Guest Post - How to Write the Villain by Sarina Langer

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I'm very pleased to introduce you to author Sarina Langer, who blogs over at Cookie Break. I've been following her blog for a while now and I've really enjoyed following her journey to the publication of her first novel, Rise of the Sparrows. She's obsessed with books and all things stationery (much like me), has a proud collection of over twenty notebooks, and squees every time she buys a new notebook, pen (hmmm, fountain pens <3 ) or highlighters. In her free time she reads a lot of fantasy and sci-fi novels, plays a lot of video games and researches things like human sacrifice traditions and the end of the universe. Purely for professional purposes, of course. Her cat, the Sellybean, has become a mascot to her blog and her writing, and is probably sitting on her notes/laptop/chewing her pen as you read this.

Take it away, Sarina!

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Writing the Villain

Everyone loves a good villain! They are what makes stories great, they add the suspense we love so much, and they are the reason we keep turning the pages - because we want to see how the hero copes with their evil, plotting masterminds. The story wouldn't exist without them!

But how do you write a good villain? How do you create a villain your readers will love to hate?

Just like with every other character in your novel, that is largely up to you - but there are a few things to consider that can help!

The most important thing to consider is that your villain is, at their most basic level, a human just like your hero. They have something they want, they have things and/or people they treasure, and they are afraid of some things your hero would kill to know about.

What does this mean for your writing? It means that your villain needs to be as well thought out as your hero. Your villain needs to have more going for him than that evil thing he wants to accomplish, and needs to be just as complex as all your other characters.

The conflict

This is perhaps the most important aspect to your antagonist. Without the conflict there'd be no story, so it's vital that you pay close attention to yours. Generally, the villain wants the opposite to what your hero wants. You'll have seen this point executed (if you'd pardon the terrible pun...) as control over all people, complete world domination, genocide, or something equally evil.

No matter what your villain wants to achieve, there needs to be a good reason why your hero needs to stop him - and I'd say that the end of the world is a worthwhile thing to prevent.

There's one thing that can easily be forgotten when we plot such evil people, and that's this: They believe, completely and entirely, that they are right. Chances are, if your antagonist thought that the end of the world was wrong he wouldn't be planting that huge atom bomb to wipe out the whole planet. Your villain does what he does for a reason, and because he genuinely believes that it's the right thing to do. A villain who thinks 'Oh wow, I'm so bad!' is going to sound fake and shallow at best.

This brings me to my next point-

The hopes and dreams

Why does your antagonist plan to kill all wildlife? What does he hope to accomplish by blowing up the planet? When was this fascination with death and total annihilation born, and why? Do they hope for a new chance for humanity, perhaps, by killing the current ones? Do they dream of a future with no conflict (ironically), believing peace can only be achieved through violence?

Most people have more than one dream, and your antagonist may well have something else he wants, too. Perhaps he wants to kill all wildlife - but spare the squirrels? (a new, superior master race of squirrels? Hmm...) Perhaps flooding the planet is a dream he shared with his sister, who died in a fire when she was five?

Antagonists should have motivations beyond wanting to be evil. Only the Joker can get away with that, and he's not your character so move on.

The fears

No matter how bad-ass your villain might be, he's afraid of something. Everybody is! He might be afraid of failure, of the dark, of fluffy squirrels, but he should be afraid of something.

The thing that makes them special

Now, you can really have some fun with this! Our characters will stick for much longer in our reader's mind if they have something that makes them stand out. This could be a physical trait, like dark skin and snow white hair and eyes, or he could be the only redhead in existence (the latter would definitely get my attention). Or it could be something about his personality - perhaps he's a cat person? Maybe, before he blows up a village, he makes sure that all cats are safe?

I know I said above that your villain shouldn't think of himself as the bad guy and feels justified in everything he does, and that only the Joker can get away with blowing up hospitals for the laughs, but that's not entirely true. Most villains won't think of themselves as evil, but some do and they revel in it. If you want to write a villain who creates chaos because it amuses them, then go ahead! An antagonist whose only goal is to wreak havoc is so much more unpredictable, and can be great fun to write and read. Just make sure they still have quirks, things they fear, and all that. No matter how nuts your villain is, you still want your readers to believe you.

Some writers swear by starting a new novel with the villain, and therefore the conflict, first. You don't have to do that, but you should make sure to create a memorable, complex villain who is as well thought through as your favourite character. Simply making them evil just because isn't enough.

How about you? Who is your favourite evil mastermind, and why? Get yourself a tea and some cookies, and have a chat with Shona and me!

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Check out Sarina's novel at Amazon or Goodreads. You can connect with Sarina at her blog, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook. Now I'm off to get some advice from her on how she manages to keep up with all of those!