Monday, January 18, 2010

How Do You Take Your Villains?

I'm right in the middle of writing an erotic romantic suspense now. I'm at that point in the writing process where I go back and layer in some more texture to my characters. Something I almost always find myself doing is adding lots of meat to my villains. When I have a genuine villain, they need even more motivation than a hero. Why? Doing illegal or immoral things usually carries consequences. One must have better/deeper/stronger reasons to risk those consequences. The classic villain, or bad guy is easier to write than say, the evil mother-in-law or the ex-girlfriend who wants the hero back.
The classic bad guy comes with a great big bow around his neck called external conflict. He or she should seem way too difficult for the hero or heroine to overcome. Only through the H or H's growth can they emerge victorious. And the more the deck is stacked against the good guys, the more exciting the buildup to the climax will be.
Another setup, though is the villain turned hero. Then there's my personal favorite - where the hero and heroine are each other's villain. This is the sort of conflict that first hooked me on romance and I've gone back to writing it again and again, although it requires subtler brush strokes than the classic villain.
I have two upcoming stories where this is the case - Can't Stand the Heat, coming March 1 from Red Sage features a couple competing for a position as head chef at a Savannah restaurant. And did I mention that they used to be married? Yummy conflict!
Playing with Barbie, due out March 9 from Loose Id has a heroine who must find a husband ASAP. But her desire for a bad boy player stands in her way. He is her villain. Consequently, the hero sees the heroine as a stumbling block to his way of life. She is his villain. Both stories have a bad boy as the villain/hero. And let's face it - an awful lot of women love that bad boy thing. What better position to give a bad boy than villain?
What about you? How do you like your villains?


Savannah Stuart said...

I'm like you, I love all sorts of villains, but villain turned hero is fun to read and write!

Terry Odell said...

I've been reading series mystery lately, with a good number of "anti-heroes" as protagonists. They have their own code, and do what's right. It takes some skill to make an assassin the hero of a book, but Barry Eisler does it well. And Lee Child's Jack Reacher is certainly not your typical 'hero'.

A purely "bad" villain is a cardboard character. They have to think they're the hero, even if you're making them a 'real' villain.

Hero and heroine in conflict is always a good story.

Wynter Daniels said...

Katie - I love, love, love writing the villain turned hero.
Terry - I haven't read Barry Eisler yet, but now I will - thanks. I totally agree about the cardboard villain - boring and unconvincing.

Michelle Polaris said...

I also love villain turned hero, but my favorite are villains that are morally ambivalent. I'm not sure I'm describing that correctly, but I like my bad guys with enough good inside them to keep the readers guessing. With some sort of motivation for which readers can be sympathetic, although the bad guys choices cannot ultimately be condoned. It's the opposite side of the coin from the bad boy hero that is ultimately redeemed. Instead, the villain may never be redeemed, but the complexity to them as they're defeated makes the heartwrenching tragedy of it even greater. This can act as contrast to the successful growth the h/h may experience and the pay off when they have a happily ever after but have suffered to reach it. I guess I just like suffering (grin). Okay, I better stop now.

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Wynter!
My favorite is like the villian Denzil Washington portrayed in "Training Day". For a while there you didn't know whether he was good or bad. As a cop you saw him committing these acts that were in the grey area of right and wrong--wrong but could be excused since the means justified the end. But even when you figured out he was crooked, you still kind of found yourself rooting for him.

And then I love reading psycho villians who have their own reasons for being evil and it's up to me to figure out why. I'm reading Karen Rose's "Die For Me" and he is a certified nut and it's in the pursuit of perfect art. So he kills people to achieve it. His motivation is so perverse and sick that it captivates me!

I completely agree that the villians are often harder to writer than the hero and heroine. And just as much fun to create!!

Great post!!

Wynter Daniels said...

Michelle - characters suffering is always good;-)

Naima - Loved Die for Me. Karen Rose writes such great psycho villains.

Stephanie Adkins said...

I just have to ditto what everyone else has said. Villain turned hero are my favorite ones to write and read about. :)