Updated: Dec 14, 2022
When it’s time for your villain to act, put yourself in their place.
That is solid advice for every writer. Like an actor preparing for a role step inside not only your bad guy’s shoes but his mind. In Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, what made Will Graham such a terrific profiler was his ability to get into the killer’s head and see things through his eyes. A good writer does the same—and Harris is fantastic at that, just ask Hannibal Lecter.
Some writers are hesitant or downright resistant to the idea of letting their inner monster loose. I get it. I have one particular bad guy that is harder than a genie to get back in the bottle where he belongs. I will write a chapter from his point of view and have to spend the rest of the day listening to music or watching Hallmark Christmas movies to chase him away.
Our characters become real, we hear their voices, we see them in our mind’s eye, and follow them down dark alleys. It is our job, as a writer to be fearless with the truth of what we see and hear. That is especially true when that truth is absolutely contrary to our life principles—or completely alien.
I wrote a blog post last year; the text appears in my book Tracks. It is about the difficulty I had with becoming Bigfoot and telling a story from Bigfoot’s point of view. The degree of success I had rests with each reader. If they too became Bigfoot trudging through the snow, I did my job. And if not, I need to step up my game.
You have to get dirty to write the villain. You may be a sweet, kind, gentle soul—step away from that for a twisted version of the Golden Rule. Have your villain do anything and everything to your hero that the hero would never do to him. Wade the slime-covered
swamp of nasty, disgusting creatures and pick up the serpent hiding there. Be a bully, be a tyrant, be a sadist, you can wash the mud off onto the pages of your story, so the reader gets some on them too. Then, you have a believable villain and one heck of a story,
If you absolutely cannot do that… well, I hear erotica sells well.