QUICK COURSE DESCRIPTION: For most writers most of the time, the villain arrives as an afterthought. To write compelling fiction that keeps readers coming back, building the right conflict --- and the right character to drive your conflict --- is where you start.
This seems like it ought to be pretty simple. Good guys do good things, bad guys do bad things, and villains do evil things.
But until you have a clear working definition for evil, and don't just "know it when you see it" but are able to point out exactly why an action is evil, rather than good or bad...
And can point out WHY someone is a villain, rather than a bad guy or even merely an antagonist...
You can't write villains.
This week, you're going to do work with the differences between what people think, what they say, and what they do, and how you can USE these in fiction to show the reader what you want him to see while saving some surprises for later -- WITHOUT cheating him.
You'll be doing a lot of writing -- and seeing a lot of progress in your quest to get better villains into your fiction.
This week, we're delving into sympathy and empathy, how to apply each to your villains (and why you might want to avoid writing villains empathetically), the three-step process for creating a sympathetic villain, the dangers when creating empathetic villains (the big one being a special-case appearance of that writing nightmare, You can't know what you don't know), and a trip through How to Break Your Sympathetic Villain and Make Your Reader Hate You, Too.
You don't want to go there.
This week we're going to look at all parts of the story villains can inhabit, and the viewpoints they can use to inhabit them.
We'll work on villains voices, and on moving your villain smoothly from backstory to foreground as you get deeper into the work -- and we'll cover how to move a main villain from deep backstory to main story over the course of a series.
You'll be working with third person past and present and first person past and present, and learning when and WHY you use each of these voices -- and danger areas to avoid.
And you'll be doing a lot of writing.
In this lesson, you'll be working on creating representations of evil that fit the world you've built. Evil in a magical world filled with elves and dragons looks very different than evil in a world filled with Artificial Intelligences and run by a Central Computer.
And there's a big difference between Evil as Art and Evil as Science.
So this week you'll be learning to how to recognize and define Science Villains and Art Villains, and then how to create both types, along with using techniques to shape your worlds to fit them.
Villains will get away from you if you're not careful.
It's in their nature to take over things, to wreck things, to expand on their self-proclaimed mandate until their ever-expanding bag of supervillain tricks destroys your story.
So this week, we're going work through the ways that you can put your villain on a leash -- and still let him or her be the villain you need to keep your story tight and your hero's action meaningful.
THIS week, you'll be building a keeper villain -- one whose stories you genuinely want to write. You can pull him, her, or it from previous weeks and previous exercises, or you can start fresh.
But step up your own personal stakes by committing to writing at least one story (even a short story will count) with this villain.
Generally, you're hoping that your readers will love your heroes enough to want to follow them with you to the ends of the earth (or whatever place you're writing).
Sometimes, however, a writer discovers that while readers might like the heroes, they LOVE the villain.
If you discover this about your own work, first you want to understand why your readers love this character.
Second, you want it to be a reaction you both planned and built toward.
And then third, you want to make sure you don't break the character they love.
So this lesson is about getting all of that -- Understanding, Planning and Building, and Maintaining -- the Villain Readers Love to Hate, Love to Fear, or Love to Love.
There are three kinds of fallout you CAN get from writing real, honest-to-God evil:
I'm going to cover these in order of importance, from MOST important to LEAST important. In other words, You, then Your allies, and finally Your enemies. This is a tough, important, and emotional lesson, and it will allow you to both write better villains and protect the joy and happiness and feelings of accomplishment you get from writing your fiction.
Novelist, Writing Course Creator
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