Good and EVIL are only perspectives. Let's talk bad guys. How bad is your antagonist?
It's easy to write about the good guy, the protagonist that is likeable, adorable, and slightly flawed--with good cause. And if you give him a couple of cute dimples and make him say a few clever little quips, then you will have your reader swooning. EVERYONE loves a good guy. Everyone can relate to someone like that.
But what about the antagonist? The bad guy?
Of course we don't want the reader swooning over the bad guy. That would be weird--unless that is your intention. But for the purpose of this blog, let's say our intention is to make him evil, REAL evil. We want the reader to fear him and worry for the protagonist.
How do we do that?
There is a fine balance between creating a character that scares the bejeebies out of our readers and an evil character that comes off one-dimensional--the same old-same old.
This is where I find myself struggling. I want my bad guy to be uniquely bad, but I'm unsure how to tap into my evil side. For the most part, I don't write stories with evil antagonists. Never had. Even when I introduced my mad man in my novel, WANTED: Dead or Undead, The Zombie West Series (2012), I only gave a glimpse of who he was. That was all that was needed for that book.
But now I'm in the process of delving into book two of the series, in which this mad man will play a much, much larger role, and I need to know more about him. I need to develop his character. I need to know WHY he is doing what he is doing.
I need to psychoanalyze this guy.
Is my mad man "bad to the bone"? Was he always this way? Was he a bad kid? What lines will he not cross? These are questions I need to answer if I want this character to stick with my reader well beyond the last page of the book. I need to know what makes him tick.
Because there is ALWAYS a reason why a person does what they do. Even if what they do is bad.
No one starts off being evil. No one sets out to be the bad guy. Something propelled them to be. So what was it?
What propelled my mad man to change from being a well respected country doctor, someone people trusted, to man who would give up everything to track a young girl across the West just so he could tear her apart, piece by piece?
That is the fundamental question that plagues my brain. Because at this point, I'm not quite sure.
I found this book a few months back at my local Barnes and Noble (the real store--not on-line) and scooped it up.
This book breaks down every kind of bad guy from the sociopath down to the femme fetale. It helps you as a writer to delve a little deeper and create an antagonist that is realistic and hopefully doesn't mirror all the other ones already created. Your bad guy needs to be special :)
I'm still in the process of reading it, but so far it's opening my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities and is helping me to dig deeper. The back of the book has a list of questions to ask yourself when creating your bad guy. Such as: What does he fear most? Does he have enemies? Does he use bad language? If he is at all likeable? Is he capable of defeating the protagonist? What is the MOST important thing in his life? What is he afraid of losing?
I've already delved deep into my protagonists, I know them. I know why they do what they do. I care for them. I enjoy writing about them.
Taking on this new kind of character will be interesting for sure. I will have to tap into a whole different kind of muse to make my mad man come off as not only crazy and delusional, but also have my readers sympathize with him as well--that will be quite the trick.
What kind of antagonists do you write about? Who are some of your favorite villains or bad guys? Do you find it more or less difficult to write the bad guys?
10/14/2011 04:54:55 am
For me, it helps to remember that the antogonists don't think of themselves as bad. They have valid (to them) reasons for what they do and are the heroes of their own stories.
10/14/2011 07:03:34 am
Just what I needed today - a reminder to develop my bad guy! Great post and I'll definitely be checking out that book.
I'm on the same page as Margaret. I do my best to remember that 'evil' characters don't think they're evil- they do what they do for 'legit' reasons.
10/14/2011 11:26:25 am
Sometimes I like writing my bad guys more, simply because they're so twisted, LOL. I try to tap into the bad guy within, and give them lots of motivation for what they do. From their perspective, they aren't bad, they're simply going after what they want.
10/14/2011 06:17:19 pm
Considering in my work in progress (book 2 of my Empire of Blood series) my antagonist just tried to feed a 6-year-old girl to a starving vampire and then snapped her neck when the vampire didn't accept his offering, I'd have to say mine is a pretty bad guy. And reasons, yes those are needed up to a point. I think when you really look at bad guys in the really real world there becomes a point where reason gets tossed out the window. It's best to remember that some people are just generally bad and their "reasons" for doing things probably make no sense to the rest of us. But striking a sense of resonance with a character is always a good thing too. Best to find a balance.
10/14/2011 11:16:05 pm
I write romance so my bad guys need a redeeming quality so I can make him the hero in my next book. ;)
10/15/2011 04:05:04 pm
My antagonist is Lucifer as he starts his rebellion in Heaven. Pretty much the most evil guy we cn imagine, right? But what important to me was to make relatable: he had to have a reason for everything he did. The problem was his reasons, his motivations were entirely abhorrent. I think you have to have a well-rounded bad guy (or girl) that has fears and passions, reasons and rationale, even if those reason run counter to society. I don't believe anyone is wholly good or evil. I think the shades of grey are where the interesting stuff is.
11/9/2011 04:13:40 am
I like writing the bad guy better--I'm able to understand their motivations easier. Maybe that's weird, or wrong, or whatever, but I find it easier to point to a situation in a bad person's life and say, "*That's* where it all went wrong."
11/10/2011 04:06:28 am
I think it's important that no one thinks of themselves as "evil." People do evil things because they think they're achieving a greater good. Where they sink into real evil is in dismissing other people as dispensible or unimportant.
11/11/2011 04:11:45 am
Great question and one I have not really put much thought into. However, I am nearing the point where I do need to more fully develop my bad guy. I know power and control are part of his motivation, but I do need to find out what pushed him over the edge, so to speak. Thanks for the reminder that character development does not stop with the characters we like. :-)
I love my bad guy. He's currently hunting the soul of the princess he had to depose in order to use the countries resources to build an army/expedition to go into another country and find a mage's tower that's been buried in the sand for a thousand years.
2/1/2012 03:37:01 pm
My ideal antogonist would be the sociopathic bastard why? because I have dealt with this kind of person in my real life. My favorite kind of bad guys that I have seen in movies would be mad mans such as the joker and the characters from the mask or larry the cable guy. Do I find it more or less difficult to write about bad guys? No, because I have seen and witness their atrocities, so I repeat no, it is easy as pie but not always pleasant for me the protagonist. I need to write a book soon :) any publisher ideas?
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