Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Writing The Villain

A few days ago Maria was writing in her blog about the villain. If we don't find a way to give them at least a measure of humanity, they lack depth, becoming little more then a Snidely Whiplash.

Right about now, somewhere beyond the Fourth Wall, Snidely Whiplash is offended at the suggestion that he lacks depth. Well, that's what you get for tying heroines to train tracks, Snidely.

The villains in my field of writing, intelligence thrillers, are by large terrorists. Heaven & Hell features the Covenant group, among others. I've made use of groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, in terms of direct or indirect appearances in the book already. Regardless, I knew early on that the terrorists in question would have to be a fictional group. With good reason. Let's just say that the Very Bad Thing that I've alluded to would never be attempted by these real groups.

Regardless of what they're doing, I've still gone out of my way to humanize the Covenant. The group is small enough that each member can get enough of a spotlight. Each of them has history, motivation, and personality. And I've come to like writing them. They're something different then what we think of when we use that word, terrorist. I find myself wondering if I'll feel the same sort of sympathy about these people when I'm done writing the Very Bad Thing portion of the book as I do now. It's really the point of no return, and will I still be able to like writing them after that? Time will tell.

Terrorism will rear its head again in future books. I've already placed some elements of it in this book, with brief appearances by former IRA men and Protestant Irish terrorists who will appear again down the line. I've alluded to a terrorist group, the Sword of the Faith, who will appear in my second book. They'll be a bit more of a challenge, I think, giving them a hint of humanity.

The challenge is to not give these characters too much sympathy. They are, after all, terrorists. In the world we live in, this is the sort of person who sets off bombs in markets and pubs, or uses suicide bombers to make their point. The villain, as far as my future work is concerned, has to have at least some kind of understandable motivation, something that drives him (or her) down that wrong path.

No, not politics, but thanks for thinking that way. I know, I'm a bad influence.


  1. You've done a good job on your villains (though I'd use the term antagonists, since yours are hardly cartoon villains).

    And yes, I'm sure Snidely is pissed....

  2. LOL.. Love the Native American pic!! Villains are indeed fun to write... thinking back to my attempt at writing a political thriller my villain was too villain-y. That was where I went wrong ... I didn't give him enough depth. Plan to revisit that story some day.

  3. Dammit! I guess I better ditch my antagonist's top hat and cape. The mustache stays.

  4. I don't think I could honestly wrap my mind around the evil that lurks in a terrorist's warped and twisted skull. Congratulations on creating the villain that puts fear into a reader's trusting heart. LOL.

  5. All villains in real life have stories behind why they are who they are. Doing that in writing helps make the villain believable.

  6. I love writing villains, and I agree with Mike: they usually need some back story to make their actions believable.

  7. My family's known a man who must be well into his nineties by now. During the War, he was with the Dutch Resistance. He spent those years doing things that the Germans would have considered terrorism, including killing people. It's only in the last few years that he's openly spoken about that.

  8. Villains are so fun to write, but it is important to see what got them so twisted in the first place. You should blog about that older gentleman you mentioned. Sounds like he has a fascinating story.


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