Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Author Russell Brooks

Halo fine peoples!  It's been a little while since I've had a guest author, which seems a little strange after a spring and summer filled, but Russell Brooks seems to be a man with his fingers in a little bit of everything. Today he's going to talk to use about something I know I need to work on, so hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I do:  What makes a Villain!  Without further ado, Welcome Russell!



My Enemy, My Best Friend.

Several people have asked me, “Who was my favourite character in the novel, Pandora’s Succession?” Some were surprised when I told them that villains are usually my favourite characters in most stories. Why? Maybe it’s the same reason why Denzel Washington said that he had so much fun playing a crooked police officer in the movie, Training Day. They’re fun to create. A psychologist might even tell me that I use my villains as a way of living out an inner fantasy of living in a world where I could care less about following rules. Besides, I’m sure all of you have wanted to see something bad happen to someone you don’t like at one time or another, right? On second thought, I won’t comment anymore at the risk of creeping out any potential readers. Getting back to what I was writing about. In any plot-driven story, villains are the drivers while the hero rides in the back seat. They move the story forward, they give the hero a hard time, and the story usually ends when they are defeated—or in some rare cases, when the hero is defeated. It’s no wonder that the villains will either make or break a story.

So how do you go about creating a villain? Here are some things to consider. A great villain must be someone that we can relate to. They must have goals and a proper background. Most importantly, it’s important that we be able to fear the villain, and/or love to hate them enough that we can’t wait to see the hero kick their asses. Take for example, Gary Soneji—the main antagonist in one of my favourite novels, Along Came A Spider. Soneji wanted to be a famous kidnapper, and wanted to enjoy himself along the way by taunting the hero, Dr Alex Cross, and daring him to catch him. Now why is Soneji such a memorable villain? One reason is that it wasn’t enough for him to kill his victims, he had to mutilate them. The most shocking part for me was when he threatened to cut his victim’s penis off and feed it to him. Pretty freaky, right?

Contrary to great villains, we’ve seen some very awful ones. Take for example, Mr Freeze, the main villain that nearly destroyed the Batman movie franchise. Aside from a horrible plot, the writers broke one important rule when creating a villain: Never create a villain that the audience will feel sorry for. Aside from poor character development—and bad acting on the part of the current Governator of California—Mr Freeze came across being more of a caricature of a villain rather than someone the audience can take seriously. By the same token he wasn’t someone that gives us the chills (no pun intended). In my opinion, it was difficult to see him as a villain but rather a good person doing bad things. Thank goodness Chris Nolan was able to save the franchise.

So how did I create my villain, or should I say, villains? It was important to choose people that were relevant to the subject material—bioterrorism. In my novel, Pandora’s Succession, I decided to be a bit nostalgic. That’s why I found it suitable to have a mad scientist along with a Russian-based cell of an international weapons consortium. I know, most of us think of mad scientists as old men in lab jackets, messed-up white hair, who often laughs maniacally. I found it important to stay in the twenty-first century. Instead of an old man, I chose a younger woman with a penchant for pantsuits and kimonos. Her favourite pastime? Human experimentation, who’ll often respond to her critics by asking them, “Don’t you love to have fun with science?” as an excuse for subjecting her enemies as lab rats. For the sake of not spoiling the plot I won’t describe her any more. But one thing’s for sure is that she always manages to stay one step of the main character, Ridley Fox, and would rather play with his head rather than use physical violence.

Creating a villain takes passion, the same way with creating a hero. And although it’s important for the audience to love to hate the villain, writers must keep in mind that a villain is driven to do what they’re doing because they see themselves as doing the right thing. And whether a villain may come from a broken family, or they might just be plain psychopaths, there must be justification for their actions. How does a writer know that they’ve done a too good job with their story? The audience will pine for the villain to make a return in a sequel.

Pandora's Succession Overview:  CIA operative, Ridley Fox, never stopped hunting his fiancé’s killers — a weapons consortium called The Arms of Ares. When an informant leads him to an old bunker outside of Groznyy, Chechnya, Fox is captured and left for dead. When the informant rescues him, Fox learns that his capture was no coincidence: someone had set him up—possibly another government agent. Fox barely escapes after learning that Ares has acquired a hyper-deadly microbe—called Pandora—that is believed to have wiped out ancient civilizations. The trail leads Fox to Tokyo where he discovers that other forces —including agents within Japanese Intelligence—want Pandora for themselves. The only ally Fox turns to is a woman from his past who he nearly got killed. (From Goodreads)

32 comments:

The Golden Eagle said...

Great post on what makes a villain!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Guess that means you can't kill off your villian if you want them to return.
And yes, thank God for Nolan!

Russell Brooks said...

Hey there, thanks for passing by. Top of the morning to you, Hart. Thanks so much for hosting me. Golden Eagle, there's no half-way about it. More people are interested in the villains than the heroes. When someone talks about the next Superman, the question that everyone's asking is who's he going up against? Will it be only Lex Luthor, or will Brainiac (my personal favorite) or will it be General Zod? I haven't heard anyone ask if there's going to be a steamy shower scene with him and Lois Lane (I had to ad that last bit in, Hart, considering that this blog has a nude theme to it, lol). Alex, you won't believe how happy I was when Nolan took over from Joel Schumacher.

Russell Brooks said...

Oh, everyone. Let me remind you that there's a giveaway contest since Hart is hosting me during my virtual book tour.

When you leave a comment on a blog or site (such as this one) with your email address in the body of your message, you will win an autographed ebook cover. After the blog tour, 10 commenters from all of the blogs will be drawn to win free autographed ebook copies of Pandora's Succession.

Good luck, everyone.

ciaraknight said...

Great post about creating a villain. Some of the contest entries I've read have fabulous Hero/Heroine but there villain falls flat. No three dimensional characteristics.
I'm glad to see someone gives as much attention to their hero.
Ciara
ciara@ciaraknight.com

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I love villains. Perhaps a bit too much!

Thanks, Russell, for a great post!

Russell Brooks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell Brooks said...

I'm curious, Talli, in fact I'll make this an open question. Who are your 5 favorite all-time villains, and why?

Hart Johnson said...

Great post, Russell--and I definitely agree that we really need to understand our villain's motivations. I find villains most chilling who really feel justified in the rotten things they do--like Dolorest Umbridge in the Harry Potter series--I find her much more horrifying (and therefore compelling) than Voldemort.

This is good stuff to keep in mind! (I often have trouble with villains, and need to get better at it)

Russell Brooks said...

Oh yes, I remember her in the movie. I'm glad she got what came to her.

Old Kitty said...

"writers must keep in mind that a villain is driven to do what they’re doing because they see themselves as doing the right thing".

Now that is what I must remember when I'm writing my villain (whom I love and got a really soft spot for even if she goes about killing and maiming and destroying!).

Thanks so much for a fabulous insight into writing villains - you're right too - a great villainous character is one readers would like to see return.

Thank you of giving me some focus! Take care
x

Missed Periods said...

I've never read a post about creating villains, and you make some really great points- especially that they have to believe in what they are doing.

Russell Brooks said...

I'm surprised that this subject never gets much attention. Villains need love too. They've got right!!! lol @Missed Periods.

Hey, everyone. Don't forget to leave your emails in the body of your comments if you want to have a chance to win a free ebook copy of Pandora's Succession.

MJenks said...

"that a villain is driven to do what they’re doing because they see themselves as doing the right thing."

I wish more people would get this through their thick skulls. No one does anything for the sake of evil. They do it because, deep down, they think that what they're doing is either the right thing to do, or the way to a better end for them.

Once I figured this out, my stories became better, my villains stronger, and the overall depth of characters improved.

Kudos to you, Mr. Brooks.

Holly Ruggiero said...

A good juicy villian can make or break a story. Nice post.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Villains and minions...There's no story without them!

Russell Brooks said...

One story that managed to hold its own without villains throughout the whole story was A Time To Kill by John Grisham. The situation that Carl Lee Hailey was in after he killed his daughter's rapists was antagonizing enough for him and the flack that his lawyer went through. Still one of my favorite books of all time.

Arlee Bird said...

The most effective villains are the ones we have reason to fear and we know what the reason is. An ambiguous or poorly drawn villain whose motivation is unclear is not going to keep the reader's interest for very long.

Good post.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Russell Brooks said...

Lee,

Have you ever watched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? Remember Nurse Ratched?

erica and christy said...

I do love A Time to Kill - horrible, horrible villians - none of which remained to be mc's, thankfully.

"Never create a villain that the audience will feel sorry for" is wonderful advice!! Thanks.

And you posting about how this blog promotes nakedness - while standing there looking uber-awesome in your suit - is sort of disappointing (but mostly great).
erica
oh, email is lynnea.west@hotmail.com

Russell Brooks said...

lol, Erica. Yeah, my writing coach didn't approve of me using the calender pic to promote my novel.

Hart Johnson said...

writing coaches can be so stuffy. You know part of my alterior motive for blogging early and often is so when the formal promotor says "well I don't think people LIKE naked chicks' I can say 'BUYAH! DO SO! I've been naked for months and my loyal readers expect it... but I do know how stuffy people can get about being professional!

Russell Brooks said...

I didn't want to make mistakes that could spoil my debut. There are plenty other times that I can get naked.

Hart Johnson said...

Well so long as it's not off the table!

Russell Brooks said...

The joys of having your own place without any roommates is that I can write without any clothes on if I chose, so long as I'm not sitting by any windows. ;)

Rachael Harrie said...

Great interview Hart and Russell. I love the villian in my WIP, and I'll definitely be paying attention to your tips as I revise :)

Rach

Russell Brooks said...

Another suggestion, Rachael. The more human your villains are the more memorable they'll be.

Rachael Harrie said...

That's a great suggestion. In my first draft, one of my villains is just pure "bad", so I'm off to work on giving him a bit more light and shade :)

Rach

Russell Brooks said...

Remember, give them a good backstory.

Oh BTW, I just saw Skyline and I have to warn you all to avoid seeing it at all costs. One of the reasons why it was so bad? We don't even know where the aliens came from or what is their purpose, besides eating humans. There wasn't any backstory to them.

Rachael Harrie said...

Will do. Thanks again for an interesting interview and the extra bits of information you've given in the comments :)

Oh, forgot to leave my email: rachael[dot]harrie[at]gmail[dot]com

Russell Brooks said...

Sweet, Rachel. I hope the others add their email addresses before November 15. I'd hate to see them lose out.

gideon 86 said...

Love Villains ... the nastier the better!

Great interview Russel and Hart. Enjoyed learning more about you Russell and your villain.

Michael

mculi(at) aol (dot) com