Dramaquill's All Things Writing

October 5, 2008

Can you really make me feel for the villain?

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As I continue to work on my final revisions for my adult suspense novel, I vaguely remember an article I read in one of the many ezines to which I subscribe.  The article addressed the villain character in novels, plays, movies etc.

What does the writer have to do to make the villain more than just a horrible, frightening individual?

Well for one, this article stated that the reader had to be able to find something “human” about the villain.  We have to remember that no one, not even our worst villain, is 100% bad. 

So, that’s had me thinking a lot about Mel, my villain, this week.  Basically, Mel is a controlling, abusive, obsessive guy who has killed the women who tried to leave him.  My heroine, Eleanor, ends up in a relationship with Mel, but finds out before long that Mel’s idea of a relationship means she will have to surrender to him in every way or be punished.

After almost a year and a half of verbal, emotional and physical abuse, Eleanor leaves Mel and changes her identity so he can’t find her. 

Now, as a reader, I don’t think you’re too crazy about Mel right now, are you?

But everyone has a story.  Mel was left in a dumpster by his biological mother when he was just a few months old.  He was a sickly little fellow with extremely bad asthma and spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals.  He moved from one foster home to another until his eighteenth birthday, never being allowed to  establish himself in a loving, family environment. 

We still cringe at the things Mel has done, and continues to do, but at least we have some insight into “why” he behaves as he does. 

Mel has a vulnerable side and longs to be loved unconditionally.  Unfortunately, because he does not know how to elicit love from the people who come into his life, every relationship ends in disaster.

I still cringe when I read the pages I’ve written detailing Mel’s horrific actions.  I still feel my heartbeat pounding in my chest when I watch my heroine try to escape.  I don’t like Mel one bit!

But, I do feel for him at times.

How does your villain stack up as a character?  What will your readers think of your villain?

Here are some good articles/blogs about creating villains:

http://blog.worderella.com/2008/06/developing-villainous-characters-part-1/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU0711/S00197.htm

http://www.theromanceclub.com/writers/articles/article0042.htm

http://www.ehow.com/how_2222257_avoid-creating-weak-villain-creative.html

http://www.stellacameron.com/contrib/villains.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Credible-Villain-in-Fiction

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July 4, 2008

Why don’t you like me?

Revising my novel has become part of my daily routine.  Even when I’m not re-writing scenes or slicing chapters, I’m constantly thinking about Eleanor, my heroine, and Mel, my villain.  They’re inside my head and they won’t be silenced, each vying for my attention.

I don’t like Mel – that’s a given.  He’s controlling, abusive, deranged and unpredictable.  Now, considering he’s the villain in my suspense novel, I guess those are good qualities.

But the revelation I had while working on a chapter the other day was that I’m not sure I really like Eleanor, either.  My critique group has eluded to this once or twice saying things like:

  • Eleanor seems to cry too much
  • Although someone might actually react like this, it doesn’t seem to draw me into her (Eleanor) as the heroine of a book
  • Eleanor often lets someone else help her instead of facing things herself

And the more I re-write and revise, the more I’m beginning to see Eleanor as less than the strong woman I first envisioned her to be. 

So what do I do now?

How can I write passionately about someone I’m not sure I like?

Eleanor can’t help that she was a victim of serious verbal, physical and sexual abuse.  Eleanor can’t help that she’s terrified of Mel.  But, Eleanor can help herself.  She did it once before.  She got away from him.  She has to do it again, not only for herself, but for her readers.

So Eleanor, you’ve challeneged me to review what I’ve revised.  If I don’t like you, how will my readers?

The revision process is a long and complicated one but on the other side of all this hard work a better novel will emerge!

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