Here’s the next page of Lessons from my Ex-Boyfriend’s Novels.
Writer’s Disorder #5: A Villain who lacks motivation.
Villains are not bad because they are bad. In Bible-lore, even the Devil had once been God’s right-hand man. But he felt shunned by God, and jealous of his power, so he retaliated and eventually became the King of his own Kingdom: Hell.
Honestly, I could not tell you the name of the villain in my ex’s story simply because I do not remember. But I do remember a devil-demon who reigned over all that was bad and had minions to do his bidding whenever he wished. We did not know why he was bad, except that the protagonist was the only one standing in his path to world domination. Sounds pretty typical, right?
The Cure: Write a backstory.
It’s not enough to say “Oh, he’s a psychopath” and fail to develop back story… even if you don’t share the backstory with your readers, its development will show through in your writing.
If your villain lacks motivation and you’re struggling to find some, you’re not alone. But people in this world don’t set out to be the villains of someone else’s life. You’ve probably heard this before, but the villain of your story is the hero of their own.
I’ve thought of some examples of backstory you can build into your villain that can make them a more well-rounded character as well:
Fear can drive people to do a lot of things that aren’t good for themselves or for others. Perhaps your fear is not getting recognition for your deeds. It might drive you to step over others in your quest for success. Perhaps your fear is of a certain person or kind of person. This fear might drive you to carry out xenocide. (Fear is also a good quality to put in your protagonist as well!)
Example: Voldemort. Voldemort was a good villain because he didn’t start that way. His fear of death combined with his lack of compassion drove him to split his soul into seven pieces. I don’t know about you, but if I only had one seventh of a soul, I probably wouldn’t mind being the “bad guy” in other people’s worlds.
This emotion can also tap into fear. A character’s desire to succeed can overpower them and drive them to run over others on their path toward that success.
Example: Prince Humperdinck from Princess Bride. Not overtly evil, Prince Humperdinck wants what he wants and will stop at nothing to get it. In the movie he is portrayed almost like a businessman, trying to climb to the top of the corporate ladder.
“Tyrone, you know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.”
Going through a childhood of neglect or abuse can spark disfunction in a character. While most people who sustain abuse in their lifetimes do not become the abuser later in life, it can happen. They want people to feel the abuse they felt.
Example: Kevin from “We Need to Talk about Kevin.” The mother neglects and even at times abuses her son, and the father coddles him. Together, it is the perfect concoction to create a school shooter. Sure, it’s fiction, but we’re fairly certain by the end of the book that Kevin wasn’t just born this way—he was made.
I’ve got a few more things that I thought of in regards to my Ex-Boyfriend’s novels… so I have more posts coming up, but it’s a busy time of year! Promise to post more soon!