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Crafting the Villain

By Kariss Lynch

We’re all born sinful, but I don’t believe any of us are born inherently evil. Hitler didn’t start out thinking he would become a mass murderer. Life experiences, his choices, and what he fed his mind and heart led to the blackness of his character. While Hitler is an extreme example, I believe the same could be said for the villains in our novels.

I just finished Surrendered, the final book in my Heart of a Warrior series. As I look back at the antagonists, I see an a voodoo priest and a terrorist who turns out to be someone a little more personal to one of my main characters all play a role in battling my hero and heroine. Truth be told, theirs were my favorite perspectives to write – twisted, angry, hurt, dangerous, but somehow wounded and vulnerable. I loved getting inside their heads (I don’t know what that says about me exactly), but I always wanted to discover what made them so broken. How did they become the bad guy? Why? When?

As I asked my characters these questions, I realized there always seemed to be an inciting incident, the straw that broke the camels back, the thing that set them on a path of bad choice after bad choice. Usually it is an attack on someone or something that they love the most. For my voodoo priest, it is love for this country and way of life. When it is attacked or threatened, he becomes desperate to protect and safeguard it.

For the terrorist, it is the loss of her brother, the person she loved most in the world but didn’t fully understand. She wishes she could model the courage he possessed, but fear and self-preservation drive her. So she makes a choice, a choice for power and control that will stifle her fear. Then she continues to make choices that keep her in control. Inside, she’s broken. She knows something’s wrong. But her pattern of bad choices makes her final fork in the road even more treacherous.

I don’t believe any villain is beyond redemption. After all, grace says Jesus paid the price to give us what no one deserves. What I love about writing the villain is digging to the deepest place inside them, the part that screams for something more, something better. Then I figure out small opportunities for them to choose something grander. They don’t always choose that option, but I want to give them the opportunity. In my stories, it means there is always a taste of hope. Hopefully the reader tastes that, too, no matter what they’ve done or will do.

How do you craft your villain? Do you dread writing them or enjoy the discovery?

Kariss LynchKariss Lynch writes contemporary fiction about characters with big dreams, hearts for adventure, and enduring hope. Shadowed, her second book in the Heart of a Warrior series, released in March. In her free time, she spends time with loved ones, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at karisslynch.com.

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2 Responses to Crafting the Villain

  1. I personally love redemptive villains, as I think they add a sense of depth to any story. Jesus can change anyone’s heart!

  2. Good question, Kariss. My villains often want something–and the something may not be evil– but the villains will commit, and are willing to commit, evil to achieve the goal.