When One Villain Isn't Enough

Sometimes you need to have two villains. This is true of my most recent manuscript. I wrote the rough draft with one villain, but it just doesn’t quite work. I had to manipulate circumstances which screams “oh, puh-lease!” Thus, the birth of another villain to assist.

How do you add a second villain? First, you must think about the negative traits of each. My editor says you must have two negative traits and one positive trait for each villain, just as you need two positive traits and one negative trait for the hero/heroines. Ah, that takes some work, doesn’t it?

Sure there are bad guys who are just naturally bad. But unless you are writing a psychological thriller, your villain is usually not of that caliber. My book is a romantic suspense so what I have is a woman-in-peril situation. The villain has to have a good chance of winning for the reader to buy into the story and root for the heroine. My villain must be so devious that he can smile at his neighbors, be considered the average guy-next-door, and people empathize with his loss of a loved one. Underneath he simmers with rage at the person he believes should pay for what happened. But, he needs someone to help him. Someone easily manipulated into doing some of his dirty work. Thus the birth of the second villain.

The trick is to weave this new person seamlessly into the already completed manuscript. The scene to introduce him must be in the first third of the book. Why? This is important to up the suspense for the reader. The birth of a second villain makes it possible for the bad guy to win. Uh-oh! How will the heroine cope? Will she survive? Well, of course she will since this is a romance with a happily-ever-after, but, the bad guy has a really good chance. The stakes have been upped. The reader is hooked to learn how the heroine will figure out a way to escape the clutches of two villains and save her own life.

(Note for Writers:) Did you hear that? Save her own life! Writing friend, do not have your heroine be so weak she must rely on someone one else to save her. She must play an important role in saving herself in the climax of the book. Otherwise, you’ve disappointed your readers.

Teaming villains isn’t easy. Doing so requires hard work. The plot must be seamless and believable. But, it can be done and the fun is in figuring it all out. The hard part is done. The book is written. Making changes and weaving subplots and layering is much easier with a complete manuscript. This is the first time I’ve realized how much fun the editing process can be!

What is the most fun of the writing experience for you? Have you ever written two villains in one book?


When One Villain Isn't Enough — 7 Comments

  1. I’ve never written two villains in a story before. My WIP will have a villain and his brother/accomplice, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what you’re talking about.
    The most fun I always have is writing beginnings, and I’m probably not alone. I’m hoping that as I become a better plotter, that will change to include middles as well!
    Best of luck with your two baddies, Carol Ann!

    • Hi Janie! Thanks for dropping by. I would think having a brother/accomplice qualifies as two villains. As for writing the beginning, I always have a hard time deciding exactly were the beginning should start! Middles have always been harder for me, but with this book I seemed to move right along once I got the beginning locked in. Have fun with your newest project. Hope to see you at the next COFW meeting!

  2. Thanks for the insight. At this moment, my heroine has landed in a “no win scenario”.
    She’s making my brain hurt, while she tries to figure it out. And now I see she’s going to be delayed even further, now that the hero is missing and apparently will have to remain so. My most fun writing is when I get to ignore rules like grammar, syntax, historical facts, etc. – Tanja

    • Ooh, Tanja, sounds like you are in a fun part of the writing stage! Yee haw! It appears your favorite part of the writing process is the rough draft! Glad you are back in the writing saddle. Hope to see you at a COFW meeting soon!

  3. I have not written two villans in a story before, but the most fun I have is orchstrating the plotline and characters of my story – moving them from situation to situation and watching them learn and grow. Great post, Carol!! God bless.

    • Marianne, I envy you being able to orchestrate the plotline! Seems my rough draft plotlines are always weak. It’s only in the second edit that I see how I can do it so much better. Thanks for stopping by!

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