Archive for March, 2014

Next Meeting Dates: 4/9, 5/14, 6/11

Creative Writing Tip: How to Humanize a Villain

Your villain--more than likely--is the same inside as anybody else.

Your villain–more than likely–is the same inside as anybody else.

Yesterday, I began a series of posts about villains/antagonists by examining the strengths and weaknesses of the stereotypical “bogeyman” villain that appears so often in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. Today I want to discuss a humanized villain.

The best way to humanize a villain is simply to get away from thinking of him as “the villain.” Try not to categorize him. Try not to limit who he is because he is standing against your protagonist.

Your villain is just a character. Just a person. And when you approach him as you would any other person, you will realize that:

  • HIS MOTIVES DON’T HAVE TO BE PURE EVIL. This is perhaps the most important point in today’s post. A villain’s motivation doesn’t have be malevolent. He can be trying to right an injustice, or draw attention a societal ill, or help his family or race survive: just going about it in a way that’s not the best.
  • HE CAN BE MORE CONFUSED OR MISINFORMED/ MISGUIDED THAN EVIL. This is always an option, if you want to take it, even to just a point (rather than fully).
  • HE CAN GROW TO REGRET SOMETHING IN HIS PAST.
    Don’t we all have something we wish we’d done differently? Something we wish we had or hadn’t done at all? Why should your villain break this mold? Unless your villain is a narcissist by nature, why should he think he’s perfect?
  • HE WILL HAVE TO FACE A FEAR. And I don’t mean “he’s afraid of dying but you know he’s gonna be a goner by the end.” We all grow and develop as people by leaving our comfort zones and facing situations that unnerve us.
  • HE CAN SHOW SOME KIND OF MERCY. That mercy doesn’t have to be directed at his enemies. He can be patient with the people in his life he cares about. He can overlook the little flaws of those important to him or give someone a second chance. Your villain should be a human being who is developed as a character: that means some positive attributes as well as negative ones.
  • HE CAN QUESTION HIMSELF AT SOME POINT. Most stereotypical villains never do this, but a truly human villain just might. This doesn’t mean he’ll abandon his aims and his plan. It doesn’t mean he’ll change anything about his strategy (though he could). It just means that, like we all do, he’ll take a moment to reassess himself and what he’s doing. He’ll doubt himself.

Villains can be complex and tricky to write, but they are also TONS of fun. One thing I do, I’ve found, to humanize my villains is to insert a piece of me in each one of them. Some neutral or positive aspect of my own personality becomes part of my villains. I don’t generally do that on purpose; it just happens.

So, who are your favorite humanized villains? Do you have tips you use to craft an engaging antagonist?

If you enjoyed this post and you’re having trouble with a villain, this post oncharacter flaws versus faults might also prove helpful to you. And don’t forget you can follow my blog by email: just sign up at the top right of the page. That way you won’t miss out on the rest of the villain series.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Next Meeting March 19

 

Our next meetings are scheduled for March 19, April 9, and May 14

Here’s some advice from some well known writers….
1. The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway

 

2. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. -David Ogilvy

 

3. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker

 

4. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux

 

5. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee

 

6. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London

 

7. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

 

8. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham

 

9. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

 

10. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman

 

11. Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. – Anne Enright

 

12. If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser

 

13. Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut

 

14. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.– Ernest Hemingway

 

15. Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway

 

16. Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. – Joshua Wolf Shenk

 

17. Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain

 

18. Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ― Neil Gaiman

 

19. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde

 

20. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury

 

21. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman

 

Leave a comment

¶ilcrow & Dagger

Tidings, & Tidbits For Writers

Barbara Meyers - Author

Romancing the Funny Bone

Jaimie Engle

Cutting-Edge Storytelling

Lakeland Writers

A Chapter of the Florida Writers Association

Evergreen Lee's Blog

Thoughts from a tree

alisonnissen

Tales from the Laundry Room

The Red Pen of Doom

Conventional wisdom about writing is conventionally wrong.

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: