Monday, January 30, 2012

And the Villain Is...

Obvious Villain
In keeping with the fun I had writing my post on action cliches, Brakes Only Fail On Hills, I decided to share my list of things that try to keep in mind when writing my own villains...

  • Don't give him a deformity, scar, or creepy behavior.
How do we know that Dr. Evil is evil before he even speaks? He is bald, has a scar, does that weird pinkie thing, and dresses like a futuristic mortician. 

Misdirection by appearance and behavior is a great device when writing suspense, but make sure it is actually pointing to someone who is NOT the villain.
  • Minions are a dead giveaway.
Whether its a creepy friend that does their bidding or a doormat for an assistant, keep the talk of diabolical plans while excitedly rubbing  their hands together to a minimum. 

Particular to can't unveil or hint too heavily at the villain or it will spoil the surprise and lose the reader.

  • They are caught in a blatant lie.
Photo by Tiago Fernandes.
The heroine sees the villain arguing with a man and later when the man is revealed to be a bad guy, the villain denies it.

This is a great way to add conflict between the OTHER main characters. Misunderstanding clouds the issue and often throws suspicion where it can do some good to further the story.
  • Make him gain advantage too soon in the story.
We've all seen Rocky, right? He gets beat down at first, but then a sudden burst of energy/inspiration/verbal backside kicking by his bestie sends him back to win the day.

The problem with letting your villain gain the advantage too quickly is that its the equivalent of putting a blinking red arrow over his head. Keep the story off balance and the reader wondering.

  • Your hero is too important to lose.
Really just wanted a reason to post a pic of Jake.
This, I think, is one of the quickest ways to ruin the story. If one of your characters is a wayward prince, the President, the only survivor of his species....the odds are whoever is picking on him is gonna lose and is therefore...the villain.

What are some instances in a mystery, be it book or movie that have given away the villain too soon? How might we as writers keep the reader guessing?

Until next time...Go Write?