Which is harder to create and make real, your hero or your villain? Almost everyone I speak with says that villains are much more fun to write. “You can do anything and get away with it.” “Let you mean side take over.” You can be despicable and no one gets hurt.” Well, I must be the odd ball. One of my greatest struggles is writing a believable villain. Now, I know that my antagonist must be at least as bad as my protagonist is good. But, for some reason my bad guys keep coming off as cliché’s. The truth is that getting into the head of a psychopath is just plain scary. I’m not an evil person. I like to think that I’m a pretty nice guy. How in the world can I know what’s going on inside the head of a maniac? To borrow someone else’s quote, “Mean people suck.”
The good news is that over the past couple of months there has been a slight breakthrough. While doing some freewriting, I came upon the Keys that unlocked my antagonists. In one case it was a conversation with his mother-in-law regarding money and the fact that he can’t support her daughter the way he should. In the other case, it was growing up seeing the cleaning crews remove dead bodies of street people from the gutters of the slum each morning and finding out those bodies were taking to a man who was using them for interesting experiments. In each case there was a defining moment caused the individual to begin acting in an “evil” way. NOTE: For the record, I believe that evil is relative and is based on an individuals frame of reference.
The Key is, what was the set of circumstances that set the antagonist on the path they walk? All of us, no matter how good and pacific we may think we are, if given the right set of circumstances, are capable of horrendous acts. This is the truth. If you do not believe me, watch the evening news or ask anyone who has been in a combat zone, worked in law enforcement, or emergency medicine. So, what is it that can make a nice, sane person turn “evil”? That is the question that I have been asking my characters. I ask them to remember their defining moment and then free write until I have enough material to explain their actions.
So, my friends, I have two questions for you: Do you prefer to write about your hero or your villain? How do you get inside your villain’s head?