Saturday, September 16, 2017

Let's Get Real About Villains

Writing villains is a tricky subject for YA writers. Some people might think they should be humanized while others might think they should be shown for what they are. Most people are complex and have layers in real life. But the truth is a villain’s cruelty and misdeeds shouldn’t be diminished while still showing they have some depth.

Let’s tackle the villain’s cruelty and misdeeds aspect first. Not diminishing what a villain does is important. One pop culture example is the villain Klaus from The Vampire Diaries. He has killed multiple people, and generally has no regard for human life (Klaus is a hybrid, which means he’s half vampire and half werewolf). But his character is eventually watered down and shown as less extreme. Doing so is a mistake. Life might not be black and white, yet labels can sometimes be helpful. And that applies to writing. A villain’s treachery shouldn’t be erased just because her or she might be attractive.

Having some depth is still important for villains, though. But that doesn’t mean a villain gets a magical blank slate at some point. For instance, I have the villain care about her sister in one of my YA Fantasy novels. Although that doesn’t erase the villain’s behavior. Her dynamic with her sister exists only to show she isn’t one dimensional.

There’s one last aspect that should be mentioned with villains. They can’t have all the victories. That means a hero needs an occasional victory that just doesn’t happen at the end of the book, episode, or movie. People complain about a hero possibly not having enough conflict and things coming too easily. Well, the same idea applies to villains. Things shouldn’t be too easy for them because they shouldn’t have all the fun.

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