Villains We Love to Hate
If you want to create a villain your readers will love to hate, avoid the clichéd villain.
If the villain is a woman (in any sub-genre)
she’s the conniving other woman,
she’s the evil mother-in-law,
she’s the wicked/crazy twin sister of the heroine,
she’s the wicked/crazy sister of the hero.
If the villain is a man in a contemporary romance
he’s a serial killer,
he’s a drug dealer,
he’s a stalker,
he’s a psychotic ex-husband,
he’s a presumed-dead psychotic husband,
he’s an unscrupulous business rival of either the hero or heroine.
…in a historical romance,
he’s the heroine’s suitor who is after her money, land, family power,
he’s the wealthy lord or businessman who is after her body,
he’s a close relative of the hero, maybe a half-brother, who feels wronged by the hero or his father.
…in a paranormal/sci-fi romance,
he’s the before-mentioned evil alpha male in a werewolf pack,
he’s the ancient vampire who needs the heroine’s blood to survive,
he’s a rival vampire out to hurt the vampire hero by turning the heroine,
he’s an evil alien whose mission is to wipe out the hero and heroine and their kind from the planet, just because that’s what his kind does.
Would you like to add any that aren’t listed here?
So, you know what not do to do when you create your villain. Let’s look at how you can create a worthy villain for your hero.
Help for the Villain
- When creating characters, even minor characters, start with filling out their character sheets. Here’s an excellent article on the subject of using character sheets in fiction. http://ezinearticles.com/?Using-Character-Sheets-in-Fiction-Writing&id=573563. Look for clichés. If you see any, scratch out that detail and think of something more original.
- Follow these guidelines from Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger.
Guidelines for creating characters, including villains, in romance stories
- After you had written physical descriptions of your hero and heroine, look through magazines or online for pictures of people who look like your characters. Cut out or print the pictures and keep them where you will see them as you write your novel.
- Imagine how your characters’ voices sound. If you use the voices of actors and singers, you can play their movies or their music to hear your characters as you write.
- Create a character board or box for each character in your story, especially your hero and heroine. Include character sheets, post-it notes, index cards, everything you need to know about this character on the character’s board or in his/her box. Look for clichés. If you see any, discard that note or card. You should know your characters as well as you know yourself, your significant other, and your best friend.
- Run through some everyday situations (role-play) as well as extreme situations with your characters, taking notes on how they respond to having a flat tire on the highway or seeing a tornado that’s between them and their home or safe shelter. Analyze their reactions. Are they logical for your character? If not, rethink their reactions.
You probably won’t use these situations in your story, but by doing this role-play, you will be better able to create logical reactions in your characters to the situations that will be in your story.
NOTE: In researching this topic, I found two excellent articles on the Internet. For more on the clichéd villain, read “How Not to Create a Villain” by Anne Marble.
I also suggest you read Creating Villains People Love to Hate by Lee Masterson.
Motivation, motivation, motivation – that’s what creating a villain your reader will love to hate all boils down to.
Alicia Rasley’s article “Character Motivation” is a must-read for any writer. Rasley gives six distinctions in motiving characters and discusses each one. I list the distinctions here for you. http://www.aliciarasley.com/artmotive.htm
- Distinguish between AUTHOR motivation and CHARACTER motivation.
- Distinguish between PRO-ACTIVE and REACTIVE.
- Distinguish between EXTERNAL and INTERNAL. Here the author gives examples of both types of motivation.
- Distinguish between BACKSTORY and STORY.
- Distinguish between GOAL and MOTIVATION.
- Distinguish between MOTIVATION and ACTION.
Now, go read her article. I’ll be here when you get back. Promise.
You’re back. Great article, huh? Any character can rise above a cliché if the writer makes him or her real to the reader. Your job is to create characters that act and react like people do, not like stereotypes. If you keep that advice foremost in your mind and give your characters the motivation they need to act logically, you won’t have to worry about writing clichéd characters.
Now it’s time to critique your villain. For your villain, ask –
- What about the character’s looks avoids the clichéd image?
- What about the character’s situation avoids being clichéd?
- What are the character’s motives and are they logical for this character with this backstory?
- How did I or how can I tweak this character to make a life-like character, not a clichéd one?
PS: these are great questions to ask about your hero and heroine, too.
I hope my post has helped you recognize any clichéd villains in your stories and ways to make them villains your reader will love to hate.
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