Everyone loves a good villain. I believe the term “The person everyone loves to hate.” Personally, I don’t hate people, but you get the drift. If your readers hate the villain then you’re doing well, but there’s more to it. I think it’s apropos to call the villain an antagonist. He opposes the central character (protagonist) and other characters, to the point that you want to scream. A villain scrapes the bottom of the barrel for redeeming qualities. This post is not about how to write a villain; that’s for another post. But I had a unique (to me) experience the other day while working on my novel that took me by surprise and I think it was a remarkable growth spurt as a writer and human being.
I have come to realize that I tend to create men in my stories as either pure white in virtue, or totally evil and beyond the reach of redemption. I figure it’s some deep seated psychological issue in the bowels of my psyche. Regardless, I don’t think that’s the way to go. The other day I was writing about my antagonist, a megalomaniac, arrogant, condescending, cruel, pathological bully. It suddenly hit me that it’s important to give some background on this guy, to give readers some context to the mans’ deviant behavior. I wrote a scene from his past where his cruel father demeans him and emasculates him in front of others. I came away from writing this scene filled with compassion and empathy, and I realized I loved and cared about him. It was a profound moment and nearly brought me to tears. I doubt readers will feel that way, but it helped me a great deal. I think it’s imperative we have an intimate understanding of all of our characters. To have intimate connection with them. I have had scads of those kinds of connections with my two protagonists. Now that I have connected with this awful man, I think the story will be better. We should give the good guys flaws, and the bad guys a few positive traits, or at very least, a context which explains why he is the way he is. With these new revelations, I need to put more thought into a few of my male characters.
I love profound discoveries in writing. One of the most surprising discoveries in writing fiction, is how my heart can be deeply moved by the people and the story. I have wept and laughed and been terrified writing this story. I guess it exemplifies the notion of blood sweat and tears. Whether this will end up being a good book or not, is strictly up to the readers to decide, but I am blessed to come away a more empathetic person, and expanding my heart to understand broken people, including myself.
“You- have to love your monster.” ― Philippa Dowding, Everton Miles Is Stranger Than Me: The Night Flyer’s Handbook