What Makes for a Great Villain?

13136960161297092032Stanley Kubrick.svg.hiWhere do characters come from? My protagonist, Mary Boland, in Shanty Gold, came purely from my dreams.

Dreams I had from the time of my childhood about a beautiful young woman with wild, red hair riding a horse bareback along the Irish seacoast.

She was easy.

But how about when you need a villain—a consummate bad guy—an equal opportunity bastard? Like Shiv McGraw.

Here’s my big secret about Shiv. He came physically from seeing Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York. So ugly he was sexy.

But a villain must not be without some redeeming characteristic, some reason to make the reader feel pity or empathy.

In Shiv’s case, it was when Mary disrobed him and saw the cigarette burns, old and deep, on his body.

That was almost enough to make Mary feel sorry for him. Almost…not quite.

Because, after all, Mary is not stupid.


jeanne charters Jeanne Charters writes about the business of living your life to the fullest. Over the years through her magazine columns, books and blog posts, she has sought to help other women face life's challenges through humor, strength and perseverance.

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