Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes A Good Villain

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘What Makes A Good Villain’!

Villains are an important part of any story. Our heroes have to face obstacles to achieving their goal and there is almost always a villain standing in their way. But what makes a good villain? I like to see villains that are just as fleshed out and developed as our protagonists. Cardboard cut-out villains just fall flat. I want an antagonist who has motivations, wants, desires, a back story (be it tragic or not so tragic).

Good villains can fall into different categories. There are the evil for the sake of evil villains, who I find very rarely work effectively. A baddie with an evil cackle is just cliché and boring. I like to see complexity in villains. Yes they might well be evil, but why? Is there something in their history that made them that way? Even the pure evil kind of villains can have layers and complexity to them. For evil villains, I want them to genuinely scare me. I want to be scared for my favourite characters. An example that springs to mind is Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses. She’s evil, twisted and sinister and I found Maas’s depiction of her character utterly chilling.

Alternatively, the villain could believe their actions are justified, genuinely believe that what they’re doing is right or for the greater good in some way, but their choices to achieve their goal are morally wrong or result in the deaths of innocents for example. Or the antagonist could be conflicted, fighting between the dark and the light inside them, and maybe they have a redemption arc. Maybe the antagonist isn’t evil at all, they’ve just fallen in with the wrong crowd in an attempt to fit in or have been blackmailed. Can they be redeemed? Or do they succumb to the darkness growing inside them? An interesting angle is having morally grey antagonists (and even grey protagonists too). When the lines between good and evil are more blurred, that can make for a really captivating story.   

I also enjoy books where we have more than one antagonist. There might be a main villain, the evil person who the hero has to defeat at the end of the book/series, and then other antagonists whom the protagonist comes into contact with more frequently and provides a more direct and personal conflict. For an easy example, I’d categorise Voldemort as the main villain in Harry Potter, but Draco is an antagonist who Harry comes into direct conflict with more often as they have an ongoing rivalry.

But how does the story end for the villain? Many books end with the downfall or death of the villain. In order for the heroes to succeed, they have to vanquish the antagonist. However, sometimes an antagonist gets a redemption arc. I do like a good redemption arc but it has to be done well in order to be a satisfying conclusion to that character’s story.

What do you think about villains? Who are your favourite villains from book or screen? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Writing Corner: Is My Book YA?

For today’s Writing Corner, I’m going to talk about categorising your novel by age. I see a lot of people on Twitter and forums who aren’t sure where their novel fits, or how much it matters. If you want to be published, it does matter, because that is how the publishing industry categorises fiction, but don’t get too hung up on it.

Middle grade (MG)

MG is generally written for, and features characters, aged from around 8 to 13 years old. These books are usually shorter than young adult books, and don’t have as much romance or violence. They often (but not always) have fun adventures and although they can touch on more serious subject matter, don’t explore it in as much detail as young adult books.

Young adult (YA)

YA is aimed roughly at those aged 13-18, with characters in that same age range, though characters are most commonly 15-18 years old. YA explores more serious subject matter than MG, including more mature content, with romance playing a much bigger role. YA also has more self-reflection and focuses more on the personal evolution of a central character. These novels are often coming of age, looking at the ups and downs of being a teenager. They can explore relationships, sex, mental illness, death etc. far more than MG. As well as this, they can often present more of a reflection on our society and current issues, and explore the characters finding their place in the world.

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A Writer’s Journey – Part 1

My writing journey, as far as I can remember, started when I was nine years old. I probably dabbled in writing before then, but there is a particular time that I really remember properly getting into it. For my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary all of their closest family met up during the Easter holidays in 2006, including me and my parents. To keep me entertained, I had a little green notepad, which I started writing short stories in. I still have this notepad! At the time I was very interested in Ancient Greece as we had been studying it at school, particularly myths. So I wrote my own myths and even drew little drawings to go with them.

The next thing I remember working on was a series of stories probably inspired by Tomb Raider: Legend, which was the first proper single-player action game I played. I wrote two ‘books’ in the series (they were very, very short, only a few pages).

Only a year later in 2008, I advanced to planning an epic fantasy series. Probably as a result of reading The Lord of the Rings. I spent ages drawing maps and characters. I wrote 23,000 words of the first book, which is a pretty substantial amount compared to my previous efforts. I dabbled in the other books in the series (they were connected but separate ‘parts’ of an overall series), and wrote around 42,000 words of the series in total over the course of about three years.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Creepy Books, Characters and Creatures

For this month’s Halloween freebie, this list contains scary books and creepy characters or creatures. I haven’t read enough horror books to make a list of spine-tingling novels, so I’ve gone for a mixed list of generally creepy things.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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1) The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding – I first read this book years ago and remember finding the Wych-kin scary. There’s something really spooky about this book, maybe it’s also the underlying Jack the Ripper vibes in one of the subplots, but it’s definitely a creepy book.

2) Jonathan in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – I always found Jonathan to be a creepier and more interesting villain than Valentine.

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