One of the hardest parts for me about writing steampunk–or any genre–is creating the villain. In fact, I finally figured out that was the hold up on my current WIP. I had no idea what the bad guy’s ultimate goal was, so I couldn’t figure out what he was doing or why. Once I sat down and started working specifically on HIM, the plot and flow just snapped into place. Here’s a few things I’ve learned (but had to remind myself) about bad guys over the years:
1) They don’t see themselves as a bad guy. Even if they have a major grudge against society, they’re doing what they do for a reason–a better world, retribution, or sometimes simply a sense of entitlement. The world OWES them money, power, fame, whatever. You have to know what their goal is, above and beyond the scenes in your story. What are they ultimately after? And why?
2) They have to have strengths and weaknesses. Even Superman has his kryptonite. Of course we need to know what your villain is good at, but als what he or she is bad at. This will be their ultimate destruction, of course. 🙂
3) What or whom does your villain hold dear? Even some of our worst criminals in history were great parents or loved their pets. Is it an ideal? Or is it a person? Perhaps a magickal item they’re sure will bring about their success. What will your villain willingly sacrifice, and what will he/she die to protect or achieve?
4) What’s the history that brought him or her to this place? Who is this character, as a person, aside from the context of your storyline? This probably won’t appear in the completed text, but if you, the author, knows it, it will help you write a consistent character.
5) Does he/she work alone, or with accomplices. If so, is he/she charismatic enough to get accomplices, or use some other means, such as threats?
These are just a few suggestions to help figure out how to make your bad guy a three-dimensional character, and also to drive your plot. Remember, the stronger your villain, the stronger your heroes and heroines look when they defeat them!
So, what do you like to see in a villain? One random commenter below wil receive a PRINT copy of Steam & Sorcery, as soon as my box arrives.
On a completely unrelated note, if you happen to be in the Detroit area the weekend of July 17-20, think about attending DetCon1, the North American Science Fiction Assoication’s conference. I’ll be speaking on a panel about writing relationships and reading from Steam & Sorcery, as well as signing!