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    How do You Create a Good Villain?

    Have you sometimes felt that your story could have been a lot better if you had only given your hero a more formidable villain? Did you once think you could have created a better villain or antagonist? But what exactly is a good villain?

    For this issue, we are going to look into the interesting character that we create to spice up our short story: the avenging/bitter/pathetic/insecure/loser villain. He/She makes our protagonist's life miserable from beginning to climax until the story finds a fitting resolution, which shall favor the protagonist, of course.

    Before we further discuss what we can do with our villains, let us first discuss a very basic conflict we may want to consider for our story. Suppose we write about an obsessed ex-girlfriend who is willing to do anything to save her heart and get her man back even as he had asked somebody else to marry him. The ex-girlfriend, then, becomes our villain -- the woman who can't accept she's lost a man and won't let her supposed loved one be happy and free.

    Basically, we know that our villains are supposed to thwart the plans of our protagonists to achieve their goals. In this case, the villain wants to prevent the wedding of her former lover to another woman. To do this, our villain shall work and conspire with "allies" to make our protagonist's life miserable. She plotted with a hit man to kill the true love of her former lover but the villain's plan didn't work out and the wedding was still a success in the end. The villain then either ends up dead or in prison. Now that's a rather very ordinary plot but let's use it for the purpose of this discussion.

    Some questions we can use as guides in coming up with our own villains are:

    1. Does the villain have sufficient reason for her wrath?

    2. Does the villain have sufficient exposure in the story such that her motives, goals and history are well narrated?

    3. Is the villain consistent and realistic in dealing with her own conflict and with the story's hero?


    Since we are faced with the limitation of space, we are normally inclined to think that if any character deserves a lengthy description in our story, it's our heroes. But the truth is, a good hero's victory in the story will not bear much sense if he/she didn't have a worthy opponent with a reason clear and significant enough to make an impact and even earn sympathy from readers. We can't fool our readers. They would see through our story and make conclusions like we've never really explored nor understood our villain, hence, our villain's actions as well as choice of words are inconsistent and even blurry.

    So how can we possible make the readers feel that our villain is not a mere character we included in our story just for the sake of having a villain? In other words, how do we give life to our villains such that the readers can hear them speak their heart out and explain the root of their bitter character?

    Among other things, we can try giving our villains some good friends. Good friends, who can also be close family members or relatives, stick with their friends through the best and worst of times. Our villain also needs some allies who completely understand the source of his/her wrath against the hero.

    What storywriters need to remember is that a short story using man-to-man conflict need to effectively expose both the villain and the hero. Otherwise, the story will leave many questions in the reader's mind, especially with regards to the motives of the characters. In effect, it will make readers feel that the story is missing some very important parts.

    So sit back now and look through the short story you're working on. How is your villain doing.

    Copyright © 2003 Arlene M. Paredes

    Arlene M. Paredes writes short stories, features and essays. Her first nonfiction book will be released this year. She maintains an online journal as a form of writing exercise. You may contact her at lhen@postmark.net.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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