Hello, Katy Lee here. As a romantic-suspense writer, my stories would take a serious nosedive without a well-developed villain. Someone who stands in my protagonist’s way to finding their happiness. Someone who drips with anger and evil; who lives for the sole purpose of another person’s destruction. Someone who is a real-life monster.
It seems kind of fun to create such a dark character, doesn’t it? But, in all seriousness, wouldn’t it be considered a bit…um, like overkill?
The fact is unless you are writing a horror novel or perhaps, some fantasy, your villain needs to be human. They and their cause need to be believable. Sure, psychopaths do exist in the real world, wreaking havoc on innocent people for no apparent reason, but they don’t always make for a good nail-biting, heart-tugging, emotionally-gripping read.
These come when your reader can relate a little bit to your villain. Perhaps recognize a little bit of the villain’s darkness in themselves. Or even better, when the protagonist in the story can.
In my current manuscript, Real Virtue, there comes a point when my heroine must look her villain in the eye and come to grips with her own wrongs….because she recognizes them in him. It’s an eye-opening experience for her, and without it, he’s just a boring psychopath. And she has learned nothing.
One of my favorite villains whom I love to hate is good old Darth Vader. And it’s got nothing to do with his deep breathiness. Here is a darker-than-night individual. A person whose temptation for power overcame him, extinguishing any goodness he had in him…or did it? In the end, he saves the day. There was still some good in him after all. He was not all dark. He had depth that I think we all could relate to. And that’s what made him a good villain. Without it he was just a boring, breathy psychopath.
The Unlocked Secret: When creating your villains, visit the deepest, darkest part of yourself. The part you keep hidden and under control. The part no one sees. I read on a Tweet that author, Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) said, “If you can’t find yourself in your villains, rewrite.” It is in your own darkness that you will find a villain readers will love to hate.
Question: Where do you find your inspiration for creating your villains? Are your villains people? Or are they inner struggles your characters must wrestle with before finding their happiness, or at least some resolution?