Monday, February 7, 2011

Over the Top

Fair warning, this post contains more editing talk. Why? Because it’s my blog. <Villainous laughter>

Actually, that’s what I want to talk to you about to day. No, not villainous laughter. At least, not directly. But if you have villainous laughter anywhere in your book and it’s not a parody of some sort, you might want to consider some more editing.

In my opinion, villains shouldn’t be over the top, only evil sons-of-bitches. I was taking a good look at my main villain the other day and, well, if he was alive right in front of me, he wouldn’t be able to stand up because he’d be as thin as a sheet of paper. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a good villain. He’s just a poor character, which it turn leads to poor conflict. I mean, obviously an evil bastard who kills everyone who pisses him off is going to kill the main character. That’s just common sense. It’s also boring.

So, I’m toning him down. Not completely, especially towards the end of the book, but in his introductory scene, he’s less of a psychopath and more of a stiff, uncompromising soldier who is trying to advance himself and unaware he’s just holding himself back. There were hints of his oblivious nature in earlier drafts, but it was mostly over shadowed by the psychopathic traits. I think by holding off on the murderousness until later (when he snaps under the weight of his own ego) is better. It makes him less evil (at first) and more of someone with different goals that happen to conflict with the protagonist, a self-saboteur who blames everyone else for his mistakes.

Overall, I think I'm pleased with the results--I haven't completely finished the edit so I can't be 100% sure it will work. But I like the growing tension.

What about your antagonists? Are they too evil? Or not deep enough? How do you deal with them?


  1. I use to do a lot of DMing for Dungeons and Dragons, and I always made my antagonists over the top evil where they didn't see the players as a threat. This was for the major villians of course. Smaller ones always had deeper stories than the larger ones. Some just are in the wrong place at the wrong time and it's a string of bad luck/events. :)

    Great post. :)

  2. My antagonists are mostly obnoxious people. I want my readers to want to slap them. But that's partly because I don't write fantasy; if I did, then there would be killing and mountains with lots of smoke coming off the top and everyone would be afraid to say her name. See? This is why I don't write fantasy.

  3. Yes! There's nothing more cool in a book than a villain that is sympathetic in some way, even if it's small - some vulnerability - maybe he loves his momma - maybe he rescues lobsters from fish tanks and sets them free -right after he's dumped a body in the water *laughing*! ....

    anyway - flawed characters that are multi dimensional are always interesting

  4. I haven't written a horrible villian yet. But I also write in 1st person, so if the mc doesn't see the person as overly villianous, I guess I can't write them that way. Good luck with edits!

  5. I think it is important that any character that spans more than three pages be accessible to the reader - if they are a one dimensional character - best be modeled off of one dimensional people. Certainly not all people are interesting but all people have motivation which makes them interesting to someone.

  6. My favourite antagonists when I'm reading are the ones who are slightly ambiguous: they're bad, but sometimes they do good things, or they have good reasons, or you're never quite sure if you should hate them or not - so these are the same antagonists that interest me when I'm writing. Sometimes I worry that my villains aren't as evil as they should be, but I guess I'd take that over a cardboard cutout Disney villain! :-)

    Great post on the editing side of things, it looks like you've got a good handle on what needs to work better in your book!

  7. If anything, my villains in the work in progress are perhaps too sympathetic. I have written one character in recent days who's only in for a single scene, and is basic malevolence defined. I'm planning on blogging about him in a few days.


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