I was very honoured some months ago to be asked by friend and fellow blogger, Sacha Black, to beta-read her new book, ‘13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains’.
Well, I almost cried when I read it because I realised just how bad my villains are… and I don’t mean that in a super-bad good way, if you know what I mean!
Like most other authors, I had concentrated on my hero and was all loved-up with my brave, magical, flawed CK. The baddy, by comparison, now seems shallow and unconvincing.
How I wish this book had been available before I started to write my first book! Sigh. However, all is not lost… I have learned a lot, which I will be using in my future novels. And if you are a first -time author about to release your beautiful book-baby into the big bad world, go and grab yourself a copy of Sacha’s book quickly, and read it cover-to-cover (virtually, if its on Kindle) before you press that big ‘P’ button.
So, what’s it all about, and why’s it so special? Quite honestly, there isn’t a really good, comprehensive book on baddies out there. Until now.
Black takes us into territory I had never previously considered when it comes to creating literary villains, starting with the following statement:
‘The hero is not the most important character in your novel. Your VILLAIN is.’
Huh? Wait, what? That can’t be right! The hero is… well, the HERO… the whole story revolves around the hero, right? Wrong. Black is right, and forty thousand words later, you will have a clear understanding why.
We all love to hate villains. It’s their evil, dastardly plans that have us rooting for a story’s hero, not how good–looking and manly the hero is, or how beautiful and kick–ass the heroine is.
In her book ‘13 Steps to Evil’, the author shows us exactly how to manage this process, from creating villainous traits and motivations, to an in–depth analysis of the villain’s mental health, and how to make his villainy authentic and believable.
She also makes a couple of very useful side–trips along the way into clichés and tropes, creating conflict and climax, and how to write fear.
Through it all, there is a hefty sprinkling of examples of popular and lesser–known villains from the literary and movie worlds, as well as from history, to highlight her points. Add in Black’s unique mix of humour and metaphor, and we have a highly entertaining and informative read.
My favourite chapters were the ones on anti–heroes and antagonists, and personality traits.
Black writes from a background in Psychology and Cognitive Neuropsychology, so she knows her stuff. All writers should have this book in their arsenal of writing tools. It’s a future classic!