Inexperienced Evil: “Will the Real Bad Guy Please Stand Up?”

canstockphoto18799595Hey JC,

I read your post about Seven Archetypes to Create a ViIlain and I want to ask you a question.

One of my antagonists is not quite out there evil, unlike a lot of antagonists in books where you know right off they’re evil (e.g. Cruella de Vil. Darth Vader. Hannibal Lector. It was obvious that they were¬†evil from the very beginning) but I want the reader to think, “I don’t know what it is, however I don’t quite trust her”.

Any suggestions on how to write such a character?

Just to give an example of what I’m talking about, if anyone saw the original Friday The 13th, when you first see Mrs. Voorhees she does not seem like an antagonist until she talks about her son, Jason.

Sincerely,
Inexperienced Evil

Dear Inexperienced,

What genre are you writing? I’m guessing it’s more in the suspense-thriller category rather than a mystery. Either way, the best villains are those¬†who think they’re the hero. They believe their cause is just, and maybe in the beginning of the story it is. However, as the plot moves forward, the villain continues to take his actions to the next level and loses sight of who he is hurting in the pursuit of his goal.

I’d start with the Protagonist and Antagonist possibly being on the same side, maybe even being friends. As the plot forces the two apart, the Antagonist will take a stronger, more aggressive approach to the situation. This approach will conflict with the Protagonist’s principals and ideals, creating conflict. I read a story once about two environmentalists who were trying to protect a forest from loggers.

In a mystery, the Antagonist’s identity is a secret until the very end. Several genuine clues will be dropped here and there that a perceptive reader may pick-up. Referring to your example, the original Friday the 13th was a mystery to some degree, in that the audience thought Jason was committing the murders. The mother explains that he drowned, giving the audience the impression the teens were being pursued by his ghost. Then in the end it is revealed that the mother was actually dressing up as her son and killing the teens. That type of story requires a red herring (who the reader/audience believes is the killer) and a hidden murderer revealed in the end of the book..

Good luck and keep writing.

JC

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Got a question for me? Hit the contact button at the top and send me an email. Or do you disagree with my advice? Let me know in the comments. How would you respond to Inexperienced Evil’s problem?

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