Tag Archives: creating villains

Not All Villains Think They’re Good

17 Apr

“Every villain is the hero in their own story” is a common, popular writing tip, and while I agree, I think it is sometimes confused with “Every villain thinks they’re the good guy.” There’s a difference between thinking you’re a hero and thinking you’re a good guy, and not every villain thinks they’re a good guy.

Though the word “hero” in itself has a positive connotation, I argue that villains can still be a “hero” in their own mind while also being aware they are doing something wrong or harmful. Take revenge plots as an example. Most often seen in thrillers, a protagonist could be solely out to seek revenge, whether or not that revenge is warranted. In fact, many believe revenge isn’t “justice” and therefore isn’t heroic. But, at the same time, a revenge-seeking protagonist will think of themselves as a hero without believing they are a good guy. A good example of this is Gerard Butler in Law Abiding Citizen. While he is seeking revenge for his family’s deaths, he kills many people who probably didn’t deserve to be hurt at all. And he’s aware of it. In fact, he uses it as a weapon against others. Therefore, he is a hero for his family, a villain to a lot of innocent people, and definitely the protagonist. But a good guy? I think he gave up that concept a long time ago.

Good guy? Bad guy? Who knows?

Granted, don’t get me wrong, I love a villain who thinks they’re the good guy. I love villains who tiptoe on the good/wrong line more. But I wish we saw more villains that were simply villains—bad guys doing bad things because they want to. Their psyche can be just as deep as someone who is doing bad things for “good reasons” or someone who thinks they’re doing good things when they’re in fact doing bad ones. But we’ve sort of obsessed over “bad guy thinks he’s good” recently…when I think we should be focused on making villains round characters.

Round someone who thinks they’re good all the time.

Round = character who does good and bad things based on many types of motivation.

People aren’t so black and white. No one is purely good or thinks they’re good, and no one is all bad either. One of my favorite, eerie quotes is that, yes, serial killers sometimes help grandma cross the street. In fact, serial killers are often some of the most charming people around. But if you study serial killers, (and you’re a True Crime junkie like I am), then you know serial killers are generally aware that what they’re doing is SUPER messed up…yet they do it anyway. And then, they go to work and school and raise families and so on and so forth. Aside from killers like Charles Cullen* (no relation to Twilight), they hardly ever think they’re being a good guy.

Villains can be bad guys who know they’re bad and do bad things regardless. Just make sure they’re 3D while they carry out those dastardly deeds.

Instead of “every villain thinks they’re the hero of their own story”, let’s change it to “every villain thinks they’re the protagonist of their own story—whatever that entails.” In fact, keep this is mind for every character. Your novel will love you for it.

*Charles Cullen, also known as ‘The Angel of Death’, was a nurse in a hospital who killed over 400 patients. He thought he was “mercy killing.” Keep in mind that many of his victims were in good health. He is currently considered the biggest serial killer in American History.

~SAT

My latest Bad Bloods book recently released! I hope you check it out. 

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What are readers saying? 

“I LOVE this! I am a sucker for great characters, and July Thunder has no short of them.” –The Book Forums

“From the start, Thompson grabs your attention. You’re sitting on the edge of your seat until the very last page.” – Infinite Lives, Infinite Stories

“Wonderful writing, captivating characters and a story that will reel you in until the last page, these Bad Bloods may have a tendency of breaking the rules, but their stories are way too good not to read!” – Babbling Books

If you haven’t started this series yet, don’t worry. Book 1 is FREE.

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Character Motivations vs Morals

3 Apr

Not going to lie, I recently binge-watched The 100 through Netflix. For those of you who don’t know, The 100 is a TV show based off a young adult series with the same name. The first season follows a group of 100 kids dropped off on earth after a nuclear disaster destroyed the planet 97 years prior. It’s currently airing season 4. (I’m only on season 3.) Granted, I’m not normally a TV person. In fact, I usually have to be extremely ill to watch a bunch of TV, but I made an exception for The 100. Why? Because I fell in love during episode one. What do I love about The 100? The character motivations. They are 100% believable, even when the plot gets crazy, and I feel like that’s pretty rare.

There’s no spoilers in this article for The 100. Don’t worry. But definitely check out a few episodes to see what I mean.

Character motivations are so important, but often dwindled down to right vs. wrong. But motivation can (and should) be more than that. As an example from The 100, Bellamy just wants to save his sister, no matter what it requires (right or wrong) and whether she wants it or not. In fact, he often does horrible things in order to achieve his goal. Therefore, he is driven by his motivation to save his sister, not his morals to be a good person. On top of that, though he believes saving his sister is his responsibility, he doesn’t lie to himself and think he is morally perfect because of it. He doesn’t have a “hero complex.” An older brother complex, sure. But not a heroic one. He is driven by motivation, not morals.

Why do I bring up morals? Because morals is sometimes the opposite of motivation in fiction. Though they can be synonymous, it’s easy to let a character slide one way or the other. Personally, I always prefer believable motivations to morally-driven characters. Why? Because completely morally-driven characters can be hard to relate to. I mean, let’s be real. Sometimes, that self-righteous hero trope gets a little…boring.

I would much rather watch a show or read a book where the characters’ motivations are believable, morals be damned. Let’s take villains, for instance. The most popular writing tip today is that every bad guy believes they are the good guy, and while I love that tip, I disagree. Not all bad guys think they’re good guys. Granted, I like a bad guy who thinks he’s good. I often prefer them that way. But it’s also fun to follow a character who knows they are selfish, who has reasons for their selfishness, and owns it.

Of course, it’s always best to have both worlds, right? Motivations and morals (and sometimes one fueling the other) can be fun and exciting and terrifying and interesting. But I would like to see more books with strong, sometimes twisted motivations that overcome morally-driven characters.

What about you? Do you prefer characters with motivations or morals or a mixture of both?

Discuss away! Just don’t be the evil one and post spoilers about The 100 in the comments below. (Or at least put a warning at the top of your post.)

Thank you,

~SAT

P.S. Bad Bloods: July Thunder releases next Monday! I also received my first review from Babbling Books! “Another fantastic addition to the Bad Bloods series and a marvelous start to a new duology. Wonderful writing, captivating characters and a story that will reel you in until the last page, these Bad Bloods may have a tendency of breaking the rules, but their stories are way too good not to read!”

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#MondayBlogs Writing, Creating, and Loving Villains

7 Nov

Wizard World Comic Con invited me to speak on the panel Villains vs. Villains with authors Genese Davis, Jack Burgos, and RA Jones last month, and I loved it! We had a great time talking about what makes a villain likable, memorable, or just plain evil. Today, since I know so many of you couldn’t make it, I thought I’d share some of the awesome points brought up during the discussion.

Wizard World Comic Con Villain Crew. From left to right, RA Jones, Genese Davis, Shannon A. Thompson, Jack Burgos.

Wizard World Comic Con Villain Crew. From left to right, RA Jones, Genese Davis, Shannon A. Thompson, Jack Burgos.

First, there are so many different ways to tackle a villain. In regards to creating a person as the villain (rather than society or nature), you have the evil villain, the villain we love to hate, the sympathetic villain, the group of villains, and more. But here are my top three rules to keep in mind when creating any type of villain for your novel.

1. The Villain is the Hero in Their Own Book

Much like the sidekicks do not exist just to support the hero—as they say, your friends don’t exist just to support you, right?—the villain follows the same rule. They do not exist just to antagonize the hero. They have their own lives, desires, wishes, and fears. In my opinion, the best villains are the ones who believe they are the hero. If you had to write the story from their side, you could (even if you don’t agree with them). A great example of this is…history. Just look at the years and decades that came before us. Some of the worst, most vile human beings thought they were doing the right thing. A modern example of this is Valentine in The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.

2. Avoid Clichés

I hate hate HATE the scorned woman villain trope. In fact, I hate the scorned man villain trope, too. Just because their lover—or their family—dies in the beginning, they become this crazy, evil maniac (generally for WORLD DOMINATION and REVENGE), and it becomes…yawn. Why? I think it’s a little silly. (And I say this as someone who has lost a mother, a friend, and more.) While revenge is A-okay in my villain book, I think we can tone it down from WORLD DOMINATION and get a little more personal, like—I don’t know—ruining one person’s life? Some clichés that were brought up included evil British doctors, (doctors of any sort, actually), and those that are just plain offensive, like people with disabilities who are evil because of their disabilities. (Please. Seriously. Stop.) Like with writing any character, research is key. Make sure you’re writing a genuine person who adds to the market in a unique way.

3. Overall Storyline

The villain doesn’t always have to lose. They could also tell the story or become good by the end. I’m dying for a book where the villain and hero become best friends (whether or not that’s a good thing or not), and I love it when the relationships between a hero and villain blurs. One of my favorite examples of this that I’m currently watching is The K2, a KDrama where the hero and villain have quite the interesting dynamic. Which brings me to my next point.

Challenge Yourself

Read books outside your favorite genre. Try reading the original comic books of those movies you’ve seen. Watch shows you wouldn’t normally try. Personally, I love KDramas and anime, and I think they have some awesome examples of villains that I don’t see as much of in Western shows. By expanding your palate on genres, mediums, and cultures, you will expand your understanding on creating villains, destroying villains, and more. If you read and watch the same types of stories over and over, you will most likely write the same types of villains.

So who wants a writing prompt?

Let’s take the villains we love to hate. How do you create one? One brought up by our crowd was Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. Honestly, she’s always reminded me that super strict substitute teacher everyone hated in middle school. So, here’s your prompt. Take an average everyday role and exaggerate it to villain status. In Umbridge’s case, she could’ve started off as that substitute teacher. Figure out what annoys you at the core (in this case, “by the book” rules, even when those rules can be destructive or harmful or hurtful). Try someone who is nosy. Try someone who is stuck-up or cruel. Play with “good” roles, too. If you have a great coach for instance, you can also have a terrible one. Any role can be a good one to play with when it comes to creating a villain. It’s all about their personality…and how evil they can get.

Now go take over the world.

Just kidding.

~SAT

Wizard World Comic Con: Shannon A Thompson

Wizard World Comic Con: Shannon A Thompson

P.S. Thanks for having me, Wizard World Comic Con! I had an absolute blast! If anyone is curious about their 2017 schedule, check it out by clicking here. I’m excited to announce that I’m working with the convention to return next year. We will see! Keep your fingers crossed for me. I am working hard to travel more and speak at different events around the country. If you’re a reader and want me at an event near you, be sure to e-mail their staff and let them know! Your input helps! (And I will love you forever.)

Also, I’ll be at YALLFest in Charleston, South Carolina THIS Saturday! If you want to meet up, just shoot me an e-mail at shannonathompson@aol.com. I would love to see you!

#WW When The Villain Isn’t A Person

13 Apr

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.

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In my life story, I am definitely fighting myself all the time. Writing is tough!

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.

~SAT

Clean Teen Publishing is hosting the CTP Awesome April Reads Release Party on April 15 via Facebook at 6 PM. You can meet authors, win prizes, and check out new books by clicking the link above.

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If you love free stuff, Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE right now. Recommended to YA paranormal romance fans who want new creatures never seen or heard of before.

Read Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, for FREE

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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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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