Monday, January 13, 2020

4 Tips For Creating Villains

Sacha Black 
4 Tips For Creating Villains

Everyone knows that a hero is the most important character in a novel… Or are they? It’s actually a common misconception because at the heart of all stories is change, aka the emotional arc the hero moves through. From ‘flawed person unable to defeat their obstacles’ to ‘heroic champion at the end of the book’, having overcome their issues. And driving that change is conflict, and who creates conflict…?

The villain.

That’s why the villain is JUST as important as the hero. It’s also why I spend as much time crafting my villain as I do crafting my hero. So here are four tips to creating sinister villains.

1.      Why is Everything

Humans do things for a reason, often because of past experiences and the emotional wounds we’ve gathered. For example, losing a limb or a loved one dying. These events actually shape our brain chemistry and change the way we see the world. They cement the way we make decisions meaning rational thought can plausibly leave a villain and they can do something immoral because that’s what experience has taught them.
The Lion King is a great example of this. The King, Mufasa, has a brother called Scar who grew up in his shadow, always second best. As a result, Scar becomes bitter and jealous. In his mind, he deserves the crown. Therefore, anything he does to get it is reasonable. His jealousy is the reason why there’s conflict, and that conflict over the crown drives the story.
2.      Positivity is King

It might sound odd to ask you to give your villain a positive trait, but positivity for villains leads to believability. Just like having a perfect hero is off putting (because no one is perfect in real life) having a purely evil villain is also unbelievable. In a villain’s mind, they’re the hero of their story, they don’t think they’re evil, so chances are, there’s something redeemable about them.

You could show them caring for a sibling or family member, or show them loving a pet. You could even turn their negative trait into a positive one temporarily. Showing some positivity will breed a much more complex villain who’s an awful lot more believable than one who’s 100% nasty.

3.      Make Your Villain Unbeatable

A story with a hero who gets it easy is boring. Nothing is a challenge, the obstacles fall away. That’s not going to grip your readers. What grips them is relating to your hero’s emotional journey and the trials and tribulations he faces. That means he needs to work hard for his win. He needs to defeat a huge villain shaped barrier that seems, for 85% of your novel, like it’s totally insurmountable.
How do you make the villain seem undefeatable?
Make your villain an expert at something — if your villain is an expert in amassing huge armies, your hero is going to struggle to gather a rabble of misfits big enough to defeat him. A good tip here is to link to your hero’s character arc to your main villain-barrier. For example, Thor from the Marvel universe movies is (at the start) arrogant and selfish. So his father curses Thor’s magical hammer—the only hammer that’s able to defeat the villain. Until Thor can change and prove himself worthy of the power the hammer wields, he’s royally screwed. Once he changes, he gets the hammer back and can defeat the villain.
4.      Consider a Twist
Once you’ve finished the first book in a series you could play a wild card and consider a villain redemption arc for the next book in your series.

A character arc defines the change a character goes through during your story. Typically, a villain will spend the entire plot descending into villainy, where eventually they’re defeated. But a villain on the path to redemption goes the other way, they climb their way out of villainy to redeem themselves.

A word of caution though:

It takes time. Just as a hero takes an entire novel to overcome her flaw, it will take some time for a villain to make this monumental change. Don’t let them yo-yo between good and evil — the change needs to build slowly throughout your story.

Foreshadowing is vital. Readers don’t like to be cheated. You need to drop breadcrumbs throughout your story to let your reader know subconsciously that the villain is going to change, otherwise, they’ll feel cheated. Foreshadowing is subtle and often doesn’t take a lot — the occasional soft glance from the villain, a nicely spoken sentence, an action that is ‘good’ rather than evil. Tiny clues are key here.

Like hero like villain. Don’t make it easy for your villain to change. Just like it’s hard for the hero to overcome her flaw, it should be hard for a villain to overcome his. A quick way to make it harder for the villain to redeem himself is to catch him between two of his values. For example, while this character isn’t a villain, it still illustrates the point: Ned Stark in Game of Thrones values loyalty and wisdom – his wisdom tells him if he helps his King it will inevitably lead to his death, and yet, his loyalty forces him to help the King anyway.

Don’t let your villain become a wuss. Villains are villains for a reason. Keep them authentic by retaining some of their sharper personality edges. Just because their actions are good doesn’t mean the whole of them will be.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Tweeting In The New Year With Insecure Writer's Support Group!

New date. New month. New Year. Same great group ready to motivate and inspire. It’s time for the next posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. We encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 8 posting of the IWSG are T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, Renee Scattergood, and J.H. Moncrieff!

January 8 question: What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just "know" suddenly you wanted to write?

The next #IWSGPit is only one week away. We hope you have those pitches polished and ready to go. It is a great chance to get discovered. We have had authors get picked up by publishers from our past pitches. This year it could be you. Don't miss out. Full details can be found here.


Can you believe a new year has begun already? And it is a nice 2020. That has to make one's OCD happy. Just saying. And best of all, everyone has a whole extra day to write. That means another few thousand words, right? Or is it just another day to watch cute cat videos on YouTube?

With each new year comes goals and challenges that we set for ourselves. Is there any you have set for yourself this year? Did you meet the goals you set for yourself last year? Whether you did or not, what did you learn?

And here is a great way to begin 2020.
Cover reveal for the next IWSG Anthology!

Voyagers: The Third Ghost
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane – what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Louise MacBeath Barbour, Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

Available May 5, 2020
$13.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 168 pages, Freedom Fox Press
Juvenile Fiction: Historical (JUV016000) / Action & Adventure (JUV001000) / Fantasy & Magic (JUV037000)
Print ISBN 9781939844729 eBook ISBN 9781939844736
Order through Ingram, Follett Library Resources, or publisher direct
$4.99 EBook available in all formats

Are you ready for the next #IWSGPit? Have you gotten any interest or feedback during past pitches? Any new goals or challenges that you have set for yourself in 2020? Do you see the extra day as a help? How would you answer today's question? What do you think of the cover for the next IWSG Anthology?

Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas

Every year, adults try to beat the kid-friendly-free-toy system and send their wish lists to Santa. This year has been no different. These letters were caught in Santa’s spam filter and he forwarded them to me for investigation.
Anyone recognize this group of goons? They call themselves writers. I call them at large.


Irvin Elf
North Pole Bureau of Investigations

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the IWSG team!