Friday, January 1, 2016

Building a Better Villain

One aspect of writing crime is coming up with the bad guy. The badder, the better. But he can’t be pure evil—he has to have…heart.

I love writing villains. They’re wicked, they’re motivated by selfish ideals, and they’re unapologetic. Nothing sweet about them. A villain is vinegar. Pure puckered-up wickedness, right?

Um, not quite. Under that dastardly exterior beats a very human heart.

“No,” you say. “How can a bad guy even have a heart?”

Well, before he was a villain, he was just a guy. A man with a past, which shaped him and made him who he is today. Some of those experiences were positive, and the antagonist needs to have some of those positive traits. Some were negative, and resulted in psychopathology—adverse outcomes and negative traits. Add in a little predisposition to be unbalanced, and voila! Evil incarnate.

I started with a few positives—artistic ability, intelligence, good with kids—added a past involving parental criticism and unhealthy obsession, and topped it off with an inciting event, to get the antag started down his road to ruin. He’s sympathetic but still not a very nice guy; he knows what he’s doing isn’t socially acceptable, but his own goals take precedence. A villain you love to hate.

There were times he seemed too plausible, like someone who could really be out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to execute his plan. Sometimes I had to take a break and get a little perspective.

Here’s a little snippet from Coldhearted Concept:

The knife he could relate to. There was something arousing about the way it slid into the skin, about the way the blood welled in the cut. The past October, Beetle had completed his trials and reached the point in his metamorphosis where he’d been ready to advance his education.

The first one had been a novelty, back before he’d known what he was doing. It took time to adjust to the feel of the knife going into a sentient being—so different from carving cold, dead skin. The utter control and domination he’d exerted over the live girl had generated a much more gratifying response.

The female’s crescendoing screams of pain and terror had aroused him unbearably, as had the naked fear in her eyes. Especially the eyes. The Technicolor contrast of pale skin, silver blade, and crimson blood… Addictive.  

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