain's pov.

    Congratulations to all those going forward in the Killer Voice contest.

  66. oh my goodness, so exciting about Jill!!! I hadn't heard that news yet!! :)

  67. Hi Jessica and welcome to Seekerville. What a fun post. I love making up the bad guys.

    And I guess I better crawl out of the bunker and go see that movie. Although I don't mind spoilers. I always read the ending of a book so hearing the ending of the movie won't bother me. At this age, I don't remember anyway. ha ha

    Have fun today.

  68. Thanks for the bagels Tina.

    Bought time you got them out of the refig. smile

  69. Wow, I've been out of the loop a while. Internet is acting up, and the phone won't hold charge. :-( I can't believe I missed Emily's post.

    Jessica, loved this post on bad guys. I have trouble writing villians because they always seem to have the same core character. Would love to figure out a way to shake up the typical bad guy mold...

    Congrats to those who advanced in the Killer Voices! Yay!

  70. Thanks Missy! I saw on Goodreads that you have Saving Yesterday marked as "currently reading" and was so excited to see that! Glad you liked it.

  71. Yes! Congrats Sybil. Happy to hear that the post came at a good time :)

  72. I'm with you Elaine. Going into the villains POV isn't my favorite either and I usually prefer not to. I've read a few stories where its done very well and really adds to suspense (Kristen Heitzmann comes to mind) because you don't know who the villain is but you're hearing their thoughts. But by and far, I prefer to stay away from the villain's thoughts ;)

  73. Crystal - great point on breaking out of the typical bad guy mode. That's exactly my desire with this post. We can enough of the "all bad" guys wearing black cowboy hats robbing trains. As authors we need to take the time to get to know and ask questions to our villain as we're writing the story. If he does something--pull him aside and ask WHY--you'll be surprised the layers that come out when you do.

  74. Jess, so nice to have you here!!!!

    And Jill K, congrats to you on your sale... OH, SWEET!!!!!!

    My Killer Voices buds (and you know who you are, my beloveds!!!!!)

    Stinkin' laughin' with joy for you!!!!! Oh my stars, I'm so proud of you, the work, the late nights and early mornin' jams at 1K1HR, the e-mails, the classes, the fun.... SO PROUD. BEAMING!!!!

    And for those who didn't make the cut this time, who came close, that was my "MIDDLE NAME" for a long, long, embarrassingly long time, LOL!

    Hang in there.

    Remember Nora's quote: Success doesn't necessarily go to the one with the most talent, but to the ones who don't quit.

    That's an ultimate truism. Talent and tenacity go hand in hand in this biz.

    MIMOSA TIME!~!!!!

    And I'm jonesin' for one of those Asiago cheese bagels WITH white albacore tuna salad and lettce.

    Please. :)

  75. Congrats to those of you moving on to Round 4 in KV!

  76. I loved Alan Rickman in Die Hard, Quigley Down Under and all the Harry Potters - and lets not forget Robin Hood! But if you want to see a really creepy, chilling Alan Rickman try Closet Land. Or, if you like a slightly weird version of Ghost, try Truly, Madly, Deeply. He's great in it and so funny. Loved today's post and congrats to everyone moving forward!

  77. Jessica! Your pot come at a perfect time! I'm reviing t thhe lat two chapter of my manucript and the villain feels ridiculous. I'm debating changing his personality completely, while keeping his motives the same. He just needs to be more "real."

    I recently read Irene Hannon's "Vanished." The book features one of the best villains I've ever read. You feel compassion for hhim the whole time. His life's goal is to help the hurting and ease pain. You can't fault a villain for that. His methods, however, illicit chillbumps.

    I love what you said about everyone being the hero of their own story. The villain never sees himself as a villain. I'm following a character inspiration board on called "As If We Were Villains." I'm just waiting on the owner of that board announces her book, I know it will be insanely good.

    Anyone else eager to see the new "Maleficent" movie? That should prove an excellent study in villain creation.

    Jessica, you mentioned Hans reminding you of Donnie Osmond. I read in an article that his nephew actually works for Disney and requested that character as his personal design project. The moment under the waterfall, he put in a signature "Donnie" facial expression and hand gesture. ...Guess I'm a Frozen nerd. :)

  78. ARG. My "s" key is giving up the ghot.


    I tried cleaning it, but y'all can see the results. lol

  79. Jess,
    Bad guys are supposed to wear black Stetsons??? I put my HEROES in those! Villians have to make do with a floppy old farmer boy hat. The kind with a cracked leather stampede string.

    There's just something about a black cowboy hat that will draw my attention every time... Okay, actually ANY cowboy hat, whether it be straw or other, will pull my attention. ;-)

  80. Your book sounds amazing. Just added it to my wishlists. I also enjoy getting to know and root for the different villians in Once Upon A Time. My favorite Star Wars movie is episode 3 as I enjoyed seeing what made Vader Vader. Please enter me. Thanks.

    sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

  81. Crystal, I put my heroes in black Stetson's too. LOL>

  82. Jessica, love your take on villains! So true. They think of themselves in a positive light. Like narcissists, everyone else is wrong, and they're always right. I'm reading Chelsea Cain's books now. She's got a female villain that is really, really wicked. Not sure I want to get up close and personal, but she's doing a lot of damage to a lot of good people.

  83. Congrats to Jill K on her sale!!! Woot! Woot!!!! Woot!!!!!

    Congrats to all the Killer Voices folks who are moving to the next level!!!! We're cheering you on!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!

    Congrats to all those who weren't on the list! You're so close. Keep working, keep submitting, keep believing.

    Dreams do come true...especially with hard work and determination and prayer!

  84. Good luck with adding things to make your villain more real Natalie. Half the battle is recognizing when the villain is going down that 'cliche' or 'cardboard' path and talking him back down the right one :)

    I hadn't read that about Osmonds' nephew but that makes sense now! LOL. I was a Donny fangirl when I was young and the first time my husband and I were watching Frozen I pointed at Hans when he was singing as was like "That's SO Donny!"

  85. Tina, I know you've lived in Oklahoma, which is only like six miles from me, so apparently us southern gals have a thing for men in black Stetsons. My fifteen and a half year old daughter is the same.

  86. Crystal - I do love me a cowboy in a straw hat!

    I was pointing back to the old black and white western movies ;)

  87. Narcissists is a great way to think of the villains! Often, they're deluded into thinking they're right or the end justifies the means.

  88. Crystal, where do you live? Denison? Pottsboro?

    I'm live between Gunter and Howe.

  89. Connie, I'm in Denison! You got it on the nose. Wow, we're pretty close to each other.

  90. Jess, I guess the old black and whites would have made the hats dark. :-)

  91. Somebody above mentioned Alan Rickman as a villain. I like him as villain in Die Hard. That is an amazing portrayal.

  92. WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, JESSICA, and WOW ... you are the brave one, taking on villains!!

    This is an EXCELLENT post, and really one that is greatly needed because WAY too many authors have cardboard villains we don't relate to, so YAY for this post!!

    My favorite villain is actually the heroine of the book, and yes, you may have guessed it -- Scarlett O'Hara!!

    For all her selfishness, vanity, and petulance, Scarlett won my heart because her motivation for most of her bad personality traits were actually good things -- her love for Tara, her strength, her inability to be fake. Margaret Mitchell did a masterful job of creating an unlikable heroine with villainous tendencies who won my heart and the hearts -- or at least the interest -- of millions of readers.

    Villains are so underrated, I think, and I applaud your efforts to deepen them and give them their day in the sun. :)


  93. I love a complex and well-motivated villain.

    One of my favorites from my own work was from Petticoat Ranch, the side kick of the main villain.

    Harley Shafter. Tough dangerous man.

    His boss keeps asking for worse and worse crimes. First they're vigilantes. Then they start stealing from criminals but they face them down and if shooting is needed it's face to face.
    Then they start shooting from cover.
    Then they start stealing from honest men. Then they attack a woman and use poison.

    Harley has been liking it all less and less. He sees himself as a strong, ruthless man and has no trouble with that. But as he's led down a road that he sees as more and more dishonorable (in his criminal mind) he balks and in the end he SAVES THE DAY. (at least a little, mostly Sophie McClellen saves herself)

  94. Jessica, I've got some pointers on how to effectively write a villan. It's true that many times they see themselves as the goodie and believes the end justifies the means. I especially enjoy books where in a sequel to the story the most wicked villan become the hero. I'm thinking of Elizabeth Camden's novels and in particular Against the Tide. Congrats to those moving to Stage 4 of KV and to Jill Kemerer on her contract.

  95. Jessica, I've got some pointers on how to effectively write a villan. It's true that many times they see themselves as the goodie and believes the end justifies the means. I especially enjoy books where in a sequel to the story the most wicked villan become the hero. I'm thinking of Elizabeth Camden's novels and in particular Against the Tide. Congrats to those moving to Stage 4 of KV and to Jill Kemerer on her contract.

  96. Duh, that should be "villain." Again, sorry for the double posting. Don't know what's happening there.

  97. Thanks for your take on writing a great villain!! I needed to hear that (mine needs some work).

    My favorite villain is Maleficent and I can't wait to find out what her 'real story' is when the movie comes out!


  98. CONGRATULATIONS to all those moving on in the KV!!! I love knowing some of the names on those lists. :) Looking forward to seeing how it all ends up. :)

  99. Nice to see you here, Jessica. Thanks for this post. Congrats on the books and I hope your car has recovered!

  100. Thank you Jessica for this wonderful post. It occurred to me I haven't written a villain into my stories yet. Hmmmm. I'll have to change that. And congrats to all of those who are moving on to the next round of Killer Voices. Well done!

    p.s. Congrats to Jill Kemerer! I know it's been a long time in coming and you so deserve it!

  101. Jessica, I can't wait to get back to work on my villain now! You have given a lot of tools to layer with!

    My favorite all time baddy is Benjamin Linus from LOST! My least favorite is Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. He was a whole different level of evil. Yikes!

    I think Saving Yesterday is a great title. I can't wait to read it!

  102. Congratulations KV people!

    And Jill!

  103. Congratulations to Jill and all the Killer Voice finalists! How exciting!

    Nancy C

  104. Hello, Jessica! Great post. My current villain is the murderer in my cozy mystery. I came up with the villain's entire backstory as I plotted the novel, because I figured there had to be a reason this person was a murderer!

    As for villains that really get to me... one that sticks with me is from a mystery by Agatha Christie called "Crooked House." The villain ends up being an 8-year-old child who killed her grandfather because he wouldn't let her have her way. Talk about scary! The kid had no remorse, which terrified me, and I never saw it coming.

  105. Congratulations to all the killer voice finalists.

    Thank you for this post. It is helpful.

  106. My favorite villains are
    Alan Rickman in Robin Hood
    Hannibal in Silence of the Lambs
    Perkins in Psycho

    Cool Hand Luke's baddie "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

  107. have to say Richard Armitage who played Guy of Gisbourne in the tv series Robin Hood was a villain I felt for. As we got to know him while I was glad Robin won he was very much a pawn. Really didn't like the Sherriff.

  108. And he's just Richard Armitage and I could NEVER dislike those eyes and that voice ;)

  109. Stephanie that Agatha Christie one sounds downright chilling!

  110. Donna I'm with you--Ben Linus wins my vote for greatest villain ever. Seriously. So much depth. I hated him in one second and wanted Jack to punch him and then rooted for him the next episode. I need to go back and re-watch LOST. So much stuff to learn about story writing from that show.

  111. Lyndeee we're still having major car issues here :( when it rains it pours. Or that's how it feels lately

  112. Thanks for the warm welcome Julie! That's a great point that in some stories the villain isn't always a "bad guy" but the main character who has issues. A la Scarlett

  113. Hi Jessica,
    I saw the title of this post and it immediately caught my attention...because I agree that a good villain is so important! I haven't written enough to fully create a villain, but in my first attempt, I made my villain a bad guy in the beginning who didn't remember being a bad guy because he stopped his drunken rages, sobered up and wanted to change his life. Until his victim figured out who he was. But one of the best villains I've read recently was in Jessica Dotta's first book, Born of Persuasion. Momma Mia, what a great villain! The awesome thing (slight spoiler) was that you didn't know if he was a villain or a good guy...he was super smooth and appealing. You wanted him to be the good guy but he was so dark and secretive....and quite appealing! I was locked into that book because of him! :) I have also thought Mary Connealy's bad guys were great...because they were really bad. And her good guys and gals were a great contrast.
    I really enjoyed your article and wish you much success!
    God bless,

  114. Wow, take off for the day job and you folks are partying hardy without me.

    Look at that. The food is gone.

    Bringing in brownies for the after work crowd.

    Thanks for being such a great hostess, Jessica.

  115. Brownies? Don't mind if I do....

  116. Thank you for the interesting post on villains.

  117. Richard Armitage. North and South. I am so in love with his slow, smile.

  118. Great post, thanks, Jessica. Villains are so much fun to write.

    Congratulations to those who moved up in the contest.

  119. I can't believe it's 11:30 and I'm only just getting to check in here. Thanks for such a great blog, Jessica. I really liked the Live Tweeting one you did too - especially since I love following your OUAT tweets. #CaptainSwann forever.

    Thanks everyone for all the congrats. Still pinching myself.

  120. Great post, Jessica. I would say one of the best villains I've watched was Hannibal Lecter. He was ruthless, but he had some traces of redeeming qualities. I'm off to bed, been up way too late today. Goodnight!

  121. I love clever villains. They do make the good guys step up their game.

  122. Thank you for the five points.

  123. Wow! What an excellent post. All villians need to be redeemable even if in the end they stay evil. I'm with you regardng the villians on Once Upon A Time. Seeing the tragedy or fears of the villian's past turning his heart to evil draws sympathy from the viewer. Seeing the good that was buried blossom forth or in some cases struggle forth usually because of love endears the viewer. Those are the kinds of villians that make a good story a great one. Thanks for the great insights. Cindy Huff

  124. Thanks for sharing, Jessica. Great tips!