How to Write a Boss Villain — the literary dancer

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Yes, my first writing-inspired post!

Villains are perhaps the hardest part of a YA novel to write. It is way to easy to create a stereotyped, “cheesy” villain with all the wrong motives.  While they are difficult to write, it is easy to imagine a perfect villain, or is it?

Overused Stereotypes

  1. Villain is much older than hero (and I mean old.)                                                       Think of any major YA series. In Harry Potter, Voldemort is in his seventies. In The Hunger Games, President Snow is described as “old and dying.” The list goes on.  The is also a teenager stereotype, so try to steer way of either one, unless the plot demands on it. If you can just as easily have a thirty year-old villain than a seventy year-old, do.
  2. Villain dresses like a drag queen.                                                                                  Nothing is more tiring than a villain that always wears black, or studs and spikes, or all leather, or a long cape, or any major costume piece. This makes said villain vulnerable (“No capes!”- Edna Mode, who explains perfectly that capes are a liability,) and obnoxious to describe. Avoid the stress and create a villain who wears casual street clothing or a suit at the very least.
  3. Cheesy dialogue.                                                                                                                        This one is pretty self- explanatory. If you’ve heard it used before, drop it. And please, please, PLEASE avoid the “well, well, well”s.
  4. Villain over- explains plan/goal.                                                                                           You know what I’m talking about. Don’t write a Doofenshmirtz; they are about as oblivious as it gets. The villain’s plan is always foiled and the hero gets away, totally safe. This is a total no-no for writing a great, engaging novel. If it is totally necessary that the reader know the plan, explain outside of the dialogue tag or without the hero present.
  5. Villain has totally worthless followers.                                                                               I’m looking at you, Mr. Gru. Any person, no matter how despicable, should be able to at least get a decent henchman. Even if the followers are only for comedy, at least made them more helpful than a liability.
  6. Lack of backstory for the villain.                                                                                          Why is the person evil? Why did they turn out that way? A lack of backstory creates plain, lifeless characters. Tell the reader what happened in their past, or show them. Anything is better than nothing.
  7. Strives for immortality or wealth.                                                                                    Please have a villain with a realistic plan. This engages the reader more, and even helps them recognize some of the corrupt leaders in their own, real world. A hero and a villain can even have a similar goal, but with approaching it differently do we realize whose side we are actually on.
  8. Villain is obvious from the beginning.                                                                              Bam! Where’s the suspense? No where. We all knew Mr. Doe was the villain from the beginning. And wait? He shows up out of nowhere and does the hero wrong-doing? What? i’m so shocked. Not.
  9. Hero has major connection to villain.                                                                                   He tried to kill you but failed. She robbed you and you fought back?  Now they hate you so much that there is an entire novel about it? This works very well for short stories, but for novels, have the hero be a random civilian who cares about the world enough to do something. That’s what we all want to read. No more “chosen one.” Write about a character who has to find the strength in themselves without any help from a prophesy.
  10.  Villain selects hero personally.                                                                                                       I must kill Isabella. That is my only purpose in life. I will kill anyone who tries to stop me from killing Isabella. I must be the one to kill her; no one else can. I changes the name, but we all knew who I was talking about. Talk about a tiring villain, ditch the stereotype and just have the said villain want to kill everyone just because. Why not? That would be so much more interesting.

via How to Write a Boss Villain — the literary dancer

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