Villains. We all love to hate them. Everyone has tricks and techniques to write villains I’m hoping I can add a little something to how to go about making a villain three-dimensional. (also posted at Much Cheaper Than Therapy’s Blog)
I always pull out my characterization sheets and map out my villain’s traits. You have to make them three dimension with hopes and fears just like your other characters. You need to decide on what motivates him or her, what their greatest fear is, etc.
How dark is your villain?
Decide how dark you want to make your villain. What shade of gray is he or her? Do you want to go all out and have a serial killer or someone tamer and who stays inside societies dictates?
Does the villain make the hero grow?
When you’re mapping out your character and giving them certain traits, don’t forget to ask yourself, “What is it about the villain that makes the hero grow?”
What makes the villain who she or he is now?
A villain wasn’t born that way. Peel back the layers of your villain and discover what changed him or her? Was there one factor growing up that made them who they are or were there numerous factors? Were they abused on a regular bases? Raped? Did they have cold, impersonal parents? Or maybe loving parents and then had a physical trauma as a teenager?
Do you love writing about your villain?
If the answer is no, than go back and discover a trait or characteristic that you love about them. Once you do, it will come through in your writing, and add a new dimension to them.
Below is an excerpt of one of the villains in my story, Shrouded in Illusion, which will be coming out in the spring of next year. I loved writing about Peter.
Placing the file folder on the floor of the office, Peter Weaver crouched and opened the cabinet’s bottom drawer. He gripped the penlight between his teeth. It illuminated three rows of cassette recordings in their plastic cases. Names inked in black ran across each spine. He skimmed a gloved finger along the second row and pulled out three cassettes.
Unexpected light appeared through the frosted glass window to the right of the office door and cast fresh shadows over the desk and chairs.
For one pulse beat, Peter froze. Quickly, he turned off his penlight and gripped the cassettes in a tight-fisted hand. He rose to his full six-foot height and heard footsteps echo against the tiled hallway. He hadn’t expected any interruptions after ten tonight. This added a different spin on things. He didn’t like complications.
The orders had been to get in, retrieve all available information on his mark, and get out undetected. Only when everything was evaluated would the decision be made on whether or not to kill the woman. But if a sudden obstacle developed, then Peter had been given the go-head to eliminate it.
He’d memorized the building from every angle. The two-story, simple rectangular structure on the outskirts of Boston consisted of offices of varying medical and dental practices. The elevators were on one side, and the stairwell rested at the other. This office stood on the top floor and in the middle of the building. The person walking this way sounded as if he or she were coming from the elevator.
The alarm system had been easy to breach, and the offices themselves were pathetic when it came to added security. After entering the building, he’d reactivated the alarm system and locked the office door behind him. That gave the person in the hall the misguided belief of being alone.
A shadow appeared behind the thick, opaque window. Peter moved around the desk, over to the wall and set the cassettes on the floor by his feet. He stood left of the door and flexed his gloved fingers.
The scrape of a key against metal and the whisper of the lock being eased back broke the silence. The door opened inward and shielded him from view. Someone flicked on the light switch. Peter didn’t move as the door sighed shut, revealing a woman in beige slacks, a sleeveless brown shirt and shoulder length, straight brown hair. She turned toward the desk, which gave him her profile, and confirmed her identity as the woman in the photo he’d been given.
She hadn’t noticed him against the wall. She turned again, this time exposing her back to him as she bent over her desk.
The carpet covered the sound of his step as he eased up behind her. Then he struck, whipping his forearm across her throat and under her chin. She jerked back against him. Her hand caught at a stack of files. Papers swept off the desk and into the air. He drove his other forearm into the back of her neck in a chokehold, while crushing her windpipe and rupturing her larynx with his other arm. He stepped back, throwing her off her feet and giving him added leverage.
She never had a chance to fight back or cry out. Her hands fluttered midair, then dropped. Peter snapped her neck. He felt her body give, the energy within evaporate, leaving a husk of bone and muscle.
It took all of three seconds to complete the kill.
Peter dropped the woman to the carpeted floor in frustration. Now he had to dispose of a body. He’d killed a few people over the years, and they’d stayed buried, but only because he’d taken the time to do it right. As for evidence of foul play, he’d eliminate all signs of a struggle and dispose of the body in his favorite dumping ground. That’s why he liked using his hands. They didn’t leave a mess like a gun or knife.
He stepped over the woman’s body, cleaned the room of evidence, and pocketed the cassettes.