Sunday, May 4, 2014

Villains: The Everyday Villain

We all love villains. Haven't we all waited for the moment when Anakin Skywalker turns into Darth Vader. Isn't it always the villain who adds the color to a Bond movie (I guess some of my friends would shout "no, it's the girls"). Why is Breaking Bad such a success?

It is not that we actually love villains more than heroes and at the end of the story we are usually glad when the hero wins. One aspect that attract us, is the glimpse into the abyss of the human nature and thus the fear what could be us. We also see the freedom that lies in breaking the rules. We would love to have the same freedom. Not necessarily to be a rogue or evil, but to live and act without consequences. 

A lot has been written about villains: How to create them, what they need to be convincing and ultimately what do we need to give the reader in order to have him bite on a villain. Below I've collected some of the best blog examples I came across so far:

The Every Day Villain

My villains had ranged from company boss (type of reckless, power seeking manager) to distant and cruel parents. In my current novel, I write about two brothers of which one turns against the other. He thinks his brother is wrong in a fundamental family matter. For him it is more than true, that he is the hero of his own story. 

This brings me to a kind of villain, which not obvious when you start writing - the every day villain and his specifics:

  • The every day villain is somebody who has a goal that gets in the hero's way. This might be something so simple as the father of a girl who does not want his daughter to date the hero. Or a person in a life threatening situation that has the strong another way to get out of it is better. 
  • You could be a villain, or better I'm sure you are or have been the villain in somebody else's story. Remember when you last wanted something and somebody else wanted the same thing. Add a deeper story to this somebody else, a reason why he needs it to be happy, and there is your story.
  • The everyday villain is not necessarily bad or evil, although you might want to add a little spite to spice up the story. At least he needs determination and a position that allows him to enforce his plans to make his actions credible to the reader.
  • When you create an everyday villain, you need to give more detail on why he opposes to the hero's needs and wishes in order to make him authentic. Otherwise, how to maintain the tension over the whole story arc, if we don't let the reader believe in the firmness of his intentions. 
    The moment by when we reveal these details is on us. We can give it early so the reader knows that at the end there can be only one (i.E. there will be no compromise) increasing the tension on how it will blow up. We can give it at the end and only foreshadow them in order to keep the open ending. 
  • An example? Here you go: Prof. Robert Crawford in Finding Forrester. A simple teacher, that appears to be malignant and bitter from the first moment the protagonist Jamal learns to know him. Later, his friend tells Jamal the reason why - Crawford had written a book that nobody wanted to publish. Because of this, he turned away from writing and became a literature professor. In the moment we know this background, it becomes clear that this story will not have an easy outcome. This little piece of information is necessary to boost the conflict in the story.
What villains are you currently working on?

Your writer in a foreign land

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