Disabling the Options. The Cringe Factor Part II: The Challenge of the Bad Guy.


In any work of fiction, these are the two areas more vulnerable and more precious than any other. Sex and the challenge of the Bad Guy. I covered sex already (HERE), so now let’s move on to the Bad Guy.

The Bad Guy and the why-how challenge: Writing a villain is easy enough, but you really do have to make him or her strong and to some extent unstoppable. If your villain isn’t a serious force to be reckoned with, then there is no threat. You can have the meatiest book ever, you can have a saga of strong emotions, action and adventure, marvelous obstacles to get over, through, around, and all the trauma and excitement in the world. You can have the twistiest plots with the best winning-through-in-the-end formula. It could be expertly written – everything – but it won’t help you one iota if the average reader sits back and says, “Why didn’t she just go to the police?” or “Why didn’t he just quit?”

You have to answer those questions. In the book. You have to show your reader why the easy escape just won’t work. Let’s make it clear: THERE CAN BE NO WAY OUT. If the solution to the hero’s problem is so easy and so obvious to all, you’re not only left with a useless book that took a substantial amount of time and effort to produce, but it will forever haunt you. It’s that Cringe Factor again. Thirty years on and you’ll have a tic in one eye, and a habit of looking over your shoulder and flinching occasionally. It’ll still be with you – that embarrassment. Especially if someone says to you, “Hey, aren’t you the author of…?”

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