Thursday, April 19, 2012

Make The Bad Guy BADDER


In SAVE THE CAT, Blake Snyder says: If your HERO seems average, unheroic, insignificant, boring, maybe it's the ANTAGONIST that's the problem. So make the bad guy BADDER! 

Sometimes we want our hero to win so badly that we don't make it impossible for him to do so. We don't up the ante or have him take larger risks. Making the bad guy badder automatically makes the hero BIGGER!

But here's what I would add (if I may, Mr. Snyder): Make both of them more complex and therefore, more compelling! It's obvious that the reader needs to feel something for the protagonist, so we spend loads of writing time making sure that the reader cares.

But what if the reader feels conflicted--just a little--for the antagonist, too? Moments of compassion or understanding or insight.

Take Klaus, in THE VAMPIRE DIARIES:

He is one BAD dude. But wait a minute--what's this softer side he shows around Caroline? Why does Klaus suddenly look cuter, sexier, more appealing? *bow chicka wow wow*


Or how about Lady's Maid O'Brien, in DOWNTON ABBEY?

Behind the scenes she's self-serving, mean, and vindictive. But in season one (that's as far as I got, so no spoilers from season two, please), she shows a conscience and a certain helplessness during the soap/bathtub/baby scene with Lady Cora.

And last but not least, Cersei Lannister in GAME OF THRONES.

I mean, let's face it, there are so many villains in this book/television series it's hard to choose just one. But from the beginning she's compelled me.

Vicious in her own right as the Queen Dowager, she had a direct hand in who her evil son Joffrey has become on the throne (I find NO redeeming qualities in him yet). Still, she's quite vulnerable when it comes to love (no matter how masochistic it might be) and the well-being of her children.

Who would you add to this list?

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16 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Not sure who I'd add. You did such a good job. But I agree with you, the bad guy shouldn't just be evil. His/her backstory should show us something interesting and complex about him/her as a character. Very few people are pure evil and most have something sadly sympathetic in their background who made them who they are.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I love it when the antagonist has a soft side, just like when the protagonist has a dark side. It makes them more dimensional. :)

Christine Danek said...

I like a little soft side. It shows a weakness something for the reader to connect to.
I agree with Stina, I like a protagonist with a little dark side too. Hey, nobody's perfect.

Theresa Milstein said...

I agree. Heroes and villains can't be one-dimensional. We need to see two sides. For some reason, I'm thinking of Darth Vader. All impersonal behind the costume, but then his son comes, and he wants Luke to join him. He saves his life.

Stefanie Wass said...

I love this quote from WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK:
"Humanize your villain. Motivate his actions with kindess. Create not passionless cruelty but evil that wears a compassionate face."

Even villains need an inner journey! Love your post today, Christina! Great advice.

Christina Lee said...

GREAT quote, Stef--thanks!

Liz Parker said...

You nailed Klaus. I watch and think--I hate him I hate him I hate him WAIT I LOVE HIM. No, what was I thinking? I hate him love hate hate hate love.

You get the picture.

Christina Lee said...

Liz, snort, right?!?

Jaime Morrow said...

I'm a big fan of the Thor movie (seriously, Chris Hemsworth deserves the bow chicka wow wow too), and I find Loki to be a very sympathetic villain. I understand why he went bad and even feel a little sorry for him. I don't agree with what he does, but I certainly get why he does it. These are the best villains ever.

I sat down awhile back and tried to sort out my bad guy's motivations. I felt that by doing this I would take him from being some sinister cardboard cut-out twirling his mustache to somebody that I could at least understand. I think this made him more believable in the end.

Great post :)

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

I like when we can kinda see a reason behind the villain's behavior so that you sorta care about them in some way.

S. L. Hennessy said...

Voldemort is the best. And Snape (well,kind of, but don't want to have any spoilers). Those are two killer baddies.

Tanya Reimer said...

I love to write in a scene from the bad guy's view. I don't ever use it, but it lets me SEE the world as he/she does. Why is he/she doing these things? Then one I come back, I am building a real character who I love just as much as my hero.

Excellent post!

Maddy said...

Oh...I know one!! Tate from American Horror Story. Definitely a villian, but another sucker for love :) I personally enjoy complicated characters, even my villains.

Traci Kenworth said...

The Queen from Once Upon a Time. ANY of the baddies Supernatural's Dean and Sam bring crashing down.

Kim Van Sickler said...

So true. I'm actually pretty consumed with humanizing one of the characters in my current WIP. At first glance he appears to be the big villain, but I'm trying to soften him as I go along while I introduce two more bad guys. There's supposed to be uncertainty as to who the super bad guy really is. That is, there will be if I do my job well.

Lourie said...

Okay...call me nutty...and perhaps I am dating myself...but do you remember Night Court? And Dan Fielding. He was such a sleeze! And yet, underneath it all, he was a good guy.

I will go Harry Potter now: Tom Riddle. Poor lost soul. You almost feel sorry for the kid.

The Snow Queen in Chronicles of Narnia. She is beautiful yet cunning.

How about The Outsiders? Oh whole gang of troubled youth and yet we root for them. I like this game! :)

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