A re-blog

How to Write a Killer Villain

Image: Lego man holding gun in film noir lighting

Today’s post is by author and founder of Top Shelf Editing, Christina Kaye (@topshelfedits).

You can’t have a good thriller without a nasty and formidable opponent for your hero. But it isn’t enough to just write a character and call him “the bad guy.” Just as it’s important to create a well-rounded, three-dimensional hero, you must create a villain who is well-developed and not just your standard killer, robber, or kidnapper.

So how can we write a well-developed villain who is a worthy opponent to your protagonist?

Create a backstory

Unless you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi or the like, your villain will also be human. They will have a personality all their own and, in most cases, they’ll have a painful past, so you must tell their story, just as you would with the hero. You want him to be everything that makes us human—fallible, flawed, and complete with a backstory that explains their motives and their reason for being so downright nasty.

First, think about what made your villain turn out the way he did. Why is he killing people? Or why is he so hostile and angry? Most often, the answer comes from an earlier time in his life, prior to our entry into the story. It’s also possible he was born that way—which may not make for a compelling backstory—but usually something happened to him early on that made him snap, even if he already had a tendency to be bad.

Whatever you decide to use as your villain’s backstory, it should be an experience every human can relate to on some level. But somehow, for some reason, Mr. Bad Guy reacted to this tragedy or event in a way most humans would not.

Create motive for his actions

Beyond the backstory, the villain must have a motive for his bad behavior. There must be a “why” aside from “he is a bad guy.” Give your villain a specific motive for why he is kidnapping, robbing, killing, etc. This serves two purposes. One, it gives the bad guy even more character, and two, it gives your protagonist something to follow or a mystery to solve. So create a specific motive for your villain’s actions, and you’ll notice it helps you further develop your plot. Examples of motives for villains include:

  • Revenge for a prior wrongdoing
  • Desire to be loved and accepted
  • To gain notoriety and/or fame
  • To instill his own sense of justice
  • Fear of losing his power
  • Desperation and self-preservation
  • To achieve/fulfill his destiny

Give him strengths and weaknesses

Just like your protagonist, a villain should have both strengths and weaknesses. His strengths probably keep him from being caught by the hero during the first part of the story. Ideally, his strengths should be a good foil for the protagonist’s weaknesses. Let’s say your hero is a female sleuth and she’s smart and witty, but she has a weakness when it comes to her self-esteem. Have your villain know this and take advantage of it. Perhaps he, as a former cop, leaves her clues and taunts her because she’s not “a real cop.” This allows your villain not only to have strengths, but to use them to his advantage.

Weaknesses should make the villain fumble a few times and ultimately lead to the protagonist putting an end to his reign of terror. Eventually, your hero discovers the weaknesses and turns them against the villain. There must be something that makes the hero able to stop the reign of terror once and for all.

Parting advice

Be careful to avoid overused tropes such as:

  • Plans to dominate the world
  • Living in an underground dungeon
  • A disfigured, gnarly appearance
  • A tragic childhood story
  • Obsessed romantically with protagonist
  • Has a minion or “sidekick” who does his bidding

Villains with these types of storylines are overused, unoriginal, and predictable. Some of these can be used if you find a unique twist.

A complex and complicated villain will be a worthy adversary for your hero to fight and ultimately defeat, and your readers will not only talk about what a crazy, unique villain you created, but they’ll be grateful for your efforts.

Note from Jane: Subscribers to Christina’s email newsletter receive a free self-editin

Poetry — Perpetually Past Due

A re-blog. 

It’s the warmth of a summer sun pressing through and pouring between the gaps of illuminated tree leaves; it’s the peaceful, calming noise of pouring rain that trickles through gutter and pipe; it is imagery conjured into something more real than the spell of any grey-bearded sorcerer or maiden, mother, and crone. Attempts have been […]

via Poetry — Perpetually Past Due

Letting go of shame — Lifestyle Blog: living with fear & anxiety

A re-blog.

Not sure who needs to hear this today…

Fear makes us feel inferior, it makes us feel like we can’t tackle any task. Fear freezes us in our tracks. Fear is the root of inaction. And inaction is the root of misery. So, fear leads to misery. If we let fear rule our lives we will be stuck, but we are not trees. […]

via Letting go of shame — Lifestyle Blog: living with fear & anxiety

Living with your choices

Very apropos to my current thoughts.

Lifestyle Blog: living with fear & anxiety

I was watching a great show on Netflix this weekend called The Imposters. I binged season 1 in about a day and a half. The show got me truly hooked. Sadly, I read it was canceled after season 2… Anyway, it is about a bunch of con artists living all of these different lives. One random, outside character said something that truly stuck with me. She mentioned a mug she saw at an airport that said

“If you wanted to do it, you would have done it already.”

This quote really struck a chord with me. I talk so much about how I want to change my life but I have to think about whether or not I really want to. Because, as this saying goes, I would have done it already.

So I decided to put my actions where my mouth is and change my circumstances instead of just…

View original post 72 more words

Milkman by Anna Burns

A re-blog.

This review of Milkman, by Anna Burns, is originally from the blog of Word by Word. Milkman has now made my reading list :).

Christina Schmidt

Word by Word

As you may know, Milkman by the Northern Irish author Anna Burns was the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2018

Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2018 Chair of judges, had this to say:

‘None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance, threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life.’

On finishing it I was left with a similar feeling as when I completed another Booker prize-winning novel, Marlon JamesA Brief History of Seven Killings, that is, a feeling of exhaustion and of wonder, how could an author sustain this kind of writing, stay with this voice, day after day for as long as it took to…

View original post 997 more words

Worth It

Okay, the bra bit got to me and provided a much needed laugh.

Magical World Web

February 11, 2019  #OpenBook

Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and your pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

Yeah, I’m not going back in.  I’m clumsy enough when there’s no fire.  If everybody is safe, then I’m good.  If I went back in, then I would end up being pinned by a falling beam or something and ending up as story material for Grey’s Anatomy.  And I mean that in a dying way.

Speaking of that show, I used to watch it.  It came out when my first born was chillin’ in my stomach.  That’s a terrible time to start a show that’s 99% drama.  I was a teacher and my husband worked an afternoon/evening shift as a custodian for the school (because small towns rock and they found…

View original post 369 more words


A Wednesday re-blog.

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” – Suzy Kassem Live long enough, something’s going to happen and break your heart. It’s… life. Other people will tell you “no,” there are countless setbacks and petty frustrations, lots and lots of obstacles. Imagine how long it takes a baby to learn how to walk. Or […]

via Doubt — Cristian Mihai

Sleeping in the Stacks (re-blog)

A Sunday re-blog. #StackSleeping

When I worked in a college library, I had to periodically go around and wake people from where they had fallen asleep in the book stacks, on tables, or in quiet corners. I didn’t wake them to be cruel but because the library had to close sometime, and they couldn’t spend the night even […]

via Sleeping in the Stacks — Kristen Twardowski

Bromley House Library

A Wednesday re-blog. Another stop on my UK trip.

Book to the Future

After finishing The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History, I idly typed into my search engine of choice, ‘secret library Nottingham’ and was surprised by actually finding one. Bromley House Library is smack bang in the centre of town, its unassuming doorway sandwiched between a charity shop and a newsagent.  It was very much like finding the Book Cemetery in Barcelona á la The Shadow of the Wind.

Arriving for my tour – which can be taken every Wednesday at 2:30pm for the excellent price of £2 – this is the scene that first greets the visitor, from there I knew it was going to be a book lovers dream to wander around in.  I later found out that that staircase is only supported at top and bottom so only one person can ascend or descend at a time.

This magnificent old building, built in 1752…

View original post 136 more words

Other side of fear, by Cristian Mihai

A Sunday re-blog. What’s on the other side of your fears?
You can read the original article here.


“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield

by Cristian Mihai

Let me tell you about fear. It’s poison. It’s poison for your mind. It makes you lose control, it makes you freeze, it makes you take the wrong decision. When you let fear take over, you’re just an echo of your former self. An empty shadow and nothing more.

But we’re all afraid, aren’t we? There’s no such thing as fearless. Even the brave are afraid. In fact, one cannot be brave unless one if afraid…

So… what is there to be had on the other side of fear?

The awful truth about life is that what doesn’t kill often makes you wish it did. There’s great sadness and pain in this world, and we all get our fair share. But, you see, eventually all those things that don’t kill us either make us stronger or weaker. After a while, when the pain becomes but a memory, we have a choice.

We can either decide to become stronger or weaker. We can harden ourselves up or not. The choice is always ours.

But we’re afraid… even when the pain goes away, we’re afraid it might return. Even after heartbreaks heal, we’re afraid someone else will break our hearts again. We might never want to fall in love again. We might want to spend a lifetime behind closed doors, just to be sure, without realizing that loneliness will also break our hearts.

That’s why we need to fight fear, we need to see what is it that we can find on the other side of fear.

All our dreams and expectations. All our ambitions. All the power and the courage and the determination and the discipline we could ever need. All that lies just on the other side of fear.

I’ve always wanted to go to the United States and forge a better future there. Ever since I was six, actually. I never even traveled there, mostly because I was afraid of the visa requirements. Or the fact that I’d fail. I just wanted to fight a sure battle, but no one could ever guarantee me that. No one ever will.

And I’ve filled the ocean that lies between Romania and the US with excuses, endless scenarios, and fear. I’ve thought about it, over and over again, and decided that it would be best to wait. Living in a foreign country, all by myself, seemed like too much. Just the thought that I’d need to go through a lot of trouble just to arrive at my destination seemed impossible.

I’ve never even been on a plane.


There’s one thing about me that I never lost, one thing that I didn’t learn or mimic from others. I want things so badly that I’d be willing to do anything to get them. When I decide that it’s time to do so, I don’t let anything stand in my way.

I did the same for writing. I wrote on and off for 8 years before finally deciding that I’d better man up and write more and more stuff. And finish stuff. And get stuff published.

There are no impossible journeys in life. Only journeys we’re too afraid to even start.

I used to think that I couldn’t function properly without smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Stress and all that. I’d say that I couldn’t even write without cigarettes. But it’s been two months since I quit.

Now I know that life’s all about being afraid and doing it anyways. In fact, fear should motivate me. It should drive me to act, to try my best, to try to solve problems.

I don’t want to spend a lifetime dreaming about an ideal future. I don’t want to wish for it to happen. I want to make it happen. Because no one else will do it for me.

And that makes all the difference.

The world is never against you. The world does not hate you.

You’re just alone. You and your dreams. And it’s entirely up to you to make them happen, one at a time, before it’s too late.

Because the most tragic thing that could ever happen to you is to realize that it’s too late.
Austin, Texas

Bone Witch – Book Review

A Sunday re-blog. This review disrupted my current reading list…in a good way 🙂


Bone Witch – Book Review, by Rin Chupeco.
You can find the original blog piece here.

Bone Witch (2017, Sourcebooks Fire, Young Adult Fantasy) by Rin Chupeco

When I finish a book and review it, I also post on sites such as Amazon and GoodReads which gives me a chance to see what other people are thinking about the book too.

If I really love a book, I’m always eager to check out reviews and see if everyone else loved it as much as I did.

So after reading Bone Witch, I rushed over to GoodReads only to discover most reviewers did not enjoy this book. I was so confused, how could someone not love this book?

It’s beautiful and sweeping and wonderfully told, but many thought it was too slow and that nothing really happens.


I still think it’s fantastic! I was a little disappointed in the ending but it’s part of a new series so that will likely be cleared up in the sequel, and I don’t like to give spoilers in my reviews so I can’t really explain why the ending was disappointing. Sorry, guess you’ll have to read the book. : – )

And now, my review…

From the publisher:

“Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.”

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha—one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.


Bone Witch, written by Rin Chupeco, is the first book in what promises to be a brilliant new fantasy series. The world-building is exceptional as the reader is immersed in Tea’s world where asha’s wield extraordinary powers and are both revered and feared. As Tea evolves from a simple, country girl to a powerful asha, the story introduces a cast of unique and entertaining characters. The descriptions of the asha’s outfits can sometimes be a bit drawn out, but overall the detailed descriptions only serve to make the world more real.

The story is told from the perspective of Tea and from the perspective of a Bard who has sought out Tea to hear her story. The story unfolds as Tea recounts her rise as an asha to the Bard. The story goes from present day to the past as the two storylines build and the reader begins to anticipate that Tea will reveal what happened in her past to bring her to where she is now. This gives the story a page-turning quality and even though the plot is somewhat slow, the writing and characters are sure to keep the reader engaged.

A beautiful, epic tale with strong female characters that will be enjoyed by teens and adults who love fantasy stories.

Thank you to Net Galley and Sourcebooks Fire for a reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday Funnies! — Cafe Book Bean


via Sunday Funnies! — Cafe Book Bean

According to History, Reading in Bed Makes Me Evil

A re-blog. A very interesting history on the “evils” of reading in bed.
Austin, Texas

Kristen Twardowski

Joseph_Caraud_Am_Morgen_1865.jpgJoseph Caraud, “Am Morgen”, Öl auf Holz, 1865, via Wikimedia.

Reading is more dangerous than I thought. Not only is reading while walking cause for concern, but reading in bed may also be a problem. At least people who lived during the 1800’s thought it was.

Like cigarettes are today, reading in bed was a fire hazard. People needed candlelight to see. If they drifted off to sleep while reading with a candle burning at their bedside, there was always a chance that the house could catch fire.

The Atlantic recently published an article that details how the British came to connect reading in bed first to fire and then to an immoral spirit. People who read this way were considered to be “insolent child[ren]” prone to crime. This kind of commentary seems like an overreaction, but the disapproval of reading stemmed from broader changes to society. By the…

I appreciate your help but you’re wrong and you look like an asshole, spellcheck.

A re-blog. You know what…fuck you spellcheck.

Source: I appreciate your help but you’re wrong and you look like an asshole, spellcheck.

What I learned in five years of blogging

On Blogging

Cristian Mihai

Five years. Five years of daily blogging. Five years since I decided to never give up, no matter what. To keep writing, to keep blogging, to just keep at it for as long as it took.

And what a ride it has been. Around the world, indeed. 200 or so countries. Lots and lots of people, lots and lots of stories…

View original post 786 more words

Neil Gaiman & Imposter Syndrome

I’m re-posting the article and original blog of a brief look into Imposter syndrome. I know I experience such moments.

“It comes in the night. It comes for us all. Imposter syndrome, that constant feeling that you’re about to be revealed as a total fraud, seizes even the most successful among us plebes.

Exhibit A: An encounter between beloved author Neil Gaiman and another Neil, one whose historical importance can hardly be overstated. Gaiman wrote on his blog May 12 about meeting a legendary man, who said he felt out of place among great artists and scientists.

It was Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon. Wrote Gaiman:

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

Here’s the post in full:

2017-05-17 (2)

2017-05-17 (4)

Gaiman’s words of comfort to his fan, arguing that no one at all really feels like they know what they’re doing, is clearly resonating with people. A tweet by fantasy writer Alan Baxter, quoting Gaiman’s blog post, has been liked 41,000 times at time of writing.

The feeling that you are severely under-qualified for the task ahead of you, or that you’re secretly the most incompetent person in a room full of bonafide geniuses, it seems, is pervasive.”

A Letter to a Dispirited Writer Friend of Mine

I am coming to terms with some of these insights more and more by the day.

Andrew Joyce

You were one of first bloggers to let me promote my first book on your blog and I have never forgotten that. I’m sorry to hear that you think self publishing sucks. But if you have the time, I’m gonna tell you a few things. So here goes.

You say you queried twenty-five agents. Well, I queried 3,000! Ten hours a day, seven days a week it was go through the lists, get their emails, cut and paste my letter, and then send it out. One full year!!!

I was pushing my first book, a 164,000 word mess. It was a good story, but I had no concept of proper editing. Anyway, I was told time and time again that anything over 80,000 words for a first time author was heresy. Finally, I got pissed off and sat down and wrote an 80,000 novel just as a big FU. Then…

View original post 450 more words


%d bloggers like this: