Friday, August 28, 2015

Get on with your BAD self!

Amy here, working under my first editing deadline for my publisher! I needed to add a few scenes with my killer and so I looked back over this post I wrote almost EXACTLY one year ago today and WHAM! Inspiration struck! Apparently sometimes I just need to go back and relearn my own advice. ;)

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Ahh, villians! Such royal pains in the keester and yet so vital to the story. Even our own.
I’m mean, one can’t easily develop muscle without resistance. So most often character is honed and forged through trials. You can hardly have conflict in the plot if there isn’t an antagonist of some kind throwing a wrench in the plan here and there. 



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And yet, villians come in all shapes and forms. Sometimes your villain is as dark and creepy as your worst nightmares. A murderer, a stalker, someone with a dangerous edge or volatile temperament. Some have warts and slime and are easy to recognize for the toads they are.





Other times it’s the devil in disguise. (Ever thought about the term Handsome Devil?---deception and second guessing are keys.) A meddling mother or a jealous best friend secretly unraveling things behind the scenes. A boss, an ex, a bully. Ever been bullied? Boy, I have! And I’ve got to say those people aren't generally inclined to leave you alone. They insinuate themselves into your story. They pick at your insecurities, they taunt, cheat, lie, manipulate, slander mercilessly. Sometimes we can see the devil in that villain without question. Other times they are right under your nose and you don’t even know it! There isn’t exactly a mold for what a villain should look like so how can you be sure your pest pulls the right strings?
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Here a three things to think about for creating an adequately BAD bad guy…

Impact… 

Your villain must (MUST) impact the plot in some way.  I’ve seen it happen… some flimsy little antagonist is lurking in the shadows with a threat or some kind, making the hero or heroine shake in their boots but ultimately, the villain doesn’t move the story one iota. They are hardly a character. Evil is relentless. Bullys bully. Make your words count. Sure, throw in a red herring here and there, use subtly, be clever and intentional, but make an impact with each character that has significance. Do it by tossing some surprise twists on the page. And be sure your put your villain there as well. Trust me, those pages will be a turnin’! It’s not enough to have your villain tucked away, bring him out to play and let the games begin.

The willies…

Whether your reader knows who the villain is or not, there should be a check (however small) in their gut when the villain waltzes onto the page to dismantle a scene. How do you respond as a reader? It’s that little curl of dread.

 Oh, that pesky ex is annoying, sure, but what if they ruin it all? That stab of fear plunges deep, what if it all falls apart with that one vindictive strike? Or, what if that girl in the alley turns her back at just the wrong moment and you know he’s waiting there…

The reader empathizes right there at that anticipated encounter. The TENSION says it all. When that antagonist walks in, you FEEL it on the fine hairs at your nape, the shiver trips over your nerve endings, dread balls up in your stomach. You become the hero or heroine right then. And all of your long buried bullys and demons resurrect in your mind. You shield yourself against the hurt that comes barreling out of nowhere. You prepare to fight for the happy ending. Just like you had to do in real life. (How awesome are stories, right?) The willies evoked in sympathy put you in your characters shoes and you walk through the battle because of what the enemy makes you feel. 

The imagination is a powerful thing. Be sure you utilize your senses on the pages so it can take you places. And so your villain can adequately give your reader the willies.

The fall…

Whether there is vindication or forgiveness, a battle to the death or turning the other cheek, the conflict has to peak and your villain should be present in most cases. The climax has to pack a punch and what better way to do that than to draw out your hero’s greatest fears or doubts. Shake them up! Step into the villian’s shoes for a moment as a writer and do a little tormenting yourself. Sadistic? Perhaps. But stories without the right tension fall flat and lay limp on the shelf. And your villain is the puppeteer pulling all the right strings.

So go on… get on with your bad self. Your story will be better for it because let’s face it… villians are real and we face them every day. Suit up and battle through your own story. The battle isn’t easily won but it’s absolutely worth it. 

Lets dish and do a bit of brainstorming: Tell me about your current villain? What makes them effective in creating conflict in your story?



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Amy Leigh Simpson is the completely exhausted stay-at-home mama to the two wild-child, tow-headed boys, one pretty little princess baby, and the incredibly blessed wife of her hunky hubby.
She writes Romantic Suspense chalked full of grace that is equally inspiring, nail-biting, and hilarious. And a little saucy! Okay fine, a lot saucy. :) She is a member of ACFW, and now uses her Sports Medicine degree to patch up daily boo-boos. Her greatest ambitions are to create stories that inspire hope, raise up her children to be mighty warriors for Christ, invent an all-dessert diet that works, and make up for years of sleep deprivation. 
 
Look for her debut novel due out this fall with WildBlue Press!



 

12 comments:

Jeanne Takenaka said...

What a great post, Amy. How did you know I'm struggling with my villain in my WIP? Unfortunately, mine needs a lot of work, and I need him to be more sneaky. If you have tips for throwing red herrings into a story, I'd love to hear them. This is my first attempt at an outright villain. :)

Krista Phillips said...

Ohhhhh, Villians!!!!!

My current villian in the WIP I'm finishing up is a CFO of a company. He's not a nice guy. I snarl at him regularly as I'm writing, and really would like to punch him.

He gets his due at the end.

It was my favorite part to write. :-)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Sneaky, huh, Jeanne? Do you write from his perspective? If you give me a short description of him and the central conflict I'd be happy to help you in making him Bad! ;) I love brainstorming the villain. So highly motivated and complex!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Lol! I imagine getting rather violent with my villains too! Somehow that's a rather enjoyable exercise...not sure I wanna know what that says about me ;)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Okay, Amy. Here goes. My villain doesn't have a POV. Long story short, he framed another employee at the nonprofit organization to take the fall for his embezzling. Only I don't want it to be obvious until the end that he's the embezzler. My heroine is seeing inconsistencies in the records that eventually point to him. She doesn't like him and she's not sure why. My hero does like and trust him.

He's in his 50's, a college graduate, and is trusted. Does this give you enough?

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Fabulous, Jeanne! Okay, I've worked a similar scenario before where I wanted to throw the reader off -in my case the killer-but have him be actively involved in the investigation. Perfect to throw in slightly more obvious red herrings that cast the actual bad guy in a more appealing light... That way you keep your reader off balance. So first, maybe make him integral in encouraging her to find the embezzler. Then perhaps have him feed her doctored files so it might seem like he's helping when in reality he's controlling the information. Maybe she's still not comfortable sround him-still gets a funny vibe- but he couldn't possibly be the culprit if he's so insistent on catching the thief. Classic misdirection. Works wonders. Second, make sure you note her discomfort with this guy but do your best to explain it away. Maybe he reminds her of someone she knew and gravely mistrusted... Then she can rationalize that though she doesn't like him, maybe she's not being fair. This way you weave a web of suspicion and innocence all on one shot. This will keep you from tipping your hand too early. :) hope that gives you some good stuff to chew on! Can't wait to read it someday!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Good stuff here, Ames! Your advice for Jeanne is fabulous, too! My villain is of the charming variety - rich, articulate, romantic, but ultimately manipulative and ruthless at getting what he wants. I love how the tension crackles between him and my heroine when he walks onto a scene. He uses her deepest desires and fears to effectively control her life so she's effectively bound to a man she despises. And yet there's a substrata of uneasy attraction too, just to add complexity. Most fun character to write!!

Mary Vee said...

Wow Amy. This is powerful!
The most important point you made, to me, was the villain can't be lurking. Get him/her out on the page and cause some t-r-o-u-b-l-e.

Yes....not I am compelled to rush to my story and see what arsenic I can spill on the page. (wink)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Holy moly, Karen! That guy sounds creeeeepy! Most excellent villainous traits too! ((Shiver)) are you dabbling with suspense, my dear? ;)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

I just think they lurk too much, Mare... They make a much bigger splash when you throw them into the mix :) go get your BAD on! Xo

Pepper said...

"Evil is relentless. Bullys bully. Make your words count."

oh yes! Such a great reminder. And you write antagonists so well...and villains.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

It's more fun that it should be, isn't it? I guess we all have a little bit of bad that needs a playgtound. Safest way is on paper :)