Friday, December 3, 2010

Stephen Tremp - Guest Post

Please join me in welcoming Stephen Tremp of Breakthrough Blogs

When you get a minute, stop by his blog and say hello. It's a great source of writing, marketing, publishing and other fabulous info.

And just in case you didn't know, Stephen's specialty is action and suspense, evident in his book -

Breakthrough: The Adventures of Chase Manhattan.

BTW, Breakthrough is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble; visit Stephen's blog for details. So enough chatting, on to Stephen's post:

Why We Like Villains So Much

Developing a seriously evil villain takes more than pasting together bad traits. They are more than being the antithesis of the hero. Villains force us to confront our worst fears at our weakest moments. They can attack us when we are most vulnerable, such as when we sleep ala Freddy Kruger. They draw us away from the safety of our world and into theirs, like Kathleen Bates in Misery. Villains are defeated, then return with their evil friends. They come in various shapes, sizes, or colors such as people, animals (Jaws and Kujo), or aliens. They can be silent and invisible as in spirit form. They might already be dead. i.e. vampires and zombies. Hey, they can even be a doll like Chucky or Talking Teena from the Twilight Zone. Sometimes we even root for the villain! They have a story to tell and secrets to hide.

“Villains pose fundamental questions about humanity and, ‘they make audiences consider the moral dilemmas of their society … they expose how much you can get away with, what’s legal, and these characters operate on quite a basic level.’ (Writing Great Villains). Other villains simply want to spread anarchy, as Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker.

Bad guys can be one-dimensional and predictable. We all know what Jaws was going to do. Eat people alive. A thug who is in and out of prison his entire life is going to do pretty much the same thing over and over. There are some really great ones like the simple hit man with no conscious such as Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.

Villains can also be multi-dimensional. These bad guys are intelligent, socially adept, they have resources, and are usually somewhat athletic like Michael Douglas in Wall Street. Sometimes society doesn’t even know they are hosting a monster.

Villains can also be a tragic character, a victim of some hideous crime against them. They snap and seek revenge on their attackers, innocent people, or on the world. Villains can vary from culture to culture. What might be acceptable in once place could be reprehensible in another. Or a character can be an invader or a liberator, depending on the perspective of the other characters. Stella Cameron has a good list of villainous types at her Web site.

Many antagonists are a mosaic of this list. My antagonist in Breakthrough is the Mastermind. He is compulsive obsessive and calculates his plans to the minutest detail. He has followers who are part of his inner circle, such as his girlfriend and fellow M.I.T. grad student Staci Bevere. She is the assassin extraordinaire. But he is the one who ultimately pulls the strings.

BTW, I love the malcontent, such as a fired or disgruntled employee. Example: Richard Preston’s The Cobra Event, a story of domestic bio terrorism where the villain was fired, and he decided to take his anger out on the world by developing and unleashing a virus that causes self-cannibalism and death.

“As the writer, it is essential you know the villain's motivation (even if the reader doesn't); only this way will you be able to keep his/her words and actions consistent; he/she acts evil for a reason; even if that reason is "crazy" in the eyes of society, the villain believes the reasoning is logical and performs accordingly.” Ruth Kerce

Power, greed, instinct, madness, fight for survival, and revenge are excellent drivers that motivate a villain. Sometimes we even root for a villain. Perhaps, they’re right because they are victims. Vigilantes fall into this catagory.

Stephen Tremp blogs at Breakthrough Blogs and is author of the Near Future SciFi Thriller Breakthrough. If you feel this blog is worthy, go ahead and make my day. Retweet it

Thank you, Stephen, for sharing with us! Don't forget to stop by Breakthrough Blogs tomorrow for my guest post.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the bad guy?

Have a good weekend,


  1. Hi Karen, thanks for hosting me today and I look forward to hosting you this weekend! I look forward to lively discussion these next three days.

  2. My favorite bad guy - Dexter. Sure, he's the protagonist, but he's still the serial killer.

  3. Cinette, I'm a huge Dexter fan! We'll be talking about ol' Dex during this series.

  4. Hey Karen, nice to be here on your blog for the first time.

    My favourite type of villain is one is who complicated, who is human and vulnerable and has a conscience they struggle with. That's when things get really juicy for me.

    Great guest post, Stephen!


  5. Thank you Karen Lange for hosting Stephen Tremp! These are all great reasons why I have a soft spot for villains and enjoy writing them more than the good guys - I guess cos I am able to write about them with such glee - but up to a certain point - they can't always win!

    Take care

  6. Excellent post. Great villians, multi-dimensional and with complex motivations that even 'good' people can in some way relate to, are essential to a great good guy/bad guy story.

  7. Great post...I like the brilliant ones a.k.a. Hannibal Lecter. Yeah, he's a rotten dinner guest, but he's so interesting to read about!

  8. What a great guest post, Karen! Welcome back! I'm still thinking and praying for you and your family.

    Nice to meet you, Stephen. I love this! I'm still working on mastering a well-written villain. I like the villains that on one page you want so badly to like them, then WHAM, they do something that makes you hate them.

  9. Great post! I love villains, especially sympathetic ones, or even better, ones that turn out to be okay - like Severus Snape.

  10. Jai, complex villains with internal struggles and conflict are awesome. I think of the story of Jekyll and Hyde, an examination of the duality of of human nature harboring the ability to perform good and bad acts.

    Kitty, we do love our villains. Some are so dispicable they will never be loved, such as those who harm children. But for the most part, writers will include some element of something very cool or very sexy as part of the villain's makeup that the reader forms an affinity with.

    Marv, good point. Make some part of the villain's makeup something the reader can relate to. Perhaps the reader then engagses the villain, forms a bond with them to some degree.

    Vicki, Hannibal is a very popular villain with people. He's educated, a professional, sophisticated, crafty, has secrets to tell, all those things we like in our villains.

    Heather, we'll be discussing in a future blog the demise of villains. The WHAM part of the story.

  11. Great list of villian traits. And I'm a fan of the bad guy when the good guy sucks.

  12. I remember thinking what a sweet guy Dexter was until they showed him killing a bad guy. Absolutely no hesitation whatsoever. Spooky. Hannibal, definitely not someone I'd want to know. Shakespeare had quite a few nasty bad guys. Even as a young girl, Shakespeare's stories often gave me nightmares.

  13. Oh, I loved Hannibal :) And I must say your admiration of bad guys is hard to swallow coming from such a funny guy :D
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  14. Good breakdown of the types of villains. It depends on the personality and motivation of the bad guy. Sometimes there are fine lines between perceived good and bad. I liked the Michael Douglas character in Falling Down-- I could identify with his motivations and was rooting for him most of the way. The story eventually manipulates him into being more perceived as being the bad guy, but all in all I think he is more of a victim.

    Tossing It Out

  15. Hi Karen, yes I am a huge fan of the bad guy. I don't know why I have this fascination with villains. Even the anti heroes score high with me?

    Thanks Stephen for a wonderful post.

  16. Matthew, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Same for villainy.

    Alex, I concur. If the good guy sucks, I'm switching teams.

    Joylene, Dex is one of my favorites. That show has awesome writers.

    Jules, hey, even villains need a sense of humor some times.

    Arlee, I cover Falling Down in a future post ... misunderstood villains who are victims.

  17. Yes! I love mysteries and suspense stories with a good villain. Stories without are plain vanilla, I think. A really good bad guy adds some chili pepper to the mix.

    Mr. Tremp is clearly well versed on villainy. He's very articulate.

  18. What wonderful dialogue! I was out of the office this morning and returned to see that Stephen has got everyone talking. Thank you, Stephen, for such great stuff!

    So nice to meet all of you new visitors, and good to see my regular gang as well. Blessings to each of you.

    Happy writing,
    Karen :)

  19. Hi Karen ... and Stephen .. what great information .. I 'know' all this stuff - but as I don't write novels or stories and therefore don't develop characters .. I'm learning so much - never really thought about villains so much!! This is going to be really interesting ..

    What fun - Karen .. blessings to you .. and let's go villains ahoy .. I obviously need to read more, see more films and general get out more!?

    Narcissistic villains too?

    Cheers - Hilary

  20. Hi Karen, thanks for hosting Stephen.
    I think the scariest villains are those who appear to be normal. As many have said previously, the villain is the hero of his/her own story. Excellent post.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  21. I do like bad guys--they bring out the best in our protagonists! :)

  22. Rachna, its nice to meet you.

    Rhonda, thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

    Karen, this is a great group of people stopping by today. And I'm meeting some terrific new people!

    Hilary, its amazing how many villains are narcissistic. The list would be very long.

    NR, this is a very good point about the villain being its own story.

  23. I'm a fan of the bad guy if he's smart, quick-thinking, and willing to go to all ends to get what he wants.

  24. Bad guys sure can be multi-layers or just plain nuts. Great analysis! :O)

  25. Sometimes it's the bad guy that make the book.

  26. Hi Karen & Stephen -

    Ooo, great information! I'm looking forward to the rest of this series. I need to read up more on creating convincing villains.

    Susan :)

  27. Elizabeth, very true. I'll be doing a post about the relationship between the antagonist and the protagonist next week.

    Golden Eagle, nothing like an aggressive bad guy who tops at nothing, even overcoming insurmountable odds and impossible challenges. These are the villains that just won't die.

    Diane, they Just Plain Nuts villain is fun to watch or read. Heath Ledger's Joker is many of these things. Relentless, Just plain nuts. No other reason than just to dole out anarchy.

    Holly, I agree. Sometimes Bad Guys Rule.

  28. Yes, Stephen, what wonderful comments you've generated!

    Cinette, Jai, Old Kitty, The Old Silly, Vicki, Matthew, Elizabeth, Golden Eagle, Holly -
    So good of you to stop by! Glad to meet you; I appreciate your thoughts.

    Heather, Alex, Joylene, Jules, Lee, Rachna, Rhonda, Hilary, N.R., Diane, Susan -
    Always glad to see my regular gang too! Thanks for your two cents today too.

    Bear with me, all, as I make my way around to all your blogs. See you soon!

    Happy weekend,

  29. Sometimes I like the good guy and sometimes the bad, but when they’re the same guy, such as Dexter, it’s perfect.

  30. The best bad guys you can relate to just a little bit--or at least understand them. It makes them more real, tho still creepy. To blur the line between black and white is pretty fun!

  31. Complicated villians are the best--those little spots of good can make us feel for them or understand their conflicted personality.
    Great post, Stephen and Karen!

  32. I can't help but think of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies to think of bad-guys, rooting for them and not even being sure which guys were the villians.
    Another great post, Stephen.

  33. Jane,
    That does make a good combo, doesn't it? Glad you stopped by!

    Thanks for stopping over! It is fun when we call the shots, isn't it?

    Thanks so much for weighing in. The more complicated the better sometimes - gives us more to work with!

    Yes, now there's some bad guys! Appreciate you coming by.

    Nice to meet you all.
    Happy weekend,

  34. Susan, there's lots more where this came from.

    Jane, I have one post dedicated solely to our favorite Blood Splatter Specialist.

    Carol, blurring the lines between black and white is half the fun!

    Laura, that's a great point. Villains should have some level of complication, but the reader should be able to understand or relate to it.

    Susan, this is a show where every one is a villain, yet one needs to step forward and be a hero.

  35. Hannibal and Chucky are both villians I'd not want to meet up with, especially in a dark alley! This was a great post.

  36. I came over from Samuel's blog to meet you. Glad I did. Our profiles are somewhat similar. I just have a few more grandchildren than you--7. Have 3 daughters (one disabled) and a son. I've written all my life and am about to have a memoir published.

    I have Stephen Tremp's book and hope to get it read before Christmas! I started it and loved the writing. I think it's going to be good!!

    "Villains." Or a character in crisis. A writer whose name I can't think of right now said, "I would never write about someone who isn't at the end of his rope." I think almost all of us like tension/suspense, etc.!!

    Very interesting post!!!
    Ann Best, A Long Journey Home

  37. I do like writing the bad guy - they're always so much fun. :)

  38. Susanne,
    I wouldn't run in to them either! Thanks for coming by. :) Good to meet you.

    Congrats on your memoir! So nice to meet you. Will hop over to your blog as soon as I can.

    They are fun, aren't they? Good to see you, as always:)

    Blessings all,

  39. Outstanding post! For me, the most compelling villain has some aspect of their personality I can empathize with. I don't have to like the character, or approve of their behavior, but their actions have to makes sense to me. Bottom line: you can't have a great protagonist without a great antagonist.

  40. Thanks Karen for having me over today. We had a spectacular turnout for only 24 hours. Let's see what we can do with the second part of our Home And Away Blog this weekend!

  41. VR,
    I agree! Stephen provides great insight and food for thought. So nice to meet you, and thanks for following! :)

    You are welcome. We'll have to do this again sometime. I am pleased with the turnout, particularly since these aren't my regular posting days. I've got a great gang of followers, as do you, so it comes together nicely. Thanks so much!

    Happy weekend,


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!