Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Characterization: Give your Villain a chance!

As writers (and readers) we know that a key element of any story is the characters. It's great to have an interesting concept for a book or an action-packed plot, but if your characters are one-dimensional why should the reader care about what happens to them?

What do I mean by one-dimensional characters? These are characters who lack inner conflict, do not have any personal problems that they can grow from, characters who do not exhibit any sympathetic qualities (i.e. he/she cares for someone other than themself) and characters that lack that je ne sais quoi--that something that transforms them from black and white print to actual living and breathing beings in the minds of your reader.

Many of us know that key character elements such as the ones mentioned are essential when it comes to a lead character, but what about the villain, that poor, misunderstood underdog that everyone loves to hate?
My heart goes out to the villain. Most times I find them more interesting than the protagonist. It's easy to understand the good guy, but what makes the bad guy tick?

The villain may have misguided beliefs that cause trouble, but have you ever tried to look at things from your villain's point of view? Is your villain as fully fleshed out as your main character? Does you villain display any sympathetic qualities at all?

Give your villain a chance. They may be completely flawed (then again, who isn't)? Even if they're really mean, nobody is all bad. Likewise, nobody is all good, so play around with your protagonist--showing flaws gives them an edge. I don't know about you but I'm not enticed to read a book all about a goody two-shoes who everyone likes.

Well, that's my shpeel for today. How is everyone doing with the A-Z Challenge so far?


  1. Villainy, oh villainy, how do the fates bemoan
    For everyone's the hero in a story of their own
    Give me Magneto any day o'er Sauron's burning eye
    Things are always better when the villain's not a bad guy

  2. Voldemort was a pretty out-and-out evil dude... so how did Rowling get away with that? Possibly because he wasn't always front-and-center of the evil scheme. He used others to do his bidding, and when he did come more to the fore, we started to learn more of his story, discover what his yearnings were, and even though we loathe him, we understand somewhat why he's doing what he's doing. IMO, Rowling knew how to create well-rounded characters. Good article and great advice.

    1. Rowling did do a good job. Thanks for popping by!

    2. . . . come to think of it, I love what she did with Snape. He was so unsympathetic hating on Harry and yet he turned out to be good all along (and Dumbledore wasn't so perfect either ;)

  3. I am just about to write a villian...I am just now thinking how I can make him slightly more rounded.

  4. I've always rather enjoyed villains, in a rather over the top kind of way.

  5. The villain in my next planned story is actually no more a villain than any other spoiled princess in the world today...she just happens to come from a different planet. She's actually likable, to a degree, though. Oh, wait...we don't find out she's the villain until the end. Shhh...don't tell. LOL.

    My C