Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Face Of Evil

Recently in a Facebook author group I belong to someone asked a question about what kind of flaw they should add to their hero. The conversation evolved into one about villains as well. I love writing villains. They are quite often the most complex and possibly broken characters. Heroes can also be interesting in their own way, but villains have less restrictions. They are truly free to do what they want. Dip a french fry in the milkshake? Sure! Torture the My Little Pony doll? Why not! Train a horde of ninja monkeys to take over the world? That's my specialty!

So this week I wanted to go through some of the steps I use toward creating a villain. I use many of the same steps as when I create a hero. The back story may even be similar, but with a villain it is imperative to twist things. Every point in their back story can be balanced on a knife point. Tip it one way and the character can use it for good. Tip it the other and you have them summoning a demon dust bunny with a toothpick sword.

No One Sees Themself As The Villain

This is one of the most important things to think about when creating a villain. They might be able to see how others might think they are a villain, but the character will not think so themselves. It forces me to think of a reasoning behind why the character is so evil. Why would they do these things? It's not just for the lulz, except for when it IS.

When creating the hero this is much more obvious because the villain is doing all these evil things and people are suffering. Of course the hero wants to stop the bad guy/girl/gorilla. For the villain it becomes much more complicated. The hero in many cases is only as good as their foe. This is why one of my favorite comic heroes is the Silver Surfer. The character is OK, but one of his main villains is Thanos. Thanos is my favorite comic villain of all time. He is intelligent and powerful. He is capable of accomplishing nearly anything except for the one thing he wants. He subconsciously sabotages his own efforts because deep down he knows that down the line his current actions will not lead him to where he wants to go. To me Thanos loves to play the game more than he enjoys the prize at the end. That's why he sabotages himself, so he can play the game all over again.

Take a look at the villain in any of your favorite works of fiction and ask yourself "Why?" The simple answers are money, revenge, or power, things any reader can understand. The more complex the reason, the more interesting a villain becomes. It's difficult to create a reason that doesn't boil down to one word, but you can start there then expand it to give your villain extra flair. The one thing that angers me more than anything in any fictional story is a villain that has no motivation to be bad. They are evil just because they are evil. There is no reason behind it and the villain can't even justify it themselves. It's not realistic at all. Those type of stories lose me pretty quickly and make me want to throw the book at the author's face.

History

Now that you know the why it's time to think about the why behind the why. I think I just broke my brain. What I mean is the history behind why the villain acts the way they do. What in their back story causes them to react that way? A horde of alien insects is invading earth to take all of our resources and exterminate any life on this planet. This may be how it has always been for them. They don't feel any empathy for us any more than we do for a moth that flew into our house. Going even deeper, these insects may feel the need to expand and take over planets to ensure the survival of their species. Their original home planet exploded like Krypton. Now they have super ant powers. Our only hope is Ant-Man.

This gives insight on how the villain thinks. It is hard to know where your character is going until you know where they have been. Walking a mile in their shoes will help you to understand the character and makes it that much easier to write. The best predictor of future behavior is always past behavior. History repeats itself over and over. If your villain has gotten a positive result in the past by taking a particular course of action then they are likely to repeat it. I know this entire paragraph is filled with cliches, but these are cliche because they are so effing true.

Today

One of the things I see many times that really irks me is a villain stand idly by while the hero deconstructs their plans. It's like once the villain's plan is set, they are then incapable of making adjustments. While the hero is running about in the world, the villain is doing stuff too. Maybe they are changing their plan to account for the hero, or maybe they are trying to figure out how best to cook Smurfs. They shouldn't be statues waiting for the hero to come bring them to justice. Even when they are off camera the villain is living their life as well. Time doesn't stop for any of your characters because they are not the focus of the current chapter. It might not be vital to what I am currently writing, but I like to think of these things. It helps give me ideas of how the villain and other minor characters may impact the story as it moves forward. It turns my manuscript into a living breathing beast that is quite possible of setting itself on fire, like Godzilla. In this way I wrestle with Godzilla every day.

Night Reads

I am super excited about tonight's Night Reads episode. Technically it is the 2nd episode, but this is the first one I have been promoting beforehand. I'm also helping to promote another author's work which makes it extra tasty. If you can't make the live show on Periscope, it will be up for 24 hours on Periscope and later an edited version will be up on YouTube. All the details can be found here: http://brianbasham.blogspot.com/p/night-reads.html

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