Consider the Villain or Your Fiction will be a Crime

I should’ve started with the villain.

I realize that, now. I created a story that had a setting, a main character, a love interest, a host of supporting characters, a plot… and a bland nameless “rule the world” boring villain.

For whom I don’t even have a name.

And now, I’m paying the price as my writing has stalled because I have no idea how to write this guy or what his story is. I have no clue how his desires and actions interweave with those of the other characters in any believable way. I crack myself up with this because I hate flat villain characters in fiction. “I want to rule the world because REASONS.”

I need to sit down and write out this guy’s story. But for some reason, I’m balking at this. I know my subconscious is working overtime on this problem. Maybe I’m afraid that the story is going to change again and I’ll have to redo the plot. Maybe I’m afraid I’ve painted myself into a corner with this and no matter what I can’t save it, now. No, no, that’s bullshit. I can change anything about the story. Anything. That is, if I have the insight to see it and recognize it in the first place and the courage to let go of what doesn’t work.

What’s driving this is how the act of writing makes me feel. It’s like nothing else. It’s trancelike. Euphoric. Holy.

Scary.

I surprise myself with what happens when I write: unplanned, unexpected things happen. New characters show up out of nowhere. I had no idea they were in my head but suddenly, there they are, and oh, God, they’re saying and doing all these unexpected things. I love it and I hate it at the same time. The shit that comes to me in the act of writing feels amazing and absolutely nothing like what happens when I try to plan and outline and plot things out.

Maybe what it comes down to is that I’m afraid of my own writing. Afraid of being swept away in the act of writing. Of surrender. I’m oscillating rapidly between two states: write and wait. But then, I could argue (with myself) that “incubating” is an excuse and psyching myself up is for amateurs. The professional sits down and starts writing, because motherfucking discipline.

The story has to come out, but I let the pressure build up.

It’s a sweet agony.

I’m torn between letting it build up even more and just getting it done. My brain rapidly alternates between seeing each possibility as real, like how optical illusions work. Rabbit or duck. Old lady or young. Cup or two faces. Write or wait.

But is waiting ever a good thing?

Oh, the sweet, sweet lies we tell ourselves.

Which, now that I think about it, is exactly how you make a “villain.” Other characters in the story change: they have realizations and grow, become better than they were at the beginning of the story. The villain’s realizations and changes only make everything worse. Villains have all the same inputs as everyone else, but they come to a completely batshit WTF conclusion that’s so wrong no one can even explain how wrong it is to them.

So, back to the moral of this little piece: have the villain in mind from the beginning or you’ll have to do what I’m about to do (and kinda dreading it).

photo credit: theloushe via photopin cc

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