Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Great Villain by guest blogger Julia McDermott

A Great Villain

“The best villains are the ones that aren’t 100% bad.” 
~a friend’s 23-year-old son

When I began writing my Suspense novel, UNDERWATER, I knew how bad my villain was. But I wasn’t sure how
“good” I could – or should – make him.

I didn’t want him to be a good villain; I wanted him to be a great one. I enjoyed writing his sections, the scenes told from his point of view, where I could get into his head, and stay there. In those scenes, I could “be” him – almost. I could let his emotions and motivations rule. I could advance the story while bringing the reader into his world – a very interesting world, I hoped. And not a very nice one.

From the beginning, he was a bad guy. He lied. He flew off the handle. He manipulated others, made threats and...well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

So, he was a pretty good villain. But he had to have some “good” qualities (just a few, or even, say, just one, to start with) so that he could be human. He was missing that all-important ingredient: the Redeeming Quality. He needed it so that he could be believable, and maybe even relatable. He had to evoke some emotion in the reader other than hatred: pity, maybe, or even empathy. He had to be someone who could have been a nice guy, but who, for some reason, had chosen not to be. He couldn’t be 100% bad.

The problem was, I had been focusing so much on all the things he did and said that showed how bad he was, that it was hard to come up with any kind of Redeeming Quality (RQ). My first solution was to let him behave selflessly by helping out a friend; it worked in the plot, and seemed to solve the problem. But then I recognized (after one of my advance readers pointed it out) that when he was doing that, he was really being selfish. He was doing something he enjoyed, and not doing something selfless, like helping out his wife with their young child. 

My next attempt at his RQ was better. I decided to let him have a tender memory that demonstrated his humanity. His memory was also part of the plot, so I wasn’t just throwing it in. But before, I hadn’t let him show how much that memory meant to him; until I made that clear, I hadn’t been doing him (or the reader) justice. 

But he still wasn’t great. Then, my editor suggested that I dig deeper inside of his head, to “let the reader know what it’s like to feel the way he does.” I knew what I had to do.

I had to “be” him – not almost, but totally. I had to feel the way he felt. I had to understand his motivations and the wrongs that he believed he had experienced. I had to live in his world. I had to show him feeling lost, lonely, and dark – and admitting it. He felt written off, misunderstood and unwanted. He was angry, and he believed he’d been screwed. 

Now, he wasn’t 100% bad. 

But he was still bad, and then...he got worse. He decided what to do to even the score, to seek the justice he thought that he deserved. To achieve greatness

He...
You'll have to read the book to find out ;-) 
For more on Julia, check out her author page on AMAZON
Check out Julia's blog HERE  

Follow Julia on Twitter @MakeThatJulie

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