Loving Your Villain

I don't think I've posted a post full of writing advice in a while. Rather, lately I've used this blog as an outlet to vent my frustrations on my personal endeavors. I sometimes feel silly posting tips for you guys when I'm just as new to this craft as anybody. I'm just a normal writer too. (Er... well... maybe not so normal...) That said, villains have been on my mind as of late. So, the innermost workings of my mind have once again overflowed into a blog post.

This post is a mix of both advice and musings on my personal journey, I think. I've posted before about villains and the trouble they give me. I can make quite likable heroes, but villains? Bah, humbug. Get me out of here before the tension starts.

It's hard to make a likable villain, but this is what I've been striving to do with Corruption. My villain in Silver Tears, Tyris, was downright evil. Rotten to the core, you might say. But as for my villain in Corruption, Zane, I've been trying to make him more likable, and much more human.

As an author, it is incredibly important for you to love your villain. Yes, it may sound evil at first, but really. It's important to treat your villain just as highly as you treat your protagonist, if not more. Your villain is the core of the story, in some respects. Therefore, it helps to make him as deep and multi-layered as possible. And you have to love him.

Love isn't the first thing I think of when I think of villain. But I think it helps if you adore your villain nearly as much as your hero. Here's some tips I've been employing with regards to Zane, my latest villain, and how I've been making him lovable.

#1. Give him a face you love.

As of late, I've been picking out actors to represent my characters. For my evil Tyris, rotten-to-the-core Tyris, I picked this guy:
Star Wars, anyone?

There's nothing wrong with that face. He looks stern, austere, and pretty evil to me. But I realized that for Zane, my likable-lovable-oh-so-adorable villain, I needed to pick a better face that I would adore. Thus it was that I picked this guy to play Zane:

Yes. That is William Moseley.
*cue crickets*
Whaaat? I'm a Narnia fan. Sue me.

See? Adorable face. I love Narnia. I liked Peter. I liked his face. So it's going to be pretty darn hard for me to hate a face like that.

#2. Make him relatable.

The villains I like most are the deeply human ones, the ones that struggle with things that I do, too. I'm still working on this with Zane. The qualities I've given him thus far seemed to be more sympathy-inducing than anything, but hopefully they'll be relatable too. Zane is incredibly locked up in a prison of his own guilt and failure. He hasn't forgiven himself, and therefore he has a hard time forgiving others. His past is colored with so many mistakes that he has a hard time moving on from the past into the future.

So I don't have much more to say about this point except to just play around with it. Give him a flaw that people can relate to. Make your villain create sympathy in the reader. Make him so pitiful and misguided that people can't help but love him.

#3. Ask questions about him.

Last night, I realized how helpful it is to ask yourself questions about your writing. Obviously, because I help run Beautiful People, I already knew this, but it hit me again with full force last night. I was deeply struggling with my outline and what Zane's motive was. So I opened up my journal, took out my new purple pens (thanks, Mom!), and penned out some questions.

What is his motive?
What does he want?
What is his plan to achieve what he wants?
Why doesn't he care that he's ruining the lives of others by trying to get what he wants?


This isn't exactly a plug for Beautiful People, though BP helps. But even when it isn't time for the monthly BP post, try asking questions on your own in your private notebook. That's what I did. Believe me, it helped. After taking some time to think about it, I got deeper insight into who Zane is, what he wants, and why he's so evil. Which brings me to another point:

#4. Why is he evil?

Take some time to consider this. It's not bad if he doesn't have a reason for his evilness. Villains can be evil just for the sake of being evil. However, this can add more dimension to your villain. Zane had one defining moment in which he made a huge mistake, and it cost someone her life. Since then, he's never been able to forgive himself, or others, for what occurred in that one moment. And he's made a ton of bad choices because of it.

Most of the time, I think villains have a life-altering moment in which the course of their life is changed and they become evil. Think about that one, you might be surprised.


Okay, I think that's all I have. Villains are still a major struggle for me. (Just ask Zane.) But I'm finding how they can be intriguing to write. They can even be fun. So in that case, bring it on.

Also, Zane loves hugs. Just so you know. He'll be hanging out in the comments in case you want to walk up to him and engulf him in a big bear hug. (But don't tell him I said that.)

16 comments:

  1. Haha, I never have this problem - I love my villains. Probably a little too much, as they tend to win until the very last minute, which normally results in plot holes, massively contrived events, and a lot of squickery on my part. But I can't help it - I love the little buggers too much xD

    I reckon variety in the villains you use is also a good thing - mine range from power-crazed nuts with inferiority complexes to misguided dropouts, right through to the sadomasochistic bastard who kills people for fun ... to protect his baby sister.

    However, that said, I love this post. Good advice from you - I'm useless at giving advice on villains because, as I said, I like them too much.

    Also ... *tacklehugs Zane*
    Because he was practically asking for it ;)

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    1. Ha! I love it. Villains, I'm discovering, are just far too much fun.

      Ooh. Your villains sound fascinating! And evil -- ha! I especially like the villain who wants to protect his baby sister -- those weird twists are the ones I find extremely fascinating! Especially when a villain is incredibly evil, and yet still cares about people in a sweet yet twisted way.

      Thanks! I'm glad you liked it!

      Zane: *oof* Oh... um... hi?

      Ha, yeah, he was practically asking for it. *wink*

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  2. Fantastic post! Having some defining moment that brings your villain to the "dark side" is very important.

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Rosie! *hugs* And yes, I agree! I love picking out the defining moments, too. It's really fun to create the moment that your villain turned to his evil ways.

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  3. I really liked this post! Sorry, I'm just popping by, I hope you don't mind me leaving a comment: I'm from Go Teen Writers.
    Here's a hug for your villain ;) I LOVE that you made him like hugs. That makes him soo human. The villains that I'm dealing with now are probably my favourite villains I've ever written - but I don't love them. I have to work on that. I can envision loving one of them - an elderly woman who is my hero's mother, and really means the best for her race, though that comes at her son's expense. But one of my other ones is so far from being human. And I am so far from feeling ANYTHING towards him! Thanks for pointing out that I need to change that!
    Cheers!

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    1. Hey Micah! No, I totally don't mind! Your comment made my day.

      Zane is quite grateful for the hug. I will say that he is a bit confused & bewildered at all the random hugs from random people. XD But, believe it or not, he actually has manners, so he says thank you.

      And yes! The hugs thing actually was completely random and came up as I was writing the blog post, but I agree -- it's so human. And I love it.

      Well, having favorite villains still counts, I think! But yeah, loving your villains is harder than it sounds. O.o

      Thanks for stopping by! <3

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  4. Thank you for this post. I have problems with villains as well.

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    1. No problem! Thanks for stopping by, Charlotte Grace!

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  5. Hey Sky :) I'm Jessica from The Beauty of Ordinary Days. Thank you so much for your comment on my previous blog. :) I'm commenting to let you know about my new blog! It can be found at www.thosewonderyears19.blogspot.com.

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    1. Hey Jessica! :) Thanks for linking me to your new blog, I appreciate it, and I'm following! :D

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  6. What a great post! I personally can't STAND villains who are just two-dimensional, I'm-bad-because-I'm-a-bad-guy kind of guys. Even the most horrid villains must have a REASON why they're the way they are. Probably my favorite villain is from my contemporary novel. He was horrid, emotionally abusive to the hero, and a rotten guy. BUT he had truly loved his wife and was genuinely mourning her death. And that bit of humanity really added a lot to the character.

    Also...just an idea, but I'd love to see a villain version of Beautiful People! Just sayin'. :)

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    1. Ahaha, yes. I definitely see what you mean. The villains who are evil for the sake of being evil are definitely not as interesting. I can barely tolerate villains like that. I definitely prefer the three-dimensional villains that actually have purpose and meaning as human beings.

      Speaking of which, I love that aspect of your character's humanity! I love when villains are extremely human and still have a side of them that isn't completely evil, at least when I'm writing my own villains. When a character is completely evil, that kind of detracts from my ability to see them as a human.

      Like I said, making my villain relatable and at least somewhat lovable is my goal -- it's even more interesting & conflicting when you like a villain for who he is, and yet hate him all at the same time for his evil ways. That's what I'm shooting for with my current villain, Zane.

      Ahhh! Good idea! As you can probably see, we did use your idea of a villain BP! Thanks so much for suggesting that -- I loved it!

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  7. He he Did you notice I actually interview my Villain on the last round of Beautiful people. I admit that the guy is nasty to the core, though it can be traced back to his childhood. I've found that out at least. As to loving him... yikes, I don't know.

    I guess I can say I love him like mother lovers her murderer son, becuase she's his mother and mothers love their children no matter what - but as my grandmother pointed out once - you don't have to always like them...

    It's an interesting difference and makes sense, especially now I am a mother. :}

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    1. Ah yes! I believe I remember looking at your villain from last month's BP! He was quite evil, indeed.

      And yes, haha -- it's possible to love all your characters, but you don't always have to like them. ;)

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  8. I have a villan I sympathise with quite a lot. Infact, exactly half the book is supposed to be written by his point of view. One problem. If I love my badie too much, the audience will too, and then he's not really a villan any more. Just a small problem to work around.

    Very true post. If the villan has no backstory or character, why's he there? Great post!

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    1. Ah, good point. Thanks for pointing that out! I could see that problem happening -- especially if you not only love your villain, but start to portray him as a hero as well. While it's possible for villains to reform, you generally want them to have that perfect balance of lovability and evilness -- which is a hard balance to achieve, indeed.

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