Dirty, rotten scoundrels…
Now I myself am not a Star Trek fan, but my husband told me about a quote once that I just thought was brilliant. “One man’s villain is another man’s hero.” I think you can go a step further and say that every villain believes himself (or herself) to be the hero in their own story. Villains are often minor, more of a nuisance really, but I’m a fan of the really nasty ones that get up in the hero and heroine’s business and mess things up. The bad guys that provide significant conflict for our good guys – that’s the stuff!
Now I have far more experience creating swoon-worthy heroes and wish-they-were-your-bff-heroines, but I do know some things about crafting villains. First of all and perhaps most importantly, they should be as strong as your hero (or heroine, if they case may be). This doesn’t have to mean brute strength, it could be a battle of the wits, but they must be evenly matched or else when the hero wins the reader won’t be too impressed. Consider the baddies in Home Alone, they would not have been effective had they been paired against an adult, but against a child and well, they’re still pretty ineffective, but you know what I mean.
Keep in mind that being totally bad doesn’t mean they’re completely evil. They can have normal, functioning relationships with other people, for example, it’s just when it comes down to what they want and your hero or heroine getting in their way – they just won’t allow that. Villains should have a code of ethics, as warped as it may be, there should be some lines even they won’t cross. Perhaps they’re protective over their sister, but try to kill the heroine. The same action can co-exist in the same character if you properly motivate them. Think about what happens to pedophiles when we put them in prison, they usually end up beaten to death because the rest of the men in there have a code of ethics that might not think violence is wrong, but you don’t mess with kids.
There are plenty of wonderful books out there without any villains at all and that’s perfectly okay. But if there is a bad guy, personally I want him to be really bad. Think of John Doe in the movie Seven. He’s methodical and brilliant and so creepy my critique partner actually wishes the movie had never been made. Or consider Cruella Deville, yes, she’s a villainess for a children’s movie, yet still she’s firmly on the disturbing side. What about Voldemort, any redeeming qualities there? Nope, not even a glimmer. Those are the best baddies, in my opinion.
So while some authors will take a baddie from a previous book and then redeem them as a hero in another, that hasn’t been an option for my bad guys. Nope, no reformed villain turned heroes for me. At least not yet.
Case in point, I did bring back a previous villain to star in Treasure Me, but he’s not the hero, nope he’s the bad guy again. The Raven, whom readers met in Seduce Me, returns to fight once again with the Legend Hunters. He’s so deliciously nasty, so compelling, I just couldn’t let him go. But he’s not really the redeeming sort. Readers seemed to respond well to him and he fit well into the quest in Treasure Me, I mean when you need a bad guy that is consumed with the desire for power, why create a new one when there was already a perfectly good bad guy to use? I hope readers like the return of The Raven, but certainly not more than they love falling in love with Graeme and Vanessa.
How about you? What do you look for in villains? And do you like it when authors redeem their baddies and give them their own happy endings?
Want to win 1 of 3 copies of TREASURE ME by Robyn DeHart? Answer Robyn’s question and you’ll be entered in our giveaway. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian Residents only. No PO Boxes please. Books will be coming from the publisher we are not responsible for lost or stolen books. Giveaway will run from today March 10th until March 17th. Good luck to everyone!