I think I’ve always been a bit wary about including a true villain in my story. Why? Yes, I know they’re important—they’re the counterpoint to your hero, both his journey and his character arc, and their inclusion will make your battle scenes (physical and/or emotional) epic, make your hero’s victory that much sweeter, whilst beautifully allowing you include a couple of fabulous plot twists.
But I’m also cognisant that there are too many clichés, and so many stereotypes, and it was those that I wanted to avoid. How do you craft a bad guy that is unique and nuanced and interesting AND a worthy opponent to your beloved hero?
Well, if you’ve ever been in the same writing conundrum, then you’ve come to the right blog post. Because if you have a villain in your story, I wanted to make sure you knew about Sacha Black’s book—13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains (I certainly wish I’d had it when I was crafting my first bad dude!). So if your villain isn’t ‘cutting the evil mustard’, as Sacha says, or if you just want to polish off your villain, or make sure they’re going to do what they’re supposed to do in your reader’s mind, then check out why I’d highly recommend purchasing this book (and you can thank me later):
It has all the tools you’ll need to create a nuanced, layered villain
Like Sacha says in her introduction, her aim is for you to develop the best villain possible. She covers all the essentials – such as your villain’s goals and backstory – as you build up a credible, believable, and ultimately authentic bad guy. She covers archetypes, anti-heroes, negative traits, and has an impressive list of villain clichés (I so needed that…). What’s more, she provides examples from film and literature throughout so you get to see it all in action. Ultimately, what I really liked was that the activities in this book allow a writer to create a villain readers will ‘get’, maybe even empathise with, but still be rooting to see their downfall (because that, my friends, is a skill).
You’ll learn more about your hero
Sacha explores how your hero and villain complement, contrast and counterbalance each other. You’ll learn what separates a villain from a hero—their choices, what they have to lose, and who has their inner core belief invalidated vs affirmed (I found that bit fascinating!). As Sacha leads you through the creative process of building this flawed-but-evil character, you’ll learn all about your flawed-but-good hero.
Sacha has a psychology background herself, and it shows. She explores soul scars (her label for the negative core belief) and how they are born (correctly illustrating this involves a complex pattern of experiences rather than a one off experience), the driving power of fear in your characters and readers experiences, and mental health disorders. I was particularly interested in that last part because I blog about psychological disorders. I liked how Sacha was upfront about the over-reliance of mental health disorders in villains, and the tendency for disorders to be simplified and stereotyped, or ‘subtly discriminatory’ (well done, Sacha!). Her reference guide of the major psychological disorders for villains is also useful.
The writing style!
Sacha Black has a wicked sense of humour. I truly respect anyone that can write educational and informative texts AND make you smile. Her analogies are fresh and funny, her wisdom is witty and wonderful, and (if you’re anything like me) you’ll start wondering if her fiction writing is as entertaining as her non-fiction! When you buy 13 Steps to Evil, you’ll be learning whilst smiling, and that’s a bonus not many non-fiction books hold in their educational pages.
So, I’d love to hear if you’ve read 13 Steps to Evil? If you have, what did you think of it? If not, could you see it being useful in crafting your villain? I love hearing from you, connecting with others is why I write. You can comment below, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Have a wonderful week,
You can check it out