Monday, January 30, 2012

Heroes & Villains

I had the privilege of attending a writer's conference for YA Fiction writers over the weekend. I met some very talented writers and sat in on their workshops.

I thought I'd share some tips on developing Heroes and Villains for your book:


When developing the hero of your story, you first might want to determine if he/she will be a "classic" hero or not. The classic hero is the one, you know, who has courage, strength, determination, inspires those who are with him/her to be better, etc. In other words...Superman!

But sometimes your story may want to begin with a hero who isn't so classic afterall. For instance, Harry Potter starts off as an eleven year old kid, shy, uncertain, and lacking courage. This is ok because then the reader is taken on a journey as they watch this anti-hero change and become courageous and strong and determined right before their eyes. This tactic draws readers into the story as they root for the character to become the Hero.

Now, you have to decide which type your hero will be.


There are your usual "classic" villains as well. These villains are evil from the beginning and stay evil throughout the book. They have no redeeming qualities in their character, therefore, the reader can almost predict what will happen in the end.

In other stories, the villain might start out as a friend of the hero. He might even be the hero's mentor. She might even be the hero's favorite teacher. Allowing the reader to uncover the truth about the character can add excitement and elevate the action to another level. This is what makes writing fun! Draw your readers in with the unpredictable, but in an interesting way.

J.K. Rowling does this well with her character, Severus Snape. We know he is one of the villains in the story, but Rowling takes the readers on a journey and reveals that Professor Snape, in the end, may not be who we thought he was all along. Very clever!  This tactic worked because it was believable.

Will your villain have any redeeming qualities at all? Jot them down ahead of time. Will she end up being good after all?


The most important thing we learned was to make that connection between the hero and the villain. For instance, if your hero has the power of teleportation...perhaps give your villain the power of telepathy. See the connection? The hero can teleport wherever he needs to go, but, alas, his nemesis can read his mind and know where he will end up. How fun is that for the reader?

Think back to your favorite villains in stories. How did they connect to the hero?

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker
Voldemort and Harry Potter
Sauron and Frodo
Lucifer and Christ

These are just some pretty famous villains where you can see the connection. By connecting these two characters together, you create a bond. By creating that bond, you add interest. This interest draws the reader into your story.

In my book, The Dragon Forest, I have a connection between the evil Lord Caragon and the good King Alexander. They are bound by the King's father. His act of mercy (allowing Lord Caragon to live in exile...) came back to haunt King Alexander who now has to deal with this evil Lord.

In Conclusion....

So, now you have a general idea of how to develop your heroes and your villains. Will your hero be that "classic" here type or be something else? Will your villain have any redeeming qualities or will she be evil through and through?  You have all the power to make your characters what you want them to be. Just remember to make connections, stay consistent, add a few surprises if you'd like, tease your readers....and have fun!

But most importantly....just write!



  1. Very interesting! I have never really thought about it in quite this way. Glad you learned a lot at your conference!

  2. It was a very good conference. The authors had great tips! I look forward to reading some of their books.