Let’s start with a truth that rules many an author’s writing: villains make the world go around.
Protagonists without antagonists are vanilla sundaes without toppings; they’re there, they’re okay. They’re good for a quiet night alone on the couch. But in the end, you’ll feel mildly disappointed that there wasn’t something more exciting filling your bowl. Without “the bad guy” gracing your pages, how does the story grow?
Whether the villain is a person, a place, a revolution, a battle, an ideal, cancer, death, or in some more famous instances, a car or a dog, they all have one thing in common.
They change our heroes.
And I’m here to talk to you about writing the people that affect our heroes in a deeply profound way. The characters that spend every waking moment antagonizing the protagonist within an inch of their minds and their lives. I am only three novels into my writing ‘career’, a hobby I build during a full-time career, but I revel in the chaos of a completely unhinged villain.
They can say and do all the things that you would never even whisper to yourself alone in the dark. They can poke and prod and break your hero into a million pieces until you have to sit back and ask yourself “what have I done?” This becomes your opportunity to stretch out your fingers, give your head a shake, and deal with the fallout. Whether you like it or not, as an author, you live and breathe through the characters in your novel. And they will follow you around in your head, begging you to put them to rights.
The number of times I’ve been out for a run, alone in the forest, nothing but my heartbeat in my ears and the pounding of my feet on the pavement to break the silence, and that’s when I find the greatest inspiration. That’s when the characters call to me, the good ones, and the bad ones. It’s when they ask for revenge, they beg to be avenged, and the worst ones, they slip in with the terrible ideas they have for my hero.
Break them, bend them. End them.
Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it?
But where else can tragedy come from, other than the worst case scenarios that you can imagine? These villains, the ones in our psychological and paranormal thrillers that careen through our heroes’ lives with no regard for human life, with no regard for the fellowship that is humanity, are the embodiments of our greatest fears.
I personally have a strange and intense paranoia of breaking bones. I have never broken a bone, I’ve never broken a tooth. I’ll ‘knock on wood’ until the cows come home as I write this since ‘never’ can end fairly quickly, but this fear tends to come out in my writing, and none too subconsciously at that.
So it tends to be a reoccurring theme. My protagonists tend to end up in situations where the snap, crackle, and pop of their bones is a common side effect of crossing paths with my villain. And I cringe, and I write, and I squirm, but I get it done. I have no desire or will to inflict this on any real person, I close my eyes when I hear a bone snap on television. I close out any online video that hints at a sports injury.
But it’s a truth for me. And hopefully, it’s a truth for others too. For the authors that write about being buried alive, tortured, chased, captured, cut, beaten, bloodied, there’s that kernel of fear ingrained in them too.
If you aren’t afraid of something, does it not become a part of you in a small way?
It’s the argument I push towards family and friends when I am approached with the statement,
“I never thought something like this could come from a personality like yours. This is dark,”
It’s usually accompanied by a step back, an awkward smile, and a mutual laugh about “yes, yes it is, I apologize.”
But you can’t be sorry. You can’t be sorry for a worst case scenario that’s been niggling at your brain, that’s been gnawing away at your heart. You can’t apologize for getting down on paper what transferred from your darkest fears into your heroes’. It’s the best way to get it into words. The best way to develop the emotions and the reactions that you’d expect from what the villain does because a small part of it is already within you.
That is at the very heart and soul of writing, being honest and truthful, and it is exposed to the reader through your words whether they realize it or not.
A good hero is only as good as their villain. The qualities that make them who they are. It’s what makes them admirable for trying to be who they inherently are not. Who they believe themselves to be, are a stark contrast to who your villain is or pretends to be. They are measured, weights of pros and cons against each other, and humanity, and without one or the other, the scales are tipped.
Writing crazy isn’t crazy. Writing about the utter decimation of a human, body and soul, isn’t crazy. An author who explores this darkness, and this hatred, and this loss, isn’t crazy.
They’re just trying to piece together a truth that lies deep inside many of us. They’re trying to connect themselves with their readers and the darker corners of their hearts. And they’re just honest enough to bring it into the light.
K.Brooks is an author out of Ontario, Canada. She’s written three novels, one currently available and two others are in the editing process. She works in advertising and is always influenced by the weather when it comes to finding inspiration for her work. She often embarks on aimless road trips and alone time with the wilderness.
More blog posts and behind-the-scenes can be found at
Thanks to MTW author K. Brooks for this look at her ability to balance the craziness she brings to life in her books.