Books and Affiliated

We’re Here! Ep 2

Villains
In another installment of We’re Here! Ep 2: Key elements to writing a really good villain.

I present to you Medusa – that vile, nasty woman we all loved to hate. She was ugly. She turned men to stone. She was bitter, angry, and mean. We were relieved when Perseus outwitted and destroyed her. You might even say we stopped viewing her as a woman at all, but a monster like the ones we hide from around Halloween time.

This article from the UK I stumbled upon presented something I never knew about the story of Medusa. It gave, for the first time, her backstory. You can read it *here. I would like to unpack some of the article in a short blog for you busy readers, if I may, and present my humble thoughts.

Medusa is a great villain. But she’s not great for the chaos and fear she wreaks upon her world. She’s a great villain for her pain.

We all sense great villains are born of great pain. We can tell when someone is evil for the sake of being evil (which is kind of boring) or when someone is evil because they were pushed, chased, and beaten down the wrong path. They are evil, but they don’t like it. They’re simply too broken and too disillusioned to humanity that there’s no turning back.

Medusa was a beautiful woman. So beautiful, in fact, she captured the eye of the sea god himself – Poseidon. But the feeling wasn’t mutual. She did not love Poseidon. Truth be told, she could have been married to someone else for all we know of her story. But Poseidon being the selfish man he is, chases her. He pursues her, it is said, across Athens which is governed by the goddess of war Athena. Medusa is fleeing for her life. Poseidon leaves destruction in his wake in his pursuit of her.

And really, let’s ask ourselves why? There are literally millions of beautiful women, dude. Find one who’s a better match for you.

Athena, understandably, resents her country getting destroyed all for the sake of her uncle’s lust of some pretty human, so she stops him, scolds him, and sends him back to the sea lest he risk all out war with his niece.

Oh wait. That doesn’t happen. What really happened, was Athen turned a blind eye to her uncle’s scandalous affair, and punishes the victim of this narrative. Medusa. She curses Medusa to never “seduce” another man. But that’s not enough. Athena turns her into a monster.

And Perseus is gloriously applauded for killing her.

This is a great villain story. A good thing turned rotten by injustice. And we believe every bit of Medusa’s anger, bitterness, and hatred of men. Within her story, the readers can commiserate her point of view, if not condoning her actions. Yes, she’s cursed, but no, she shouldn’t have been running around trying to turn men to stone. Those men, in the beginning, were as innocent as she once was. But, alas, without her villainy, we don’t have our hero, and without a hero, where’s the story?

Remember, sometimes the best villain is a believable villain. And sometimes giving your readers a glimpse of the whole story paints a compelling picture.

This has been,

Fanny T. Crispin

* The asterisk! You forgot about the asterisk, didn’t you? So did I to be fair, until I was proofreading and stumbled upon it. “A thing! I was going to write a thing! What was it? Now I remember.”

* I do not endorse everything in the article I shared. For example, they likened this amazing Greek story to Mrs Clinton’s campaign circa 2016. I do not endorse the Clinton lineage.

Books and Affiliated, From Writing to Publishing, Writing Prompts

We’re Here!

Villains

I’ve bounced around an idea of starting a series of blogs titled “We’re Here!” – the search for characters and what makes a character-driven story.

Today, I thought we’d focus on villains. What makes a villain and what makes a good villain so bad.

In our very first post for “We’re Here!” we’ll explore villains from multiple angles and discover the antagonists all around us.


PS LOVE the new additions to the WordPress app. 😀


Bad to the Core

There are, of course, people in the world who are simply bad. They seek only to please themselves. They run after pleasures of the flesh and the physical, always chasing that which they believe will make them feel happy and fulfilled.

You can use this in a story. You can have a villain who is simply selfish, and every reader will understand their motive and cringe at the injustice of it all.

There are other levels to selfishness too. Some people have a specific skill set, such as gambling, swindling, lying, stealing, and they take pride in those skills. Give your villain a defining skill, something to make him realistic in your reader’s mind.

Bad by Default

Wouldn’t you agree some people just strike on bad luck? They were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. This can be discouraging for the human soul, which strives to believe everything it does is for good.

Now this villain needs a place to belong. They’ve given up on life and got caught up in whatever racket has been chasing them down. It could be a gang. Maybe they’re a follower for an evil ruler. Maybe they’re simply so hurt, all they care about is hurting others. Hurting people hurt people.

So give your villain a strong emotional connection on the negative side. Make them angry or bitter, resentful, unfulfilled. But try to strike for something specific – their father left them/beat them/etc. Their only friends were the neighborhood gang who treated them terrible but promised them a place to belong. Be creative, but try to stem from real-world examples if you can. Maybe they were kidnapped, human-trafficked, or simply raised by plain old mean people.

Usually these villains can have a great redemption moment. Play with that. Maybe in your story, you want to save people, not simply create an environment for your hero to be heroic. We all love stories of forgiveness.

Bad for the Sake of Good

This is a tough one. There are people in the world who believe what they do is for the good of humanity. Conquers of old were good examples of this. In those days, it was conquer or be conquered. So as ruler, you sent out to battle local countries to display your power. This in turn kept your own people safe, because no one dared challenge you.

This villain believes they are good. They are completely justified in their mind. One could almost write the story from their point of view and make them the hero!

One of the best ways to write this villain is to make them so believable even the hero begins to falter. Make your readers question everything they thought they knew about right and wrong. This is a powerful villain, because if the readers believe for even a second that their hero could fail, you’ve added the perfect element to any story – RISK.


A good way to find villains is to look at people, politicians, religious leaders, and anyone you don’t like. Dig into questions of why you don’t like them. Do they challenge your way of life? Do they cause you personal harm? Are they resisting your cause for good and well-being?

Now hop the fence and study your personal antagonists. Read up about them and their values. Discover why they do what they do. Why they believe what they believe. In doing that, you’ve just researched material for a great villain.

Now go write about them.


This has been,

Fan T. C.

in “We’re Here! – Villains”