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Create a character: The Villain

Young guy, older guy? Tall, short? Walks with a limp due to old injury?

And yes, right here you can see that the process is virtually the same as in developing the hero. There is one different point: you get to decide, about halfway through the "create a character process," WHY this guy became evil, or bad, sneaky, underhand, cruel ... whatever the character trait is, which makes him the nemesis of your hero/hero

There are no rules to follow now, and it's twice as hazardous creating a really great bad guy as designing a fully believable hero. It's harder than you'd imaging, finding decent reasons for someone to be evil. This is where you'll probably work hardest, in the phase prior to writing the novel.

What turned this guy to the darkside? Was someone dear to him killed (Mad Max, Anakin Skywalker, Pardon Chato, Two-Face, Hobgoblin). Was he cheated of his birthright ... or persecuted for being what he was born (any of the mutants in X-Men could have gone that road; some did. The 'ostracized for difference' model gives you both heroes and villains who might be gay; physically deformed in Utopia; pagan in the time of the witch hunts; a foreigner in a racially prejudiced society; the alien (or android) in the crew — Spock, Seven, Data, Lore, Bishop, Ash, Hawk, Chewbacca, Nightcrawler, Mystique...). Isolated by race, type, religion and even sexuality, a character could become stronger or ... not. Here is a line from The Dark Knight which makes the point perfectly: "What doesn't kill you makes you ... stranger." (It's a "spin" on the quote from Nietsche, who said, "What does not kill you makes you stronger." However, Friedrich Nietsche died insane, so in retrospect one is actually more inclined to go along with the Joker's take on the line!)

Decide ahead of time what made your character "go bad." Backstory this, create a character who is so fully believable, your readers will identify, at least in some part, with the villain.

(It's quite difficult to decide why some viewers of The Dark Knight identify keenly with the Joker. He's an escapee from a lunatic asylum, and we're given oddly crossed signals about what drove him insane: he tells the story differently each time. We know only that one or both parents abused him as a child, and he saw and suffered things that turned his mind. Twenty years later, he's avenging himself upon the city. The movie's writers and directors are probably still scratching their heads over why viewers identify with a homicidal maniac! The brilliance of Heath Ledger's final, signature performance contributes a lot. However, this phenomenon has happened before. When Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior appeared, a section of the audience attached itself to the Mohawk biker, the villain, Wez. It often happens that the villain is written, and/or portrayed with such verve and panasche, that viewers and readers find him/her irresistible.)

Have a chuckle while you create a character to fill your villain's shoes. You don't have to make all the old mistakes committed by writers generations before you ... learn from their mistakes. And have a good laugh while you're about it! Grab a fresh cuppa (or coffee), and read this: Peter's Evil Overlord List.

Everything you need to avoid blunders committed by writers from Tolkien to Lucas and Spielberg, is on this hilarious list, which will bring the whole topic of "create a character for the villain" into focus faster and better than looking at archetypes for the next half hour!


Turn page to What's in a character's name?

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