Today’s villain workshop is going to be similar to the hero workshop I did last week. The questions are basically the same, but since this is the antagonist we’re talking about some of the leading questions will differ. Your villain is the most important character in your novel after the hero. In some cases the most important. It’s critical to put as much depth and detail into your villain as the hero. You can’t be too thorough. Also, let’s not forget that NaNoWriMo is coming up and these workshops can help you prepare. The more prepared you are the faster you’ll get that 50k done.
What is the purpose for your villain? Are they there to drive the hero to do things they would otherwise ignore? Is your villain even the main threat or someone to set up blockades for your hero to overcome in preparation for the real threat? Are they merely an avenue through which your story progresses? Why are they there? Why do they exist?
How do you want others to view your villain? Do they disguise themselves as a well-meaning citizen for a plot twist at the end? Are they hidden away in the dark recesses of the earth where no one even knows of their existence? Do they monologue from atop the local temple letting their presence be known to all and eliminating the element of surprise? Is it even obvious they’re the antagonist? Are they charismatic and popular? A world leader? An outcast? How does your hero and those in the world around them, perceive your baddie? And above all, what do you want your reader to think of them?
Where does your villain come from? Sometimes their history and origin story explain why they do the awful things they do. Or perhaps they’re sympathetic. Is their backstory tragic? Were their loved ones massacred by the king’s army and so now they seek revenge? Revenge is a very common drive behind the actions of evil doings. It’s done often, but if done well it’s alright to use the old standard. You could even consider what’s expected of your villain. For instance, in my own book DB:C my main antagonist says revenge because it’s what’s expected of him, but in reality something else entirely drives his actions. What role does society play in your villain’s motivation? Another to consider is evil for the sake of being evil. There is no rhyme or reason. They just do it for the enjoyment of suffering. Another option to consider is perspective. Your villain could be the good guy in his own eyes. She could be the point around which her people rally, but it’s a people or country your hero is on the other side of the fence from. This is what drives your villain to do what they do. It had better be good.
Is your villain disfigured and an outcast of society? Is that why they do the things they do? Do their charms and good looks allow them to get away with more than the average bear? Are they intimidating to your hero? Does their presence fill a room with fear? Are they small and underestimated giving them the advantage of surprise? Are they old? Young? Are they average and so witnesses forget them easily making them harder to catch? Do their looks affect how they perceive life or does life affect how they perceive themselves?
You could also consider having your villain’s strengths be the opposite of your hero‘s. Is your hero afraid of spiders? Make your villain a spider queen. However, don’t have your villain revolve around your hero either. When that’s the case it feels a little forced. Sometimes villains and heroes are very much alike and that makes it all the more dramatic when they face off. They have similar lives and stories and motivations and it makes it all the more tragic for the villain or hero to fall. Consider having your villain’s strengths as a direct challenge for your hero. Then again they could be completely unrelated.
I use the term weakness instead of flaw because usually the villain must be taken down. Consider how it is your hero will accomplish this. What weak spot does the villain have that the hero takes advantage of to defeat them? Of course, for a twist you can always have your villain come out on top to be later taken down by someone else. Your protagonist doesn’t always have to prevail and be the hero. Perhaps your villain has no weakness. Maybe the only way to take them down, or to stop them, is to convince them with words rather than actions.
As mentioned above, perhaps your villain is the hero of their own story. Consider what their moral alignment is. If they’re an opposing general during a time of war, do they commit war crimes? Do they leave children alone? Do they allow their soldiers to rape and pillage? Or is your villain the source of all evil? Have they no sense of betrayal or care about broken promises? First think of their motivations and fine tune their moral compass around it. If they’re motivated by the death of their own loved ones, they could either spare women and children or be more likely to kill them to have others suffer as they did. It all depends on how you want to portray their origin.
It’s unfair to assume villains have no family or friends. It really centers around how you’ve built up your villain thus far. A typical villain is usually alone with henchmen or other followers, but your villain also doesn’t have to be typical. Who’s left in your villain’s life? Are they alone against the world? Do they have supporters? Friends? An enfeebled mother the hero kidnaps as collateral? Is there anyone around the hero can use against them? Are the people who work for them or with them there out of loyalty, love, or fear?
As with our heroes, what’s your villain’s best and worst day up to the point of your story’s beginning? Do these days influence their motivation? Why are these days important to them? It doesn’t have to be something adventurous or exciting. It can be that the villain has a tumultuous life and the best day of their life was one where they could be average. A day where they went to work and came home and relaxed with their family.
Until Next Time…
Of course villains and heroes aren’t limited to the questions I’ve presented in these workshops. These questions are merely prompts to get started and to make way for the characters you create. As with our heroes you should answer the why for your villains. Your villains are the yin to your heroes yang. Why not have them as complicated and complete? For every thought, feeling, day, and reality your hero has, why can’t your villain have an opposing or similar experience?
Dragon Bloode: Covet is out in ebook everywhere ebooks are sold.