Thursday, June 17, 2010

Character Development - The Dark Side

We've been talking about character development and how we use our life experiences, memories and emotions to create characters who are vibrant and alive.

Let's look at developing our antagonist or dark characters.

I have to admit, I enjoy writing Tzmet (my witch) very much. She's evil in the beginning, but there's also something humorous about her. She's so vain and she speaks her mind. She holds nothing back. And I've enjoyed her character arc, as I never intended keeping her totally evil. Being a selfish person at times, I draw on my inner thoughts and desires in creating her. Am I like Tzmet? No. But there are times when I wish I could be like her without any bad consequences. HA!! Fleeting thoughts, to be sure, because I really am a nice person.

Her father, on the other hand, is totally evil. I don't get in his POV or his thoughts at all. I simply show him to be cold and and merciless. Of course, I blow him up at the end, but hey, we need a fitting end for the bad guys, don't we?

Let's talk about creating the dark side of characters.


  1. I tend to create totally evil main bad guys--usually they are sorcerers. I'm just now getting into the practice of creating a character sketch for them, because I realized that, even as my good character had to have a motivation for their deeds, so my bad guys needed motivation for theirs.

  2. I'm not sure I've ever had an all bad or all good character. People are not that way, so I hesitate to make even my fantasy characters act in such a manner. Even the most ruthless villian has a soft spot for something - probably several things- which can eventually contribute to his/her downfall.

    I do draw from both my darker and lighter side for character development. I've had mean thoughts about people - usually clients in my day job - and can use those feelings to beef up a bad guy. Sometimes, just thinking like that is satisfying. The guilt keeps me (as it does most people, I'm sure) from ever acting on the emotions, but they are there.

    When writing the villian, I remember what a satisfying, comfortable feeling it was to plot some sort of revenge or discourtesy to someone I felt wronged me, and write that pure emotion in the character. Leaving out the remorse and guilt.

    I believe a writer can live as vicariously through their bad guys as they do through the hero/heroine. Emotions/feelings are like magic; neither good nor evil. It is actions and motivations that define the character.

    A White Wizard is just as skilled, in the same arts, as the Evil Magician. There can be no true conflict if your nemisis is much weaker than the protagonist. Your hero needs to win by skill and motivation, not blind luck.

    Or so my opinions go. I've barely started my first fantasy novel; but fantasy is my favorite genre to read in.


  3. In fantasy, we do have the freedom to have totally evil characters. Consider Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. Donna is right, though, he did have a soft spot for the One Ring. But, like Gandalf said, he couldn't conceive anyone wanting to destroy it. That led to his downfall.

    When I write a totally evil character, I don't get into his/her head or thoughts or motivation. I've seen enough of the dark side to go too deeply into it.

    Donna, congrats on starting your first fantasy novel - keep us posted on your progress! And check out my archives; we went through The Hero's Journey a few months ago. It may help you.

  4. Yay! Blowing up the villains is so kewl *evil laugh* Sorry :P I usually have somewhat redeemable villains in my ideas. In my first book the main villain at first is sort of a mercenary, then by the time of the last book he has completely given into black magic :'(

    I do have a few completely evil ones. That's where you have to kinda draw a line with how much you enter them :-/

    In a lot of books I think it needs to be seen that the hero is taught by the villain; I think that would be cool. The hero learning by mistakes and such instead of the normal mentor.

  5. Thanks Pam. I've read through quite a bit of your postings, some of them more than once. This is an interesting site.

    I have to agree with Danielle too; blowing up villains is cool. And I'd never want to get inside the head of a truly evil one. I like the idea of the hero learning from the villain. One of the bad guys in my fantasy was a teacher to the heroine - Wynter.

    Makes it interesting because the antag can get too sure of himself and his superiority over his pupil. I'll have to see how it works out.