Small evils? Yes, please! This episode isn’t about writing the big villainy of world domination, but about focusing on the more relatable villainy of small evils—the little crimes, the minor antagonisms—which can be the key to connecting the reader to the book.
You had questions about heroes, villains, and main characters. We have answers! Here are the questions:
How do you make planned power increases not seem like an ass-pull¹?
What do you do when your villain is more interesting/engaging than your hero?
How do you know when a character is unnecessary and needs to be removed from the story, or killed off in the story?
What tricks do you use when you want the reader to mistakenly believe a character is a hero, rather than a villain?
Which is more fun for you: creating a villain, or creating a hero?
How many side characters can you reasonably juggle in a novel?
What are the drawbacks to making your villain a POV character?
If your villain doesn’t show up until late in the story, how do you make their eventual appearance seem justified?
How do you get readers to like a character who is a jerk?
Liner Footnotes ¹ We hadn’t seen “ass-pull,” the a nouning² of the idiom “pull it out of your ass³” as a noun before. ² Bill Watterson gave us the verb form of the word “noun” indirectly in the final panel of this strip. ³ For those unfamiliar with the extraction-from-orifice idiom, it means “make it up on the spot,” with a negative connotation, suggesting that the reader can TELL that this was invented in a hurry.
What’s the difference between villains and antagonists? How is an obstacle character different from those other two? How are they alike? And most importantly, how can we use this information to write effective opposition to our heroes, protagonists, and main characters?
Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
The villain problem, as we define it here at the beginning of the ‘cast, is when the heroes are less proactive than the villain, when they spend most of the book doing little more than reacting to the cool things the villains do. It’s one reason that villains are often more interesting, more memorable, than the protagonists against whom they face off. The villain steals the show.
So we talk about how to offset this. There are lots of tools available — focusing on the hero’s passions, giving the protagonist an internal conflict independent of anything coming from the villain’s plotting, and building a solid acceptance of the “call to action” fairly early in the story.
Halfway through we arrive at the conclusion that the villain problem isn’t actually a problem with the villain. It’s a hero problem, and that’s probably the key piece you need to come up with a solution for your book.