I’m having trouble with one of the characters I’m working with in my story. If I could ask, what’s your approach to writing villians? Do you have a method for creating a backstory for why they are a “bad” character, or does it just kind of appear to you?
Yes and yes. The answer is that it really depends on the story and the bad guy in it. Sometimes I have no idea that the bad guy is going to be a ‘bad guy’ until much later in the story.
I actually wrote a character a while back that I was actually going to use as a heroic foil. Basically, he had a very basic sense of right and wrong, and was getting mixed up in the wrong situations that were eventually going to cost him everything. However, as the story went along, more and more, he evolved and took center stage as the villain. At this point, I had to adapt my plans for him as I couldn’t just kill him off and let the hero fix what he had done. No, the character had unintentionally become the villain, because that’s the direction the story took. The original villain still maintained her place on the dark path, but she became more of a puppet master than anything else and her role was drastically reduced.
Other times, I start a story off with the villain. My primary villain in Damnation was always the key character. I had her all planned out, brilliant, but rebellious, honorable, yet vicious. She was someone you didn’t want to mess with and though she viewed the loss of life as a terrible waste, she would not hesitate to kill you if you got in the way of her target. In her case, the story revolved around her instead of her evolving to match the story as we saw in the previous example.
There is also the case of the straight villain. This person requires little to no backstory. They’ll set the forest on fire simply to watch it burn. There is no reasoning behind it, no tragedy in the past to explain his behavior, he’s simply a sociopath. We saw this quite often with Disney villains. They’re referred to as ‘one-dimensional villains’.
Anyway, these are the types of villains I’ve been known to work with. I hope this helps, but I’ll also open it up to my reader base… Let’s keep the conversation going and see if anyone else has good villain examples.
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I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
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