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Falling In Love With The Bad Boy, Is It Wrong?

Recently, in the Winter Writing Fest Chat-room while talking about how we get to know our characters and develop their arcs, I stated that my villain in HIS WITNESS TO EVIL actually came to my house. Some thought that statement was cool. Others raised their brows, with little icons of course. Well, I’m here to tell you he did—figuratively he did.

While writing His Witness To Evil I had such a great handle on my hero and heroine, John and Stephanie. I knew their dreams and secrets. Heck, I even knew what toothpaste Steph liked to use and which gun was John’s weapon of choice.

However, when it came to my villain, Victor, I knew he was the bad guy, stole money and wanted to do really bad things to John and Steph, but not much else. When the plot line of my book started to look like a sway back mare, I knew I had to invite Victor into my home.

It was a snowy, blustery night when he came to my door. The tree tops howled as the raging winds bent them at odd angles and mad gusts picked up handfuls of snow and sent them to the swirling heavens. Was God telling to be careful?

I stayed alert as Victor followed me into the living room. He paid no attention to my DH who watched a football game on the television and DH paid no attention to Victor, until later.

I asked Victor to sit beside me and while he shrugged off his calf’s skin leather jacket, folded and draped it across the sofa’s back I picked up my pen and notebook. My first question surprised him. “Why did you dye your hair platinum blonde?”

A micro-second before his gaze darted away, I saw Victor’s insecurity. His answer surprised me. I hadn’t expected the Russian Mafia prince to show emotion over his hair. The reason why he colored his hair was just the tip of Victor’s emotional iceberg. An iceberg I probed, digging for the real Victor.

Over the next hour we talked about his life, his career choice, his feeling toward Steph and John and his relationship with his family. I could see his mannerisms and hear his forefather’s dialect, even though he tried hard to mask it.

I couldn’t jot notes fast enough. When my DH decided it was time for Victor to leave because it seemed I was having too much fun with the guy, I had this overwhelming sense that a friend was leaving my home and would travel on a dangerous road. In my mind, I cautioned Victor about his actions and where they might lead him. He simply smiled, and said “Sometimes a man has no choice. He must do what he has been trained to do, without question.”

After the door had closed behind Victor, I dashed off two new chapters. One was inserted into the front of the story because my readers had to know the real Victor and what motivated him to carry out the acts he did. The other lifted my sagging middle up and gave the plot new life.

To this day, Victor is one of the favorite characters I’ve written. I will admit I loved writing about him, and in his voice. Yes, he is a villain, but after our meeting I understand his whys and his secrets and his dreams.

Do you have any advice on ways to develop interesting characters?

His Witness To Evil

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes

19 responses to “Falling In Love With The Bad Boy, Is It Wrong?”

  1. My best advice is to remember that every character – especially anyone who acts as as a foil or a villain – is the hero of their own story. We may only see a tiny portion of it, but we need to have empathy for it. Just my two cents. 🙂

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    • Empathy makes a character real, and that is our goal as writers. We don’t need to like them, but we do need to understand them.

      Thanks, Vivi.

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    • I actually talk about this with my son. It’s useful when we’re talking about wars and military conflicts, because he really wants there to be “good guys” and “bad guys,” but life isn’t that simple and I don’t think he’s too young to think about this stuff. Life isn’t black-and-white, and neither is good fiction.

      We talk about how it isn’t always easy to recognize a “bad guy,” so you have to have your own firm ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong in order to make good choices, and not just go along with what your friends are doing, or even what you’re told to do by an adult. Trusting your own moral compass and all that.

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  2. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I heard Michael Fassbender interviewed once and asked about how he could play horrible villains so well. He said something similar–that most villains aren’t born that way, they’re molded into it. So he just thought backwards through the villain’s life, trying to find where fear or disappointment or maltreatment led the villain to leave his humanity behind.

    I followed that process with a villain and discovered that he’d made some fairly logical (from his viewpoint) decisions to reach where he was. It was creepy that only 1 or 2 bad choices put him on the wrong path.

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  3. Rita Henuber says:

    I feel it’s a good plan in suspense and mystery to get to know the bad guy. Know what makes him tick, keeps the suspense, as in can this guy really be the villain. It’s difficult to define what takes a person to the dark side. In American history we have a prime example. George Washington and Benedict Arnold had parallel, almost identical upbringings and experiences. Both brilliant with a love for the country and yet one takes a turn no one expected.
    I enjoy a read that keeps the villain under wraps for a while. As in Ms. Jordon’s Obsessed By Darkness. My books are more thrillers. You know who the bad guys are at the onset. All I need do is make sure they get theirs by the end of the book.

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    • Thanks for the mention of Obsessed By Darkness. I’m glad you liked the story.

      Knowing who the villain is adds a different perspective through the book and can pile on the chills. However, I do like to work my mind too and try to figure out who the real villain is. That is why I write both suspense/thrillers and mystery/thrillers.

      In either, I still need to know my villain and what they’re capable of doing. In suspense the reader has to understand my villain’s motives, but in mystery they need to like the villain to the point of not suspecting them.

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  4. Villains, especially the dark and twisty ones, are often my favorite characters to write. Why? Because if done well, they are rich, complex, and fascinating characters. Good villains are not born evil, nor are they pure evil. They suffer and become broken through powerful life experiences that shape and sharpen their heads and hearts. And not in healthy ways!

    As Viv said, a good villain is the hero of his own story, and at chapter one the villain is actually stronger than the hero or heroine. Villains drive story and internal transformation. They ultimately make our heroes and heroines more whole and happy. Indeed, I have great respect and admiration for a good villain.

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  5. Janet Walden-West says:

    My major problem was (is) plotting and it all hinged on the villain and realizing they had motivations. Now I have a note tacked on the board above my desk –“What is your villain doing?”.

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  6. This is great, Autumn!The best villains are ones you could almost like. They aren’t villains in their own minds. They are heroes who are misunderstood.

    What a great interview : )

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  7. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    I love to love bad boys. Unless I have a villain that is evil or hell bent on destruction, my bad boys usually have a very human reason for behaving the way they do. Doesn’t always make things right, of course, but relatable.

    Great post, Autumn!

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  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    So many great points here, Autumn. The villain, and his/her actions and motivations, drive the plot. They’re the catalyst that kicks the story into gear, and so much of the story that follows is in REACTION to what the villain does. As a writer, it’s helpful for me to know why the villain is doing what he or she is doing. (“Bwah ha ha! I’m eeeevil!” just doesn’t cut it.) If my WIP starts to stall out at about Chapter 3, I know it’s because I haven’t firmed up my villain’s motivation quite enough yet.

    I like to purposely craft a few similarities between my hero/heroine and my villain, a sort of “There but for the grace of God go I” sort of thing. At key points in the story, my villain, when pressed or forced, makes the selfish choice, and the hero/heroine makes the unselfish choice.

    The villain who does a horrible thing for a completely understandable reason absolutely fascinates me.

    Does anyone else write love scenes for their villains? Bueller?? 🙂

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    • “I like to purposely craft a few similarities between my hero/heroine and my villain, …”

      Tammy, I love doing this. Imagine both hero and villain worship their mothers and then a scene where one of the mother’s is place between the men’s standoff, guns pointed. Wow! The emotion from both POVS.

      Thank you for mentioning this trick.

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The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: Thanks, Shelly. The more I think about what he said, the more I see my characters becoming much more.
  • Shelley Coriell: Big Michael Hauge fan here! I was able to sit in on one of his two-hour RWA workshops seven or eight...
  • Shelley Coriell: Fascinating post, Ava! I’ve never tried to write one of these, but I’ve read a number of...
  • Autumn Jordon: I’m in. Work on the next story is underway, so I’ll need to start germinating another idea.
  • Autumn Jordon: You’re welcome, Cyn. Anytime you have a question feel free to ask.

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