First off, thanks for inviting me to guest-blog on Riding with the Top Down! I’m happy to be visiting.
With so much attention given to our books’ heroes and heroines, I thought I’d take a few minutes today to talk about villains, the characters that oh, so often make the story. After all, what would STAR WARS be without Darth Vader? Or SILENCE OF THE LAMBS without Hannibal Lecter? What would any of my books be without some no-good-nick trying to do in, impede, or otherwise make my protagonists’ lives hell?
Flat. Lifeless. Boring. In creating obstacles for the hero and heroine to overcome, the villain serves to jumpstart the plot, enhance the pace, and inspire the protagonists to grow and change to keep up with the escalating challenges.
That’s a lot of responsibility for a character who gets so little credit. No wonder villains are so often out of sorts.
So what does it take for an antagonist to be Hall-of-Fame worthy. In my opinion, a truly great villain has the following duties:
1) Compelling motivation: no character should just wake one morning wanting to be evil. (Except maybe Dr. Evil of the Austin Powers movies!) For the most part, even the worst human beings justify their actions somehow. Often, they feel forced into the choices they made, or they’re performing unworthy acts to reach a worthy goal.
2) A ‘dark arc’. Like the hero, the protagonist should have the capacity to grow and change. Often, the greatest difference between the antagonist and the hero is that the hero makes the tough move toward the light, while the villain doesn’t have the spine.
3) A true challenge: the villain absolutely must be a worthy adversary, in some way stronger, scarier, or more formidable than the hero. Unless he/she is, the hero has no need to dig deep–and the audience has no real worries about the story’s final outcome.
So who are your all time favorite villains? Post a comment and I’ll send a copy of my brand-new book, DEADLIER THAN THE MALE, (a Silhouette Romantic Suspense 2-in-1 pairing my novella “Lethal Lessons” with Sharon Sala’s “The Fiercest Heart”) to a name I’ll draw on Saturday! Or you can choose a book from my backlist instead, if you prefer. (You can check it out at