Monday, March 22, 2010

Putting the Villain in Her Place

I haven't posted in a while. My fingers are itching to write, but my new plot isn't quite ready to come out of my head and onto paper just yet. I'm hoping it will be soon. It could be any minute now.

In the meantime, I wanted to spew some thoughts on writing villains. My villain for this book is fully formed, even more so than the main characters. I know what she wants, why she's the way that she is, and exactly what she's up to. I confess: I sort of love her. Her name is Lydia and she's strong.

But could she be too strong?

Even before really getting started (I've written the first chapter plus some), Lydia is threatening to take over. There are two POV's for the novel and one of them is hers. One of them HAS to be hers. She's demanded to tell her story. And it's a good story, so I agree with her. Still...

Is there a danger in knowing her so well? Lydia is the book's paranormal element, she has lived since 19CE and my main story takes place in the present. That's thousands of years of history. I know her MUCH better than my 17 almost 18-year-old protagonist.

I talked out some issues with a fellow writer the other day and said, "I know I'm not ready to write it yet, because at this point all I can see is Lydia winning." Which means either my MC or love interest will have to die.

Who knows? Maybe one of them will die. I just can't say yet. But if I decide to go that route, it won't be because Lydia forced my hand. It will be because that's the way MY book ends. So stick it, two thousand year-old Greek Oracle.

What are your thoughts on villains? How much should your readers understand? Does knowing too much about them, or making them too sympathetic cause problems for the plot? I'm very curious as to your thoughts, because the novel I've finished editing has a ubiquitous group as the bad guys. They are quite scary, but not terribly complex. Lydia is complex, cunning, and freaky strong.

Help me deal with her.


  1. I think a strong villain, where you can see them potentially winning as a result, is a good thing for any novel. There are too many books I've read (and movies I've seen) where the end result is never in doubt. The villain makes dozens of missteps they have no reason to make and is in general a bumbling idiot just so the hero can triumph and win the day (and get the girl in the case of James Bond).

    Long story short (I know, too late), I feel like having a strong villain is a very, very good thing. And remember, the scariest villain is the one you agree with.

  2. My villain was half Greek god, half dead--so not only really powerful, but unkillable. It took me close to 3 years to figure out how to defeat him. One thing that helped was realizing my MC didn't have to kill him to win. Imprisoning him would be just as good--provided she could find something that would hold him. So, in the end, being "unkillable" turned into a peculiar kind of Achilles heel for him.
    Still, it took a lot of rewriting to make his downfall believable. (Assuming it is.)

  3. Well there is a lot you could do with a strong vilian. First, go ahead and write the story with her viewpoint. Second, reign her in just a bit. Or third, give her a hero that is just as strong.

    Just by reading this, I can tell Lydia is strong, however strength has its weaknesses. Arrogance, is one of the largest. Lydia feels that she cannot be beat, makes stupid decisions, and goes splat in the end. Or she toys with the hero, gives them just enough leeway to discover how to defeat her.

    It is up to you. I find a strong villian interesting. Especially if you can convince the reader that she is not all wrong. She is believable and some will love her for that. Who knows, you might just end up saving her in the end. ;)

  4. I don't know how to help you. I considering scrapping this novel and writing one about my villain instead. She's positively petrifying. Making a good character interesting is one of the hardest parts of writing a novel, in my opinion.

    I had a story idea for a twisted protag the other night that I'm dying to tell you but I can't till I write it down. That's the law. :)

  5. You all gave me some fabulous ideas. I think I know exactly how to deal with her without weakening her at all. I'm so excited to get going:

    Elisabeth - I can't WAIT to hear about the words. After they're written, of course :)

  6. You shouldn't worry; it's actually a sign of strength. If the bad guy's not a sympathetic character then he or she is 2 dimensional. If knowing more about the bad guy weakens the book, then there's something wrong with the book!