Thursday, March 6, 2014


What is it about a villain that so intrigues us? We want to understand what makes them tick, why they do what they do. Sometimes in real life we’ll never know. In our books, we’d better. Villains have to be as clearly defined as the hero/heroine. I remember a quote from a movie or TV show: One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. It's all perspective.

Villains have their own goal, motivation, and conflict. Otherwise the villain is a caricature, a cardboard cutout. This happened to me in my current work-in-progress. I knew a character was the bad guy. Because I didn’t delve deeply into his motivation, he came across as flat. Thank goodness for my critique partner who pulls no punches.

Although it’s been said over and over again, a strong hero needs a strong villain. Someone to challenge the hero. What kind of hero would triumph over a wimp? So we, as writers, have to make that villain so strong that in the dark moment, the reader really fears the hero won’t succeed.

I always enjoy listening to actors speak about why they chose to act the villain in a movie and how they prepared for the role. They will come up with a complete backstory explaining why the character is so bad. Just as we make up backstory for our heroes, we have to know our villain’s backstory. Like our hero’s backstory, we don’t share everything. It’s sufficient that we know.

Diane Burton’s heroes and villains chase each other across galaxies or across the country. In her science fiction romance or romantic suspense books, you’ll find kick-butt heroines, heroes strong enough to fight beside them against the bad guys. For more about her books, see her website:


Ana Morgan said...

I like stories with strong villains. The "villain" can be inside the hero or heroine, or be the setting, but those story are harder to write, IMO.

Andrea Cooper said...

Great post! And so true. Tweeted :)

Diane Burton said...

Ana, good points about the villain inside. Next time I write about villains I'll be sure to include all the different types of antagonists.

Andrea, thanks for commenting.