Know Your Villain


I know the correct term is antagonist, but villain sounds much more dastardly.

I’m a little over 12,000 words into “Dirigible Air Corps: Dreadnought” (I should be further, but I took a few days off for New Years), and I was struggling with it a little. The words just weren’t flowing. Even though I know where the story is supposed to end (although it may not end that way. If being a pantser has taught me anything, it’s that a story can take a complete turn at any given moment), but I was having difficulty moving the story along. But then I introduced one of the bad guys, and he revealed a little information about another bad guy.

Now, at this point I hadn’t come up with a name for my main antagonist. All I knew about him was that he was bad, and he planned to do bad things. I didn’t have any idea as to what those bad things were, or really why he was doing. Clearly this was bad planning on my part. How am I supposed to figure out motivations and what the main characters are trying to stop if the creator doesn’t even know? However, once I gave the main villain a name and that he has some sort of bad thing, the story seemed to unfold for me. Even as I write this ideas are flying through my head as to what the villain may have, and just what he plans to do with it.

Excuse me while I scribble down some notes!

Alright, got it. I certainly didn’t see that coming, but I think it will work out quite well. I don’t want to spoil anything for you guys and girls, but I assure you I think it will be excellent.

This incident has taught me that planning out the bad guys is just as important and planning out the good guys. Just because you don’t spend as much time with them doesn’t mean they aren’t out there doing dastardly deeds and trying to ruin the world, or whatever it is they may be doing.

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4 thoughts on “Know Your Villain

  1. Yeah, finding the motivation for the villain can be a pain especially if they aren’t front and center in the story (like most evil-doers are not.) I find that (like you) giving them names helps a great deal. It gives them weight as a character, a sense of concreteness. It also allowed me to build a sense of history into the character and answer questions like: Why is he doing this?

  2. Yep! When I delved into my main antagonist’s backstory and motivations, my story really leapt forward. It was awesome how things just felt more urgent – things *mattered* for my good guys because my bad guy was serious, and planned to do serious stuff. I fell in love with my story properly when my bad guy started to come up off the page.

  3. Oddly enough, when I take down notes on what I think the characters in my writing should be or do, the notes don’t act as a guide for what the characters ARE going to do or be like, but what the AREN’T or WON’T be like or do.

    It’s like what they say about flipping a coin when faced with a tough decision; toss the coin and call it in the air and before it hits your hand or the ground you’ll know what you really want to do, despite the outcome of the flip.

    Kinda like…to me at least. Write it down and before I’ve finished writing it I know that’s NOT what I want my character to be like or do.

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