Villains Part 2: Fear and Loathing

Every good villain needs henchmen. Without them, how does he or she accomplish those sinister plans?

A good villain in an adventure story needs more than minions, though. He needs a sidekick — a lieutenent who is greater than all the other lackeys. This privileged henchman is more dangerous than the rest and must be thwarted by the hero before he or she can conquer the story’s main antagonist.

Where the lead villain may be sympathetic, this slightly lesser fiend is not. He or she is evil incarnate — a foe readers love to hate and may even fear.

In State of Grace, that man is Ravager. Like Wolf, Ravager is a Shadow — a human with dark, magical powers. To make him frightening, his power is much greater than Wolf’s. He is practically unstoppable.

In the novel’s opening scene, he brutally kills Wolf’s friend and colleague, Sara Wensely-James. He swoops out of the sky on a flying carpet and murders Sara in grisly fashion with balls of Shadow energy that form hideous maws of sharp teeth that devour his victims alive.

Later in the book, he murders another woman on Silverleaf’s orders, and, when he turns his attention to Wolf, our hero narrowly escapes their first encounter with his life. Their battle establishes Ravager as the superior fighter. He is stronger than Wolf physically, and his power overmatches Wolf completely. The reader is left wondering how Wolf will defeat him when they meet again.

But Ravager’s power alone isn’t enough to make him frightening. To really put a good scare into the reader, he needs to be absolutely despicable. Thus, Ravager is a sociopath. He kills for pleasure. An assassin and a torturer, he truly enjoys his work.

This is the essence of a great villain. He or she has to be someone readers loathe and fear. Readers root for the hero, not just because he is the good guy, but also because they want the bad guy to lose.

As an author, these are characters that are fun to write. They are so fiendish, it’s actually enjoyable spending time with them in the writing process. Ravager only has a few scenes of his own. Only half of them are written from his point of view. But every one of them was immensely pleasureable to create.

When he shows up in the first chapter, the reader knows immediately just from the description that Sara Wensely-James is doomed. When Silverleaf orders him to kill his faithless girlfriend, there can be no doubt she is one of the story’s sacrificial lambs. His first battle with Wolf is one of the highest-tension moments in the whole book. His meetings with lesser villains makes you wonder how they will turn out. And, when he finally meets his demise near the novel’s climax, there is a sense of relief, even though Silverleaf’s diabolical plot is still fully in motion and far from being thwarted.

I love Ravager. I love him because I hate him and because he scares me. That sense of fear and loathing made my fingers fly faster over the keys when I wrote his scenes, and makes me turn the pages quicker when I read the book.

Hopefully, readers will agree.

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