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)