The second lesson I learned while writing The Spider’s Web (and several subsequent stories) is that antagonists are hard. One of the hardest things for me to do is create realistic, fleshed out villains with strengths and weaknesses, motivations and quirks. Usually when I get stuck on a scene, it’s because there’s something in the character that isn’t coming together.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
I can’t really give the best advice on this one, since I’m still learning it, myself. Writing villains is about more than just motivation or back story. One day, just as an exercise, I want to write a book where the main character is the villain.
Having said that, it should come as no surprise that when I hit a problem with a character, it’s usually the antagonist’s fault.
The best way I’ve found to counteract that is to try writing a chapter, or a scene, from the perspective of the the bad guy. What do they want? Why are they standing in the protagonist’s way?
Sometimes, the problem isn’t with the antagonist (though in my experience, it’s rare). Sometimes, it’s more to do with Team Hero–the protagonist is lacking some sort of fatal flaw (rookie mistake), or maybe they are too flawed, and need some kind of redeeming quality, just to make them relatable, to get the reader to root for them.
Or maybe their sidekicks lack, well, kick. Every character should have a distinct purpose–if that purpose isn’t being served–or if another character can do it better–then consider cutting or combing characters. This can also streamline stories, making them move faster and trimming words from bloated manuscripts (so…maybe not a technique to try with Nano. Save it for your January edits). Still having problems with your characters? Not sure if they are the problem to begin with? Check out this post for tips on spotting underdeveloped characters.
The last thing to consider is our point of view. Would the reader connect more with the character if the story was written in first person, instead of third? Are we viewing a particular scene or through the eyes of the right character? Would changing narrators show a more interesting side of the story? Are there too many narrators? Not enough? What about the character’s voice? Is it distinctive? Or is it so distinctive, it interferes with the readability of the manuscript?
Still blocked? Got an issue I haven’t talked about? Leave a comment and let me know!