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Nancy J. Cohen | Villains


In attending various writing workshops, I’ve picked up the following tips for creating villains:

  • 1. Give the villain his own GMC, i.e. goal, motivation, & conflict.
  • 2. Allow him to care about something to show his humanity.
  • 3. Have a “good” villain as well as a “bad” villain, i.e. an official who obstructs the hero’s efforts.
  • 4. The stronger the villain, the more stalwart the hero must be to defeat him.
  • 5. The villain may have a twisted view of the universe. In other words, he doesn’t see himself as being evil.
Here are some handy motives for your bad guy:
  • 1. Protection of a Loved One
  • 2. Fear of Discovery
  • 3. Jealousy
  • 4. Envy
  • 5. Savior, i.e. it’s his calling to punish the sinners or save his species from annihilation
  • 6. Greed
  • 7. Power
  • 8. Revenge
Sometimes we can mix and match these negative motivators. In my current paranormal WIP, I have a female villain who justifies her actions in torturing humans because the survival of her species is at stake. However, she’s ambitious and resentful that women don’t have authoritative roles in her society. So she stoops to murder to climb to a position of power.

The worse the villain, the stronger your hero appears in defeating him. So make him as mean as you can within the limits of genre expectations. For example, brutal rapes and child abduction are not acceptable in the cozy mystery genre. These would be more appropriate for suspense. World domination is more suitable as a motive in a thriller than a whodunit. If you read widely in the genre you want to write, you’ll gain an understanding of the genre conventions. Readers expect a certain type of book when they pick up a genre novel. You don’t want them grimacing in distaste or feeling your story is too lightweight for their tastes.

Viewpoint makes a difference, too. It’s always creepier if you can go into the bad guy’s head and see the warped way he thinks. If this isn’t possible, you can show his twisted perspective from his actions. Have him leave taunting notes for the detective or take a souvenir from his victims. Or have him react in panic and make an attempt on your sleuth’s life. We don’t have to be in his mind to know he could strike again at any time.

What are some memorable villains that stick in your mind?

Here’s an excerpt from Silver Serenade, my latest sci fi romance. Silver is an assassin whose assignment is to terminate Tyrone Bluth, renowned leader of Tyrone’s Marauders. Silver, disguised as a new recruit for this terrorist organization, has been taken to his lair.

“Water,” one of the prisoners croaked. “Can we have some water? My wife is with child. She is growing weak.”

“I told you not to speak in my presence.” A murderous look on his face, Bluth clomped toward the jail. “What did I say the punishment would be?”

Inside the penned area, the captives recoiled with gasps of horror. “Not our children!” a woman among them screeched.

“Sir,” Silver said, hastening to the Marauder’s side and resisting the urge to plead. “With due respect, the children can yet benefit you in the mines. It wouldn’t be profitable to waste them over such a pathetic being.”

The fellow who’d spoken cowered in a corner. With his thin frame, he wouldn’t last long as a laborer anyway. If a choice had to be made...Silver swallowed hard.

At Tyrone’s indication, the guard lowered the force field while another brute yanked out the man and his pregnant wife.

Before the energy shield had even been reactivated, the Marauder leader slashed open the woman’s belly with his curved dagger. While her husband screamed, she crumpled to the floor in a pool of blood.

The man sank to his knees, sobbing.

“There’s your punishment. Live with it for the rest of your short days. Or not.” Tyrone kicked the guy with his steel-toed boot, cursing at him, until the prisoner lay still on the ground. Speechless, Silver watched in mute horror.

“Clean up the mess,” Bluth told his guards, grasping Silver’s elbow and yanking her away.

To Purchase Silver Serenade: www.thewildrosepress.com

To learn more about Nancy, please go to:

Website: nancyjcohen.com

Blog: nancyjcohen.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/#!/nancyjcohen

Twitter: www.twitter.com/nancyjcohen




9 comments posted.

Re: Nancy J. Cohen | Villains

I like a villain in a story the more you hate him the better and a good villain makes the sstory becouse you cannot hate him for he is doing what he must.
(Vickie Hightower 3:23pm October 14, 2010)

You're right, Vickie. A good villain believes his actions are justified.
(Nancy Cohen 3:29pm October 14, 2010)

Oh my!! That certainly was graphic!! After reading your blog, it sounds like you write books that anyone can get into. It's not just a story -- you get carried away, and can really put yourself into the other character's shoes. That takes a special talent, and extra commitment to write. It is also something rare to find when you read. I'm looking forward to reading your books, although I'm sure you'll forgive me if I wince in certain parts. lol
(Peggy Roberson 3:43pm October 14, 2010)

Hey thanks for showing us what a typical villain is at least in writing. I find the more despicable, the more I search for some glimmer of decency.
(Alyson Widen 6:01pm October 14, 2010)

I love a dastardly villain. If you are going to be bad than be very bad indeed. Great reading!!
(Mary Preston 7:11pm October 14, 2010)

Tyrone is a perfectly awful villain. No
redeeming traits are evident. Can a
bad guy be too bad?
One of the villains that was
memorable for me was Magua in Last
Of The Mohicans. Thinking of the
movie, he came across as a vicious,
heartless and cruel man. He did have
a reason for being bitter, but he went
a bit further than necessary. His
detachment from the feelings of
others is frightening.
(Patricia Barraclough 8:53pm October 14, 2010)

I love a good villian!
(Brenda Rupp 10:32pm October 14, 2010)

You've reminded me that it's important to show your villain having a soft side in one way, like he loves his pet or is protective of his little sister. Or he craves dark chocolate, something that humanizes him. Tyrone Bluth, though, doesn't have too many redeeming factors. He's just a bloodthirsty pirate.
(Nancy Cohen 11:20am October 15, 2010)

I should also add that the tone of Silver's story is very different from my humorous Bad Hair Day mysteries featuring hairdresser Marla Shore. Those are cozy mysteries, meaning no graphic sex or violence.
(Nancy Cohen 11:24am October 15, 2010)

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