Is Your Villain Ruining Your Novel?

By on December 10, 2016
Is Your Villain Ruining Your Novel? - Writer's Life.org

Most novels have a character that acts as the ‘villain’. He or she is the antagonist, the one that you pit against your hero or heroine. The villain causes problems for your protagonist; they put obstacles in their path. Your villain is the one that they must defeat to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.

However, a badly written villain can ruin your novel. Of course, any badly written character can. However, the villain plays such a prominent part in the story it is important you pay particular attention to them and ensure you don’t fall into the following traps.

Are they a stereotype?

Villainous characters have been written into stories for centuries. Therefore it is probable that you can divide different villains into particular types ‘the evil genius’ ‘the psychopathic killer ‘ the vengeful lover’ and so on. While it might be impossible to avoid writing a villain that doesn’t fit into one of these categories, what you must do is try to find a way to make yours truly unique. Readers are always looking for fresh and interesting characters, those that surprise them and take them to unexpected places. If your villain is just a carbon copy of the typical ‘bad guy’ and never does anything unexpected your reader will soon tire of them, and a boring villain is a book killer for sure.

Are they evil enough?

The best villains shock readers with their deceptive, twisted, terrifying ways. Does yours? When it comes to writing a great villain make sure that they act in the way that would class them as such. If they don’t really do anything or only ruffle your protagonist's feathers every now and again then your story will fall flat. Villains need to create real obstacles and wreak havoc throughout your novel. If they don’t, then your readers won’t pay them any attention, and their lack of action will mean that your protagonist's journey becomes less significant too.

Are they too evil?

Of course, there is always the possibility that you have made your villain too evil! Now while the actions of a villain can be as despicable as you dare to imagine, readers also have to feel as though they are believable, and fitting with the story. Readers need to understand the motivations behind your villain's villainous ways. If they act for no reason, it can be hard for your readers to connect with them or find them authentic and that can just as easily leave them finding it hard to enjoy your book.

Do your readers care?

At the end of the day, you readers need to care about what happens in your story. If they don’t care about what your villain is doing or how your protagonist will defeat them, then you need to go back to the drawing board. A villain needs to take centre stage, to inject your book with drama and tension and horror and fear, but also to make the story worth telling. So make sure you make your villain count!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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