Friday, April 22, 2011

V is for Villains

This week Romantic Eco-suspense and Eco-thriller author, Lynn Romaine returns to talk with us about Villains.


What would we do without our villains? Suspense writers especially are in debt to them. Those poor creatures who we invent and then proceed to beat up, run over with a truck, push off a mountain, or just pull a gun and shoot them. The problem with our villains is that we want to hate them—and THAT is a problem. Why? Because to make a villain live on a page, whether the reader knows it or not, that reader needs to feel something for the bad guy besides distain. She needs to know that the character is not just a cut-out, but a human being, with a kaleidoscope of feelings like all human beings, with a mother and a father and maybe even children.

Planning Ahead

The above being said, I have to admit, I haven’t taken much time to consider my villains and their characters in detail. I’ve created a female sociopath who kills the father who abandoned her as a child, a psychopath who torments the person he believes stole his love away, a pillar of society who committed murder as a kid and now is trying to keep his crime secret, and finally a scurvy businessman who massacres a family to keep the mafia off his back. For me, I see they’ve all been plot techniques, ways to solve my story without a lot of fuss about character as I focus on my heroines. I have devoted very little time to really considering my villains and truly developing deep characters.

What would my books be like if I did take some time to consider the inner conflicts that drive the villain to mayhem? What if this was as important as the heroine’s internal struggles?

With that in mind, I’ve done a little web research to come up with some basic ideas for villain development. I hope you find them as useful as I do since I plan on referring to them from now on as I write my thrillers.

Villains – what are they good for?

Here are a few basic themes where a villain comes in handy as the scapegoat:

• Righting a prior wrong

• Revenge (the victim deserved to die)

• Vigilante justice (the justice system didn’t work)

• Protecting a loved one

• Restoring order to the world.


Villain Do’s and Don’t’s

* You don’t need one to create a tension filled story (although I can’t the suspense thrillers I write without them;

* It’s good (and fun) to have the villain get his due. There was something so satisfying about the scene when Lisbeth Salander (The Girl Who Played with Fire) shot the creepy motorcycle badass in the foot after he tried to rape her.

* Don’t overdo the villain thing. He needs a couple of good things about him, something to make him or her human.

* Make sure the villains are believable in their own economic, social class, with the right clothes, language, job, etc.

* Make sure you connect the villain’s actions that make him or her act/react, not just a random bad person.

* Don’t forget even villains have goals. Make sure you have a clear one in mind and let the reader in on the goal early in the story.

I can’t think of anything else that’s important to writing a villain. If you have some suggestions, Please feel free to add your comments below.

Linda, thanks so much for letting me dig into the world of bad guys on your so good and gentle blog.     Lynn Romaine

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Lynn Romaine, Master’s Degree in Information Science from Indiana University, she lives in Bloomington, Indiana. She writes romantic suspense and ecothriller novels with five books in print. She has participated continuously in Landmark Education and the earlier forms of the education since 1975. She is committed to all people living created lives and words that inspire the world. In 2008, she created an organization called Red Pants for the World, encouraging young women in Afghanistan and everywhere to find their self-expression through words that inspire the world.

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You can find Lynn on the web at:  and at


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Excellent post and some very good tips. With you on the Salander example!

Judi said...

Thanks Rosemary. There are so many Lisbeth Salander fans - I dream of creating a heroine like her - lynn

Renee Vincent said...

Great post, Lynn! I wrote a villain into my first historical, Ræliksen, and he just oozed of evil. Even his name resonated a villainous sound when you said it: Domaldr.

Great to stop by and read a new blog. I just followed here. Look forward to more posts.

Bobbye Terry said...

Great post, Lynn. There are times when the viallian is so horrific I don;t want to even try to psychologically explain him. But,
I actually wrote the prequel to my sci-fi series about my villainess (the prequel is an historical--the villainess before she is crogenically frozen and subsequently cloned). There I got to show the reader how complex Millicent was and why she had such a hunger for power. It was a happy day when she died, though--not that it's actually played out in the books. That's for later. :)
Bobbye aka Daryn

Bobbye Terry said...

So much for my typing--I do know the word is VILLAIN and don't has an apostrophe.

Deb Maher said...

I love reading about villains. When creating one, I always think of this quote by notorious gangster and bootlegger Al Capone. "I am like any other man," he said. "All I do is supply a demand."

Villains, even the worst of them, think they're right. Most people do. I try to remember that when I'm writing.

Fiona McGier said...

Ah, villains...without them, who would there be for the hero/heroine to vanquish to prove their love/worth?
Three cheers for the bad guys/gals!
Interesting post and topic.

Herman and Dori said...

Enjoyed your post, Judi. I love stories with a surprise villain. I'm busy hating one character, so sure he's the one...when suddenly, another character that I've ignored, steps up to surprise not only me, but also the hero.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank Lynn for her post. If you want a true study of intriguing villains--READ HER BOOKS!


Linda Rettstatt said...

I didn't mean to be Anonymous. My finger worked faster than my brain and hit that button.