Super Villain Boot Camp: Where baddies go to shape up4 min read
I write the worst baddies. I mean the worst. You know the villain is in Much Ado About Nothing (the Joss Whedon, Kenneth Brannagh or original Shakespeare version)? I write worse. It makes me sad, because I want to write villains like Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender (original cartoon series only, thank you). Or villains like Loki when played by Tom Hiddleston. I want to write baddies that people will love; baddies that are complex and just as integral to the story development as the goodies, but I suck at it.
I know that villains need a motivation as much as the main character. I know that, whilst your hero needs flaws, your villain also needs positive qualities. This is all clear to me from reading other writing blogs, and from all the narratives I consume. But despite all the great advice out there, and the numerous excellent villains I have devoured, my baddies are still agonisingly underdeveloped.
Part of my difficulty is that I’m a pantser rather than a planner. This means my writing (and therefore my villains) tend to just react to what’s going on, and their back story won’t be available for several drafts… Another problem I have is that when I do actually sit down to do some planning and outlining I focus on my main protagonists and what they need, rather than spending the time on development of the antagonist.
I’ve decided that what I need is some sort of super-villain boot camp. A series of challenges to write through to force my focus on developing the bad guy or gal. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
- The hero wins, but the villain gets the girl/guy
- The entire story is based on how the hero becomes a villain
- You follow the hero to victory, and s/he turns out to have been the villain all along
As well as turning plots around, super villain boot camp should also involve thinking about the best ways to avoid villain clichés; the dumb henchmen or the overdone monologues as they stand over dying heroes. Let’s take the next week to examine our villains. Are they doing their most heinous duties? If they’re not standing up against the protagonist then perhaps it’s time to pause your writing and take your own baddie to super villain boot camp.
What will you do to step up your super villain’s game?
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