Holding out for a ...
They say you’re supposed to hold out for a hero, but forget that. I’ve got heroes up the wazoo. But villains? Now that’s who I’m holding out for.
It’s easy to make a hero, in my opinion. Give him a square jaw with a dimple, bright eyes, big muscles, and a can do attitude, and you’re ready to go. (Writing note: I’m not actually suggesting you do this). They don’t all have to be Captain America or Dudley Do-Right, but we generally know a hero when we see one.
Villains are harder. We instinctively want to make them Snidely Whiplash style, twisting his mustache, cackling evilly kind of guy. That way, you know who to boo and hiss at. But what if you don’t want your reader to know, right off the bat, who the villain is? Make the reader work to figure it out.
So you villain has to be less Snidely Whiplash and more... what exactly? Hard to say. After all, if you make the villain too nice, too appealing, in an effort to throw the reader off, they’re going to
be pissed when he turns out evil, or even worse, be super unconvinced that he’s actually the villain. The last thing you want is readers questioning your characters’ motivations.
Basically, you have to make your villain as well rounded as your other characters. This goes for your hero, too. Try not to make them caricatures of their roles, a la Dudley Do-Right and Snidely Whiplash. Give everyone in the book some good points and bad points. Your
readers will thank you for it.
If you want, though, you can “Mwahahaha” quietly to yourself while writing your villain. Even if the readers get the more complicated version, at least you know their evil.