Creating Villains and Heroes with Killer Chemistry

Writersdontcry Nemesis EmoticowsThere are villains, and then there are villains. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re not necessarily the most ineffable, most powerful, or most evil. They don’t have an extra-hellish, spine-tingling cackle. And they don’t even always get their own theme music. But they are the villains you just love—and love to hate. The ones that make you abandon all reason. The ones you sometimes just want to hit in the face, even if you are not the least bit martial or particularly violent--usually anyway. But these villains have a way of inspiring passionate responses.

I call these villains nemeses, and they are in many ways a twisted reflection of the hero to whom they’re matched. A hero’s nemesis encompasses the hero’s dark side—a harsh reminder as to what could happen if the hero fails to solve his problems. As to what could happen if they gave into the temptation that rests within all heroes’ hearts. And it is the hero seeing their own darkness reflected in the villain—and the villain seeing the remnants of their virtue in the hero—that causes such killer chemistry.

It’s so easy, these days, for a well-intentioned hero to fall. Heroes work so very hard to do things the right way, to be good, to keep to the path of the (self-)righteous.  But heroes are often plagued by doubts, worrying whether their refusal to consider questionable methods is holding them back. After all, what good is being “good” if it means evil will win and eliminate all goodness anyway? At least you could be the lesser of two evils, by using evil’s tactics against it. Right guys? Right? Guys?

What a slippery slope! But it is the foundation of some of the best, most long-running conflicts in villain-vs-hero history. Harnessing that energy for your own story can make it compelling in a way little else can. So, to help you create nemesis villains of your very own, I’ve broken out a few tips and tidbits for thought here.

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