Saturday, May 26, 2012

Because just being bad isn't good enough

Continuing with thoughts on the motivation for your story's antagonist/villain/BBU. On Magical Words, Faith Hunter has part five in her series about 11 things you should know about your own book. Faith uses the abbreviation BBU for villain.

image photo : Poison Pen 2
The poison pen
For me, the idea for my novel didn't start out including anybody I could clearly identify as a villain. It was about a clash of cultures as personified by two characters with opposite personalities and lifestyles who are thrown together.

The character of Tony, Neal's biological father, appeared in a small role and gradually took on more importance as I saw what fun it could be to use him as another complication in Neal's life. And gradually I realized that underutilizing Tony was letting a good bad guy go to waste.

But, I still don't have enough motivation for him to be the bad guy toward Neal. Using a technique taught by Laurie Schnebly Campbell in her course at Writer U, I have this much so far: Tony finds out that Neal has moved in with filthy rich musicians; he wants some of that money--why? Well, he's into selling drugs, and he wants money so he can eventually become filthy rich himself and maybe live in another country where it's easier to live outside the law while being filthy rich himself.

Why does he want to be filthy rich? Ah, here we are: good question!image photo : Light bulb with a brain Well I have to admit it, I just don't know. I feel the reason's out there; I just have to keep fishing for it. I also want to know why he went into law enforcement and which came first, being a cop or being bad. Those answers will tell me a lot about him. I've gone to the trusty brainstormers on Critique Circle for help.

Once I find those things out, his part in the story will have to be adjusted. Now that I'm well into my third draft, Tony is mentioned much earlier than in the previous drafts. Still, I'm sure he can contribute additional excellent plot points.

I really like the unpolished scenes I already have between him and Neal, after Tony kidnaps him. Tony threatens to shoot Alex, his other son, when Alex tries to rescue Neal so I also know that Tony doesn't have much attachment to family. Yet, I don't want Tony to be a cliched, 2-D villain. I want readers to understand why he's bad and maybe even sympathize a bit. So use your BBUs to their fullest! Exploit them, because that's what they're good at.

PS -- Please join me tomorrow for my entry for Six Sentence Sunday!

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