“A story is only as strong as its villain.”
That quote (or one like it, I’m paraphrasing) has caused me some discomfort for the past few months of writing Willa. I suspected there was something lacking in this regard when it came to my antagonist, and when I got around to noticing recently that he had dropped out of the story for chapters at a time, I knew it. My villain, my antagonist, the character I meant to throw a wrench (and the whole toolbox) into my protagonist’s plans, had faded mid-book to a mildly threatening shadow. A dog with some bark, but no real bite.
For a couple of weeks I stewed over this problem, prayed about it, mentioned it in emails to my crit partner, Laura. Then late last week it hit me like a fat raindrop on the forehead. I’d never made the very needful leap inside the man’s mind and stayed there long enough, unpleasant a place as it is, to study him until I knew what he’s willing to do, what lengths he’s willing to go to, to stop my protagonist from reaching her goal. And, just as important, to find it in me to sympathize with why he is how he is.
Now I know this guy has depths and layers I’d only glimpsed before (thank you, Lord, it was worth the wait). I’m giddy with the “rightness” of it, and ready to take a deep breath and head back to the early chapters of the story. I have some reworking of scenes to do, some rewriting, probably a few new scenes to drop into place. I wouldn’t halt the forward momentum of first draft writing for just any little revision, but this is a big one. This is going to affect the outcome of the rest of the book in ways I can’t predict yet.
So (takes that deep breath) now that the long weekend is behind us (and I hope yours was a good one!) it’s time to make my antagonist as complex on the page as he now is in my mind, and as any character worth writing deserves to be.
Have you ever been nearly half done with a novel and realized you were shortchanging an important character? Not looking deep enough? Not allowing them to fully live on the page? Were you able to flesh them out? And if so, did it change the course of the story at all? I suppose that‘s the question I’m most eager (and a bit nervous) to find out.
A housekeeping note: You may have noticed a delay on comments appearing here on Past Perfect. I’ve had to switch to comment moderation due to the attentions of a persistent spammer. This is my way of keeping the place clean for everyone else. Sorry to have to do it, as I like the instant gratification of seeing my comments on other blogs appear right when I post them and would rather provide that to everyone who visits here. Until or if I decide to take more drastic measures against this spammer, comment moderation seems the best solution.
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