The Best Bad Guys: Shades of Gray

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I’m trying to write some chapters in my w.i.p. from the point of view of my “villain,” for lack of a better word. My bad guy. The antagonist who makes my hero’s life one series of hellish events after another.

Owen’s a bad dude. Or at least he was in my first draft. Then I tried a little exercise with him. I thought of five words I’d use to describe Owen as he existed on my pages: angry, cruel, selfish, jealous, bitter. Then I took five opposite descriptors: happy, kind, generous, understanding, content. How could I make Owen exhibit some of those characteristics?

It forced me to rethink my bad guy. I can’t say he shows all of those opposites, but I’m looking for ways to inject traces of it into his actions. It also led me to a deeper examination of his motives, which in turn led to a major change in the conclusion of the book (assuming I ever get there. I will! I  will!).

Who are some of your favorite bad guys? I look back over some of my favorite series (where the “bad guys” often either change from book to book, or are different members of the same “bad guy” organization), and think one of my favorite ongoing bad guys is Trent Kalamack in Kim Harrison’s Hallows series. Trent is truly a 3D bad guy. He can be unexpectedly kind, then turn and be viciously cruel. One day he has Rachel Morgan (who’s transformed herself into a mink) entered in a rat-fight; the next he’s rescuing her.

I love a 3D bad guy. Who are some others? Maybe Eric Northman in the Sookie Stackhouse series (and I’m a dedicated member of Team Eric), or  Alcide Herveaux?

What about cardboard, two-dimensional villains–do any of them work for you?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate’s Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man’s Curse; Black Diamond).

5 thoughts on “The Best Bad Guys: Shades of Gray

  1. I have to say Snape from Harry Potter and Trent are some of my favorite bad guys.

    Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty is a good bad girl.

  2. I even liked Tag from Angela Knight-a super evil bad guy. The Daimons from Kenyon have a reason to be pissed off. I just got out of a divorce that took two years of my husband blaming me for his cheating, so it was only fair that he used the kids college account, so I am all over angry bitter and cruel to him and the tramp. To others I am kind, gracious, support and loyal. So, go Eric!

  3. No, go Anya! I haven’t read S. Kenyon, and I need to do that. It’s such a huge series and I’m coming so late to the game I keep avoiding it.

    I forgot about Severus Snape, Beth–he’s a great 3-D bad guy, though it took a few books for JKR to start developing him beyond the cardboard villain.

  4. Eric and Trent are two of my favorites. They both have so many sides to them that they can not possibly be all bad.

  5. I’m getting away from romance here, but one of the reasons I so love the films of Hayao Miyazaki (creator of Japanese animated movies such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, etc.)is because in most of his films, there really isn’t a sense of good and bad. It is more protagonist and antagonist, and you see the reasons for all actions, probably find yourself agreeing with all sides. It is a refreshing change from most American fare where the lines are very ‘Hero-Good; Villian-Bad’