Since I’m working on creating a new villain, today’s lesson on antagonists in Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK drives home the point that there are no coincidences. You’ve heard me mention before that I’m in the midst of writing my fifth Love Inspired Suspense formally titled, LEGACY OF DEATH. This past week, my editor suggested changing the title to PROTECTING HER CHILD to reflect the story’s main plot. I like the new title and hope readers will as well. Now, what about villains?
We all know the antagonist needs to have his or her own GMC (goals, motivation and conflict), but Maass encourages us to go even deeper into the villain’s character. One of the workbook exercises focuses on exploring the bad guy/gal’s sympathetic side. By adding a few details, the reader can see the villain as a multi-dimensional character that may be likable in some ways. Just as our hero and heroine can be pulled between what they really want/need and what they think they want, so that internal struggle can provide a more richly drawn antagonist as well. His good side may be in direct opposition to the bad deeds he may be forced to do in the story. That ups the conflict and makes the antagonist a more compelling character.
As I read Maass’ comments and hastily scribbled notes after the exercises he suggested, I found my villain evolving into a different character than the single-focused thug I had originally considered creating. Maass’ gift is to open us to think outside the box. He allows us . . . encourages us to find new ways to explore old problems. As writers, we always like a challenge. That’s probably why I like Maass’ techniques. He challenges us to be better writers, to dig deeper, to stretch and grow and create stories readers will remember.
Speaking of remembering, which villains stand out in your mind? What made them memorable? How can you incorporate those same traits into the villain in your current work-in-progress?
Wishing you abundant blessings,