By Keri Kruspe
“Author of Otherworldly Romantic Stories”
Cackling, evil laugh…. the wringing of gloved hands…the melodramatic mustache twirling…
Yeah, yeah. We get it.
To make a good story, we include a villain (human or not) to offset our hero to create conflict.
Good guy vs. bad guy—back and forth until the good guy triumphs at the end and the villain is defeated. Woo-hoo… truth and justice win!
Oh, ho-hum. Yawn… yawn… yawn.
Okay, I’m being snarky. If we didn’t love these stories where the hero outsmarts the villain, that trope would have died out centuries ago. The best way to keep these stories “fresh” is to have your reader fall in love with not only the hero, but with the villain as well. To the point where the reader will secretly fall in love with the bad guy, rooting for them from time-to-time.
What’s the best way to do this? Why… make them a flawed, of course! Resist the urge to make the bad guy into someone who is ugly with no redeeming qualities. A boring cardboard stereotype whose every action is glaringly predictable.
These aren’t in a specific order, just some fun ways to fix your bad guy:
1. Parents matter—even to a villain. That includes orphans. The absence of parents can be a motivational force in their (or anyone’s) life. Was how they were raised a main factor on what drives them? Here are a couple of examples in my own work.
The main bad guy in my Alien Exchange universe has been shaped by his family and how they treated him growing up. The lack of love and recognition (all because he didn’t look like others in his race, especially his identical twin who did) drove him to extremes to prove his worth. Not only to his elitist parents, but to the entire galaxy.
In my second series, Ancient Alien Descendants, the main villain discovers he is not the legitimate blood heir to the throne of a planet, so he has to commit all sorts of atrocities to ensure no one finds out so he isn’t executed.
2. What (or who) does the villain love? The villain who only wants to take over the galaxy (what do you expect, I write scifi romance so it’s all about the bigger stuff…) is tedious and has been overdone. But if you can somehow put in what they love, it gives them an added dimension. The best part of it doesn’t have to be anything big. The villain in my latest series actually loves his people. He feels that if he wasn’t in charge, they’d succumb to extinction. He’s just happens to be a self-absorbed narcissist at the same time…
3. Why do they do the things they do? Here’s where the big “M” word comes in “motivation”. Why do they want to take over the world? Why do they hate the hero and want to mess their lives up? Uncover the deep, deep roots that drive the villain and what they want. Alexander the Great wanted to conquer the world to show up his father (there goes those pesky parents again…).
4. What would make this person the hero? What if you wrote your novel from the villain’s point of view? What would he have to do to make him the hero? They end up doing things that might be wrong, but they firmly believe they have the right to kidnap/kill/torture anyone who they deem deserves it. Aren’t righteous villains the really scary kind (think Thanos of the Marvel Avengers series)?
5. Install in your villain, a trait you’d love for yourself. What if your villain was crazy smart, or a cunning manipulator? Are they decisive, able to make their minds up immediately? Or—maybe they are master story tellers who created worlds people are dying to be a part of…
They’re Better than the Hero:
The Crazy One:
Wrap This Up, My Pretty
He held his breath. Was that… fear?
It was absurd how those offspring became the foundations of some of Earth’s legends. They, along with other Adamou who’d escaped separately from Inanna, had dominated Earth’s past. These beings could not only read minds, but they could manipulate and create matter while controlling anyone they chose. See, this was the reason the Akurn monarchy had made it unlawful to mix their genetics with any alien species. It was fortunate that as the abominations bred, the Akurn DNA became dominant and the powers dissipated with each subsequent generation.
His eyes narrowed. He’d give anything to have a tenth of what those disguising atrocities so carelessly possessed.