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Love or Hate Them – Our Stories need Villains By Becky Martinez

Start with the villain

How do you start to plan your book? I don’t know about other authors, but among my first decisions I make when I begin planning is to think about the villain. Maybe that’s because I write mainly romantic suspense and mystery, but even when I was writing romances I was always thinking about who might be scheming against my hero and heroine. Those nasty characters always seem to pop into my mind and not always in a bad way.

Don’t we all know villains that we wanted to absolutely hate, but then we suddenly find we don’t want to see them killed off? Perhaps we want them to live and suffer. Sometimes we even wish they could turn the page and with the right guidance he or she might come back as a good guy. What is it about some villains that just get under our skin? I wish I had the answer to that, but some writers just seem to have a talent for coming up with wonderful villains. Maybe that’s why I pay so much attention to them, but let’s face it, if we want to write a good book we can’t afford to ignore the bad people in it. So how do we create those villains?

Unfortunately, after talking to many writers—including some bestselling authors—I’ve discovered that there is no particular secret to creating a villain. Just as there is no magic formula to writing a great character, each villain must grow from inside of each of us and take their cues from the story itself. We can guide them in a particular way, but we can’t make the automatically behave a certain way if they don’t want to. They need to come from inside of us—the writer—and it is up to us to breathe that particular life into them. But we can make them special and we do need to make them all individual—as individual as any other character in a book.


Here are some ideas to consider when you start to create your own villains:

We don’t want them to be ordinary.

Our villains need to be worthy of the story they inhabit. Do we want our heroes and heroines to go up against someone common that anyone can destroy? No, we want to make them strong enough that they can connive and endanger the hero and heroine while remaining anonymous if they are in a mystery or very powerful if we see them in true form from the beginning.

They should be constantly on the page or their deeds the results of their evil deeds should be steadily in the picture.

Certainly, we don’t want them to take over the story, but they personally need to be around often enough to cause problems for our hero and heroine. If they aren’t personally on the page, their deeds need to bring on trouble, especially just when everyone least expects it, and they need to bring on trouble in a big way. They have to bring in a problem that can’t be solved in a couple of scenes.

A cartoon or cardboard villain is going to get boring very quickly.

They need to be as unpredictable and as smart or smarter than your main character. Don’t we all love it when the ordinary guy can out-do or out-battle a superhuman villain in a simple way? A worthy foe makes your hero or heroine that much stronger when the good guys win in the end.

How about a likable villain?

Well, maybe not too likable, but think about those villains that you almost wish could get away because with a little rehabilitation they might be able to go in the right direction. We’ve all seen the in books and it takes a good author to create one who gives you that sensation. It could be the villain is nice to animals or helps others when he isn’t thieving from the rich. But if he’s taken bundles from the bank, he will still need to go to jail. Maybe your hero or heroine can take on the dogs he’s been befriending.

Think about the villains who appeal to you as you create your own individual bad guys.

Who was it that attracted your attention or made you think – whether in a good way or a bad way when you read their story or watched them in a movie or tv series? Think about their traits or what they do that caught your attention. Can you do that for the villain in your book? You might also look back at famous—or infamous—villains and those we want to see more of in the future.

Don’t forget the secret villain

Or the invisible ones that we don’t learn who they are, and even though the hero or heroine might solve their case or fix whatever is wrong that hidden or secret villain might still be out there. They might even be coming back at some point. If they are written well enough the reader may even want them to come back. That unknown can keep a reader turning the pages.


There are so many elements that can go into creating a good villain and in a couple of weeks, I will be looking at all angles. We will work on how to come up with great villains for your next story in my new two-week class on Writing Great Villains at Savvy Authors. I hope to see you then! But keep on developing your villains and making them as nasty or nice as ever. Just look for ways to make them unique and readers will remember them long after they close the book.

Love to learn more? Take’s Becky’s class: Writing Great Villains!

[box type=bio] BIO:

Becky MartinezBecky Martinez is a former broadcast journalist who writes romance and romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press as Rebecca Grace.

She also regularly teaches classes for Savvy authors and presents in-person workshops at writing conferences. With fellow author, Sue Viders, she has co-written a series of books for beginning and intermediate authors titled Let’s Write a Story. 7 Ways to Plot, Creating Memorable Characters and The Plotting Wheel are all available at Amazon. Their next book on Creating Great Villains will be available this summer.



[box] Latest Release:

Deadly MessagesInvestigative producer Connie Romero is determined to find out who murdered her sister during an afternoon jog. But putting her investigative skills to work might also be putting her life–and heart–in danger. First, she discovers that her sister’s life was not as idyllic as she thought, and she’s getting an uneasy feeling that she’s getting too close to the truth.

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Canadian Inspector Mitch Weldon respects Connie’s motives and determination, but he has his own case to solve–a serial killer leaving bodies dumped in the park where Connie’s sister was found. Could the cases be related? He needs to find out and find out fast.

He doesn’t need an amateur getting in the way of his job, nor does he want a woman getting into his carefully planned life.

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Becky Martinez is a former broadcast journalist who writes romance and romantic suspense for The Wild Rose Press. She also writes non-fiction books on...