Posted by: Kathleen Mix | November 23, 2012

Where’s the Villain?

I recently finished reading a novel by a New York Times bestselling author who has always been one of my favorites. The story was disappointing, and I pondered my reaction until I figured out why. My conclusion: she’d failed to include a strong central villain.
Several aspects of the story were well done. A variety of people and forces caused conflict for the book’s heroine. Frigid weather and deep snow, bad decisions by her companions, and mysterious circumstances helped build some suspense. The author introduced an antihero the reader could dislike and suspect, and she gave us a crooked police officer to root against. But the opposing forces were lacking, and when the identity of the prime antagonist was finally revealed, I found him more worthy of my pity than scorn.
The villains in the author’s previous novels have all been wonderfully hateful, diabolical, and formidable. The heroines had to combat the evil-doers with equal strength, stretch physically and mentally, and prove they were worthy of winning. They appeared more heroic because the antagonistic force was extremely difficult to defeat. As I rapidly flipped pages, I worried about the outcome. This story failed to provide that level of opponent. When the heroine triumphed, the task fell short of a glowing victory.
Reading is a writer’s best teacher. Discovering this flaw in a bestselling author’s work taught me a valuable lesson.
I went to my computer, took a hard look at my work-in-progress, and came away with a fresh perspective.
Maybe my villain can be stronger and more diabolical. And maybe, if he is, my hero will be more challenged.



  1. Sounds like a good idea — seeing what published authors do and learning from them. I find a storyline even more intriguing if a villain has a tiny bit of good in him/her which makes them less of a stock character and more human.


  2. […] Where’s the Villain? ( […]


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