I LOVE villains, and I have ever since I was child. I mean, have you watched a Disney movie? The villains are always shiny and scary and have the best sing-along songs. The villains are cool, and it’s even better when you fall in love with villains in novels, too. That being said, we have many aspects of villains we need to work on—like Writing Complex Female Villains—and villains who aren’t people.
What are some options?
Protagonist vs. Antagonist: The most common type of villain is the evil antagonist, the foreboding man with a cape and an evil master plan to take over the world. Okay. So storylines vary, but you get my point. Most villains are just that: Villains. One person vs. another person. They tend to have opposite ideals, and now they must fight one another to see who gets to win it all in the end. Think: Batman and Joker.
Protagonist vs. Nature: Think of Twister, Contagion, or Jaws. This type of villain can be a storm, a disease, or an animal. Anything and everything that makes up nature can be a villain. You can get personal—with a single storm, like one approaching hurricane—or you can get HUGE—with extreme climate change all over the world. The best part about exploring Protagonist vs. Nature is putting your protagonist back on the food chain, so to speak. These types of stories, more than likely, take away any “power” humans believe they have, and that can feel pretty twisted at times. In fact, it almost makes it less about being a hero and more about surviving.
Protagonist vs. Self: Okay. So this is technically a “person” but think about as an ASPECT of that person. This could be an insecurity that dictates their life or a fear that prevents them from reaching a goal. This happens a lot in books centered on mental health. Now, please don’t think I’m calling mental health villainess. I’m not. But I am saying that it can be the force the hero is fighting…whether they are fighting against it, how to manage it, or how to accept it is the journey. The upcoming book, The Weight of Zero, is a great example of this. This is also common in athletics, especially if the story focuses on winning or reaching a goal rather than beating one particular opponent. This could also be a “finding yourself” story or even a coming-of-age tale.
Man vs. Society: Think of The Giver or Divergent or The Hunger Games. These types of books, more or less, revolve around society’s dysfunctions (or disagreements) as a whole. While there might be a “face” often seen in the books, the face is rare and fleeting, and the true evil resides in the beliefs of ALL rather than in one or two people.
The best part? More often than not, villains are a combination of these concepts. For instance, an extreme change in climate (Protagonist vs. Nature) could create a disease that drives your protagonist crazy (Protagonist vs. Himself), and now that character must prove to society that they have to change if they’ll have any hope at all of surviving (Protagonist vs. Society). No matter what though, it’s important to remember that a villain is the hero in their story. This goes for antagonists, nature, self, society, etc. Example from Protagonist vs. Nature? That man-eating creature in the woods is eating people because it’s protecting its young, not because it just loves eating people and wrecking lives. It’s really about perspective. Bonus points goes to likeable villains or villains we can sympathize with.
In my upcoming release, Bad Bloods would fall under this Protagonist vs. Society.
Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.
The protagonist is fighting to prove her people are human since society doesn’t see them that way. Rather than fight or try to convince each citizen one by one, they must fight the fundamental makeup of their city to overcome unwelcome hatred. There is a “face” behind the political group, but he only shows up twice and has very little importance to the storyline. (Protagonist vs. Society). However, the protagonist has hindering abilities and unresolved issues, and it causes her a lot of physical and mental pain. (Protagonist vs. Self) On top of that, she lives on the street in the middle of winter. She is very much fighting the Protagonist vs. Nature battle every single day. You don’t have to choose one villain, but be aware of your ultimate villain and the little ones in between.
Combine, twist, and have fun.
Not all villains need to be people. Not all villains wear capes.
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#AuthorinaCoffeeShop Episode 15 starts this Thursday via Twitter’s @AuthorSAT at 7 PM CDT. What is #AuthorinaCofffeeShop? Just how it sounds! I sit in a coffee shop, people watch, tweet out my writer thoughts, and talk to you! I hope to see you there.
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— Shannon A. Thompson (@AuthorSAT) April 8, 2016