In my novel Not Your Villain, Bells’ alter-ego Chameleon is the country’s most wanted villain. While he’s been framed, it’s interesting from a writing perspective to think about what people think about villains and how the people in power in this series direct attention to what they believe is good and bad.
Writing the antagonist in your story one of the most important ways to keep your novel engaging and move the plot forward. Memorable villains often capture the imagination of readers and their dynamics with your heroes will help build your conflict. Depending on what you’re going for, having your antagonist have a compelling backstory and motivation helps them from being over-the-top. Unless, that’s what you’re going for— my antagonist Captain Orion takes a lot of cues from classic cheesy comic book villains, which is part of the fun of the Sidekick Squad series, but we meet a new antagonist in the second book, Lowell Kingston, who is cool and calculating.
The difference between Orion and Kingston is that while Orion is all physical strength and power, Kingston’s shrewdness makes him dangerous and you don’t know what he’s planning or what to expect, and he has a vast number of resources.
A good way to think about your antagonist is what their driving force is. What are their ambitions and reasonings for what they want? What are they willing to do to get it? Are they relatable? I think what makes a truly scary antagonist is that fear too, for readers to examine themselves and think how this person got to where they are and where they crossed the line.
There are different types of power and different ways you can give your antagonist resources. Captain Orion can summon lightning and can fly, making her a formidable opponent, while Kingston is a central figure in a corrupt government. What kind of background do you want to give your antagonist? Do they have vast knowledge and expertise in a certain area? Are they only ones who know an important secret? Do they have the command of admirers or a military? Do they hold sway over the press? These are all great things to think about when crafting your antagonist.
The most important thing about your antagonist is that they oppose your protagonist in some way. It doesn’t have to be a clear cut hero-villain route, and it isn’t always a person. Is it an institution, or a system that your main character is striving to change? Is the antagonist themselves? The forces of opposition are what really come into play; your antagonist can even be a close friend or family member and care about your protagonist, but doesn’t see eye-to-eye on what your conflict is.
Villains are so much fun to write, and I hope these ideas help you move forward in your writing! Thank you for having me here on the blog, and I hope you have a chance to check out Not Your Villain, the second in a series where LGBTQ+ teenagers take on corrupt government agencies and uncover the truth about the hero-villain dichotomy in their superpowered world.
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Thank you again!
C.B. Lee is a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American writer based in Los Angeles, California.
NOT YOUR SIDEKICK was a 2017 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist in YA/Children’s Fiction and a 2017 Bisexual Book Awards Finalist in Speculative Fiction. SEVEN TEARS AT HIGH TIDE was the recipient of a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fantasy Romance and also a finalist for the 2016 Bisexual Book Awards in the YA and Speculative Fiction categories.
CB has been featured at literary events such as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Lambda Litfest’s Celebrating the Asian American LGBTQ+ Experience at the Chinese American Museum, YALLWEST and Pasadena Litfest as well as a guest at popular panels and discussions such as DragonCon’s “LGBTQIA in YA” , “BiScifi: Queer Heroes in Science Fiction and More”, “The Craft of Dystopia”, “Magic and Worldbuilding,”, WonderCon’s “Sisterhood of the Self-Sufficient,” Emerald City Comic Con’s “Diversity in Publishing,” and San Diego Comic Con’s “Super Asian America” and “Into the Fanzone!”
NOT YOUR VILLAIN: SIDEKICK SQUAD, BOOK TWO—
Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.
After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger.
Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.