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The Never Ending Search for a Great Villain By Becky Martinez

To be a writer is to be constantly on the lookout–

for new ideas to incorporate into stories, for new friends who might provide new insight, for old methods that you might decide to give a try in new ways.  As writers we should always be examining the world around us and looking for fresh ways to tell a story as well as keeping an eye on the latest trends and then putting that together with our own talents and thoughts. We should always continue to look for that next great new idea. That is especially true when looking for the best bad man, woman, creature or entity to become the villain of your book.

Villains can be fun to write, but they can also be the most challenging. Just as I always say, always be on the lookout for a new great hero or heroine’s story, also look for those great villains who can challenge and torment your heroes and heroines.

If we want the stars of our novels to shine, then we need to polish them up with the cloth from a great villain. The stronger your villain is, the stronger your hero and heroine must become to defeat that person or entity. I am always saying we want to challenge heroes and heroines and that is exactly what your villain does.

The search for a great villain needs to be as constant as the search for great heroes and heroines.

Villains can be found anywhere, just as the plot for a good book can be found in almost any setting or any story. Recently as I was working on a plot twist for a murder mystery, I recalled a  day long train trip through the Rocky Mountains with a group of friends. Along the way we met another group travelling together and they were into singing together and before long we had the entire snack club car singing along. But the plot twist came as we reached the Moffat Tunnel that goes through the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. For 20 long minutes the train was dark and we were told to stay seated because it would be dark and we shouldn’t speak.

Well, being a mystery-suspense writer, my immediate thought was of what happened if we got to the other end of the darkness and came out on the other side with a body in our midst. Who would the villain be and why?

That started my search for the perfect villain to pull off such a dastardly deed.  One thing I know is that it’s a never ending process to be a writer. There is always something new to discover or to use to tell others about in a story. And that is especially true about finding the perfect villain to fit each story. I started considering everyone in that club car and making up little stories in my head on why each of them might have killed someone around them. By the time I got to the end of the journey several hours later, I ha couple of villains and protagonists developed in my head.

Just as you want your main characters to shine, the best way to bring out the best in them is to provide them with worthy opponents to battle.  The stronger the villains, the stronger your protagonist must become to defeat them. And how do you find or create those villains?

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Don’t be afraid to head for the limits of bad and evil. You can always pull it back a little in the story if you need to. But make them strong enough to make your main characters work and grow through the course of the story. Nothing is more fun than a battle of wits between two strong people.
  2. Know your villains. Give your villains a background, even if you don’t use it all in the story. Make them as complete as you make your heroes and heroines. You want them to have their own reasons for the crimes or even the tiny evil deeds they do. You need to know what those reasons are to make that villain come alive on the pages.
  3. Keep the story in mind as you create your villain. Where does he/she fit in? Is the person or entity there to drive the plot or is it there to make your hero/heroine grow? The overall plot should drive the story unless you want to give that role to the villain, but YOU need to make the decision and decide how to make it work.
  4. Have fun with your villains.  Don’t let them take over the plot, but don’t be afraid to let them do all those evil deeds we’ve all been taught not to do. That is why they are in the story after all, so don’t be afraid to use them.
  5. Constantly keep watching for new villains. We see them come to light every day, either in the news or perhaps even in our daily lives. We encounter people we may not trust or who give us reasons not to trust them. Always be searching for types of personalities or people who you feel can fit the role of a villain and then look at how to use it in a story.

As a writer and a writing teacher, I am constantly looking for new ideas and always ready to learn something new. I do that with villains too. Just as I am always studying people to come up with characters, I find myself doing that with villains.

The same is true for books on writing. While I am constantly studying new methods or listening eagerly to how others write, I also listen to writers talk about how they come up with villains and what makes them so important. Overall, the writing experience is never ending, whether you’re looking for a new plot or how to come up with a great villain.

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A woman on a mission, a man with secrets to hide…

When tabloid reporter Cere Medina decides to dig into the mysterious cold case death of Marco Gonzales, she hopes it will save her career. Instead, she unearths enough secrets to make a small town explode. Not to mention putting her on the wrong side of the town’s fascinating sheriff.

Sheriff Rafe Tafoya doesn’t need anyone digging up the past. He’s come back to his hometown of Rio Rojo, New Mexico seeking peace and quiet. But Cere’s arrival puts his town–and his heart–in danger.

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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...