December 5, 2019
Linda Lee Kane
When I begin a story, I like to create the scenario, then the names of my heroes and my villains. These are some of the things I ponder when writing and I thought it might be helpful to some of you.
Most thrillers tell the story of a hero who leaves the comfortable, known world and ventures into the dangerous unknown, often at risk to his/her life, to bring benefit to humanity. As such, thrillers hearken back to myth is that span all cultures and epochs. Look at Wikipedia’s list of Heroes and World Cultures and Heroines in Folklore and mark those that appeal to you the most. Keep a list of ideas and heroes in a notebook to refer to later.
When creating motivations for heroes and villains, a fundamental principle to remember is that making a decision between good and evil is never really a choice. All humans will choose well as they see it. You must tell why your villain is picking his own right (which your reader will perceive as evil). This is where your moral gray area becomes essential.
In the Black Madonna, A Popes Deadly Obsession, the moral gray area is whether or not to bring the last written words by Jesus to light. An offshoot of the Catholic Church doesn’t want it to come to light, but Luci, in her naivety believes that by doing so it will bring truth to the bible and in doing so bring light to all mankind.
All stakes, no matter what kind of novel you’re writing, should involve death. This can happen physically (the hero's life is in danger, (psychologically) the hero stands to lose his identity or a vital aspect of his soul) or circumstantially (or at some point of the hero’s life will be lost forever-a career, a marriage, his family, etc.). When you’re designing your hero’s central conflict, ask yourself which kind of death your hero is going to confront.
Sometimes a moral gray area turns a hero into a villain. In fiction, this is known as an anti-hero. Check out these television shows as an example:
Tony Soprano of The Sopranos
Walter White of Breaking Bad
Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo
Watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and observe how the character of Indian Jones is revealed. Which personality traits are shown first? Which ones come later? What motivates Jones in his quest?
What aspects of your hero can be reflected through your villain?
What aspects of your villain’s personality and life could create relatable motivations for what they do in your novel?