Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Constructing Killer Characters

by Connie Flynn

1. Start with the villain
Why start with the villain? Possibly because they can be more interesting, which is often true.  There’s nothing quite so compelling as someone who will stop at nothing. Even if that nothing turns your stomach, you’re still fascinated because you want to know if this vile person will actually do it.  He might, and that’s what has you on the edge of your seat. Somebody has to stop him.

2. Constructing the villain

Shouldn't you start with villainous traits? Isn’t that how villain’s are made?  A nefarious purpose, unmitigated selfishness, ruthless determination. Kicks cats and dogs, cruel to children and beats his mother. I could even give him a waxed mustache to twirl, because I’m sure you all see how stereotypical this is. Good villains have traits every bit as complex as your protagonist and should sometimes exhibit caring and  tenderness and generosity. Hitler loved his mother and Eva Braun and managed to compartmentalize his life and this is the key to a strong villain -- he has different rules for different people.

There are also differences between antagonists and villains. Antagonists oppose the protagonist, often for very valid reasons – these two battle on opposite sides of the fence, rather than battling good and evil.  All villains are antagonists but not all antagonists are villains. Villain’s intend to harm or eliminate the hero any way he can. But that doesn’t mean you can give him a waxed mustache.

3. Constructing the hero/ine
This is where the hero finally comes in.  Build an exciting and scheming villain. Then bring the hero in to thwart him, stand in his way wherever he can, defeat his every evil scheme. Turn the tables so the hero is every bit as proactive as the everyday villain, if not more so. He does this for the purist of reasons of course (except for a touch of egotism and self-interest) and makes the villain reveal his true colors.

4.Constructing the conflict
Use conflict to build a powerful story.  With each side of the battle determined to be a step ahead of the other, you can't help but create conflict that crackles.  Each time a character impacts the other, the second character regroups with a counter-move. Back and forth, back and forth. What she wants is exactly opposite of what he wants.  As you plot you will have one character make a move, then have the other move against it in an engrossing game of chess or an exhilarating tennis match. Because that's exactly how it works.

This is a true writing secret that spans both character and plot development that’s right under every writer’s nose: What makes characters come to life and keeps readers glued to the page is the continual push/pull between what the villain wants, what the hero/ine wants.  One wins, the other loses, that one wins, the first one loses, each with escalating consequences until one finally goes over the edge.  

Do you have a favorite villain. If so, I invite you to tell us who and why? Mine is Hannibal Lector (the deadly cannible) because he was so deadly . . . and also urbane. So fess up. How's your man . . . or woman . . . or supernatural character for that matter. Think Count Dracula or Ann Rice's Lestat.

99Cents at Amazon
The books of Connie Flynn, a bestselling, award-winning author of ten novels and several short stories, are getting quite a bit of positive attention from eBooks readers these days. She writes in several genres, including paranormal romance, romantic comedy and action/adventure, contemporary fantasy, and mystery/suspense, this last under the name of K.C. Flynn. Look for several more new releases from Connie/K.C. in 2013.

I'll also belong to Ink Jockeys, a group of multi-published, bestselling and award-winning authors who are now breaking out in independent eBook publishing.  Stop by the Ink Jockeys blog on December 5 and 6 for a FREE and 99Cents Blowout Book Derby.  Plus . . . a $25 Kindle gift card giveaway drawing open to any visitor who leaves a comment with an email address. You will be added to our mailing lists but you can unsubscribe at a later date.

I hope to see you at the BookDerby! ! !

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