Mar 23, 2011

What Would Voldemort Do?

By Melinda Carroll

Okay, this post has a very short shelf life since I completely forgot to post yesterday when it was actually my turn.  Yes, I was reminded.  I'm pretty sure that I've lost brain cells with each child, because my memory is horrible.  Aren't there herbs for this kind of thing?

So what was I thinking about while I was busy not thinking about blogging?


Somehow I've managed to write 3/4 of my story without fleshing out my villain, and now I'm paying the price.  So this week I've done some serious pondering.  I've studied famous villains in history and fiction, I've studied some writing books about characterization, and I've brainstormed a lot.

Here's my problem.  I'm writing a middle grade book and no matter what I brainstorm, my villain keeps sounding just like Voldemort.   And he's been done before.

As I return to the drawing board to work this whole thing out, I thought I'd post some of the things I've read about writing a good villain:

1.  The villain needs to be equally as gifted/powerful as the hero.  If the hero is too powerful, there is no tension or conflict.  The villain can appear more powerful at first, but eventually the hero has to gain the strength to conquer him.  If the hero wins by chance, the reader feels cheated.

2.  The villain shouldn't be all bad.  There ought to be some quirk or attribute that is good.  He loves gardening, or he has a favorite pet, etc.  Something that gives him dimension.  (I'm starting to realize that my favorite villains are the ones who truly believe they are doing what's right, but they are woefully mistaken).

3.  Try to avoid the stereotypes (sorry Voldemort).  The crooked politician, the hypocritical clergyman, the super evil wizard who wants to destroy Harry, etc.  If you have to use them, give them some unique twist that makes them interesting.

4.  Generally, there needs to be a defining tragic event that has made the villain who he is.  He could've been wrongfully convicted of a crime, or he had a horrible childhood, or an unrequited love interested who was cruel to him.  Give him a reason for why he does his dastardly deeds.

Hope these tips helped any of you out there who are working on villains.  If anyone has other tips, please feel free to post them!


  1. Depends. In a book I guess you could flesh out your villain but I personally don't like the he-has-a-soft-side approach unless he's not a real villain. As far as some difficulty that made him that way...well as a fantasy reader I'm not much into that. In short, I want my villians to be bad guys period. Maybe I'm too simple.

  2. Thanks for this, Melinda. I've been having trouble with my own villian lately. Now I've got several ideas to amp her up and make her more realistic.


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