I am currently plotting my next book and it’s mostly going pretty well. I have my characters figured out, the arc for my main character, a couple subplots and minor characters that will pepper the story. I know the setting, a general sense of demographic and the overarching themes. I even have the challenge that I’m going to put in place for this book! There’s just one thing left that I’m avoiding.
You’d think that the motivations of your villains would be easy, but I always leave it to the end and then over think it. The villain should be opposite in many ways to the theme and lead character in ideology, but not in a way that’s alienating. There should be something familiar about the villain, like someone you could actually know, and they should have motives that make sense, even if they are being set up in a way that implies the audience should disagree with them. Adjust how sympathetic they are based on how sympathetic the lead is.
It’s a lot easier when I have a singular person to work against the protagonist and the villain is the antagonist, but that’s not really the case for this one. The villain is just the means by which the awful things happen and where the aggression is coming from and directed at, while the actual antagonist exists more theoretically.1 And I really want to do a story with end of the world stakes, so I need this villain, though I am agonizing over just what to make out of them.
I could pants2 it, but I do love me a good plan, even if I don’t stick to it. There’s a nice security to it and knowing that I know how everything in this world works, not to mention why everything is happening, before I go in. I am a planner and a plotter at heart, no matter how much I deviate from my notes during the writing process.
In the end, the villain takes on a life of its own while I’m writing and becomes much less of a list of traits and things to represent. The motives shift and change to make more sense in the context of the story, or the villain changes to someone else entirely who makes more sense with how the story actually ended up.