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?