Novel: The “Bad Guy”

So I’m working on my novel and it’s been going more slowly than I’d like. Part of the reason for this is that I’ve been deliberately planning more than I generally do. Thus, when I don’t have the slightest idea what should be happening in the next scene I stop and think about it rather than write. Sometimes I even outline the next bit.

I’m not sure if this is better than just writing until you have an idea, but I know that the last draft of my novel included a lot of pointless digressions and scenes that started several paragraphs after the scene supposedly began. Hopefully the current draft avoids this problem.

The scene I’ve been working on lately involves the protagonist meeting the antagonist. An “antagonist” is colloquially better known as the “bad guy.”

A couple of drafts ago, a reader (by which I mean my sister, M.A. English, MFA Creative Writing…) complained that the initial scene in which my main character met the villain of the piece made it too obvious that the guy was dangerous.

This was a bad thing in that the main character ends up working for the guy for about two-thirds of the novel. Narbonic aside, you generally don’t take on a job with someone if you suspect he’s got a plan for world domination.

Not that the villain of my story has a plan for something that obvious, but still…

It’s funny that I screwed up in that particular way. My bias in terms of conflict is that you can have a lot more fun with it when the people in conflict have a history. This means that at some point in their lives they were probably friends and may have been relatives or coworkers.

More to the point, it makes it a little harder to write someone who is pure evil. I prefer an antagonist whose ideas have some appeal to the main character and thus to the reader. Basically I like a situation in which the main character has to make a real choice and maybe by the end of the novel still isn’t completely sure it was the right one.

Needless to say, I’m taking a different tack in this draft.

I’m ditching the bit where he explains his philosophy of life and how he’s going to make the world a better place (a typical speech for Someone Who’s Really Evil) and going with a slower process during which the main character comes to like and admire the guy.

Hopefully this will make for a better story. At the very least I think it will make for a richer and more complex story. Ideally, it might even have some sort of emotional punch to it, but that’s hard to guess at present.

Anyway, back to writing the novel.

P.S. This list of the Top 100 Things to Do If You Ever Become an Evil Overlord amuses me. It offers a multitude of stereotypes to avoid–some of which I’ve already had antagonists commit.

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