Today’s YA Indie Carnival post is about villains! (Muahaha) Yes! This post is important to me not just as a member of the YA Indie Carnival, but as an author. Villains are ESSENTIAL to a fantasy story. I love villains and seeing what makes them tick. It’s almost easy to make a reader feel for the hero. It’s who we automatically root for, right? But I think great writing comes when a reader sympathizes with a villain. Whether it’s understanding where they’re coming from, respecting their determination, or admiring their clever plans, villains are an important part of a action-packed plot in fantasy stories.
Let’s talk about a villain from my book, Gifted. Without giving too much away, especially spoilers, I won’t reveal too much, but I still wanted to show you how I made my villain dangerous, different from other villains. When Lucy, my protagonist, meets Felix Hardy, she has no idea what to make of him:
“A figure emerged from the dark. I could only make out the silhouette, but as it got closer, details became clearer. He had a small frame, graying dark hair and he dressed in khakis with a white button-down shirt. Moonlight bounced off black-rimmed glasses over brown eyes that never left my stare. He stopped a few feet from where I stood and I could see a crooked nose where it had presumably been broken once or twice. Who was this nerd? I almost looked for a pocket protector on his chest.”
You can see what I was going for with my villain. He’s unusual, nonthreatening, a small, wiry nerd. No one would ever guess him to be as dangerous and evil as he really is. But scary villains don’t need to be super buff all the time. He relies on his brilliant mind, which can sometimes be even more dangerous than muscle. And really, the fact that Lucy automatically passes him off proves a point–sometimes your enemies don’t simply jump out from the shadows at you. Sometimes they scheme first.
I also wanted to share one last thing with you about villains. When writers sketch out their characters, they spend a LOT of time on the main character. But it’s just as important for writers to focus on their villains, too. When I first wrote Felix, he was a cardboard cutout, a walking cliche that I couldn’t quite grasp yet. Then I looked a lot closer at him, devoted pages to who he was and what was important to him. And it hit me–villains act the way the way they do based on their past. Once I took a better look at him, it seemed obvious. Felix told me his story:
“I want to share something with you, something only my wife knows.” He paused and looked my way. I raised an eyebrow, curious to see where this was headed.
Felix undid the buttons of the wrists of his shirt and slowly rolled up the long white sleeves. He came closer, stepped into the shallow pool of light that spilled in from the circus grounds. I leaned in despite my misgivings and saw scars all over Felix’s arms. Tiny little circles scattered across his pale skin like freckles.
“Are those cigarette burns?” I asked.
“Not quite. You see, I loved science even as a young boy. My favorite hobby was frying ants with a magnifying glass on my sidewalk. Inhumane perhaps, but at nine years old, it kept me entertained. One afternoon, a bully approached me. My father, his science teacher, flunked him for cheating. This boy stole my magnifying glass out of my hands. He straddled me and proceeded to fry my skin.”
I looked at the shiny white spots and felt nauseous. Marks covered Felix’s skin. I could even make out scars on his neck behind the collared shirt. I looked at his face again, processed his severely broken nose and quiet, geeky demeanor. I would bet my gift that the torture had continued for several years.”
After I wrote that out (on a sheer whim, I might add), it gave me a whole new insight to Felix. Suddenly I felt bad for him, even believed that maybe he wasn’t a bad guy. And who knows? Maybe he’s not as bad as you think. Maybe he’s actually got a legit reason to act how he does. Or maybe he’s batshit crazy. You’ll have to read Gifted to find out 😉
(In fact, I got so involved with his character history that I’ve written a short story about him. I plan to put it into a short novella once I get other character histories written. A friend who edited Gifted for me–therefore knows the story as well as I do–read it and immediately told me to finish it. She was freaked yet captivated by Felix and his actions. And I gotta say–I kind of enjoy writing from a bad guy’s perspective!)
And of course, be sure to check out the amazing authors on the list to see their ideas of villains in stories!! Until next week, readers. Have a wonderful weekend!!
7. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog
9. Patti Larsen, The Hunted series and The Hayle Coven series
13. M. Leighton, Blood Like Poison Series, Madly, The Reaping
15. Madeline Smoot, Missing, Summer Shorts, and The Girls