Writers tend to slack on writing good bad guys. We do pages and pages of backstory on our main characters but our villains are cookie cutter. That really ought to change. Let’s talk about the characters in a book that give the hero problems.
Just like the hero there are also many types of villains to use within a story.
I’m going to delve into several types of antagonist characters you can utilize. I’d like to challenge you to use every type within one story (Tolkien does it and it works brilliantly).
- Active– the character in active opposition to the hero’s goals. Often the main source of conflict within the story. Suramon and Voldemort are examples.
- Friendly– Those characters that don’t mean to mess up the hero’s day but do so anyways. Often a bungling friend like Frodo’s in The Lord of the Rings.
- Force of Nature- These aren’t out to get the hero because they don’t like the hero, they are just doing what they are made to do. Think Jaws, Twister, and Argog the Spider from Harry Potter.
- Psychological- A devious version of a villain who uses mind games to undermine the hero’s resolve. Not usually the main villain but someone working for their own gain and it works in the villains favor. Remember the boat captain in Jaws? That guy. Or Boromeer from Lord of the Rings.
- Created by the Hero- When your hero does something wrong (because we all do and if you’re writing real characters they will have flaws) and hurt someone. That someone isn’t likely to forgive and help out. In the movie, Meet the Robinsons, this is the Bowler Hat Guy.
- Henchmen- the characters working for the active villain in the story. Often less smart but in great numbers. Like Orcs and Death Eaters.
- Created by Circumstances Beyond Control- This is the hardest villain to hate in my mind. These are the villains you feel sorry for because they didn’t get a fair shake at life, characters like Golem in The Lord of the Rings.
So here’s to the bad guys and gals that keep our stories moving. Let’s make them deep, layered, and gritty. Let’s give them plausible cause for their actions. And let’s fill our stories with many types not just one.
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