Heros and Villains

06 Feb

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?


Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Other Strangeness


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13 responses to “Heros and Villains

  1. Elizabeth

    February 6, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    I wholeheartedly prefer to write about my villains -they are far more fun. I think it is important to know what their defining moments were but I also find it important to remember that evil people do not usually think of themselves as evil. They think their actions are justified, or are for the greater good, or they are somehow compelled to act the way they do. I find villains that are attractive to be all the more evil.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 6, 2012 at 9:20 pm


      Thank you for your feedback. I agree that evil is a frame of reference. Are attractive villains more evil because we tend to trust them more easily? Probably, so watch out for Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

  2. Traci

    February 7, 2012 at 4:36 am

    Heroes. Villains already get enough press.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 7, 2012 at 1:27 pm


      I hear you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

  3. Shannon Howell

    February 7, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    So far, I’m having an easier time writing my antagonist. While she is the “bad guy” she isn’t evil – or at least I don’t think of her that way. She has a specific goal – that just happens to be contrary to what pretty much everyone else in society wants. But she’s REALLY determined because of past experiences.

    With the protagonist, it’s too easy to be bland and flat. He can’t make too many mistakes, or he looks like a doofus. If he gets everything right, he’s not believable. If he’s too nice, well, what’s wrong with him? Too mean and why isn’t he the bad guy?

    For me, the protagonist is a fine balancing act. Thinking back, this is probably why I found “Crime and Punishment” to be interesting, the protagonist was a bad guy that I felt sorry for – a different perspective than most stories.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm


      Thanks for you input. Getting just the right mix of good and bad in each character to make them believable is what we strive for. I guess if it was simple, everyone would be doing this.

      Thanks again for the award. Like you, my short tenure is making it difficult to come up with fifteen referrals. But, I should have soemthing out by the end of the week.

      • Shannon Howell

        February 8, 2012 at 9:36 pm

        Take you’re time. I did.

      • Dennis Langley

        February 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm

        Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your support.

  4. annewoodman

    February 8, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Although my novel is women’s fiction (some thrillers are more villain/hero oriented than what I’m writing currently), I actually try not to think of any of my characters as evil or innocent. Not that I’m evil (hehehehe-evil laugh), but I suspect that many characters we think of as evil actually consider themselves very noble and can explain away any aberrant behavior. When I write, I try to “climb inside” that character and think of his or her actions from that very specific perspective. I think a well-rounded character, either good or evil, is more fun to read (and write).

    • Dennis Langley

      February 8, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Thanks for stopping by. It recently dawned on me that my favorite characters are actually anti-heros.

  5. Pat

    February 9, 2012 at 12:00 am

    So far, so good. 🙂

  6. stevie

    February 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    I’m not a writer but I do enjoy good characterization. It seems to me that hero/villian is just a matter of perspective. From the point of view of Richard Speck, OJ was a hero. Maybe Charles Manson cooked breakfast for his Grandma on Saturday mornings. I think it’s the inconsistencies that make a character truly interesting.
    Here’s an example for you. The character Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson is a rapist within the first thirty pages, yet is the savior of the world for six volumes.

    • Dennis Langley

      February 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm


      Thank you for stopping by. Your comment is spot on and indicates what all writers should strive for; characters that are full of depth and intrest. Your intelligent insight and candor is why I respect your feedback on my work. Please drop by often.



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