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.
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?
Here a three things to think about for creating an adequately BAD bad guy…
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.
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.
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!