|New Release Frisky Business (A Sasha Jackson Mystery) by Canadian author Jill Edmonson is the fourth novel starring her female detective described by the author as a "beautiful mess."|
Make the Bad Guys Really Unlikeable
When I was working on my last mystery novel, there came a point when I became frustrated with some of my secondary characters. They seemed flat to me. Now, given that they were secondary or even peripheral, it would not have made sense to give a lot of background and/or a detailed description of them. But I needed to hint that these guys were not the ones your dad wants you to date.
Some easy ways to SHOW that a character is less than honourable could include the following:
· Swearing: Just fucking have the fucking character fucking talk like fucking this.
· Smoking: Do I even need to explain this? Instant pariah.
· Poor grammar: Like the characters ain’t got no clue how to speak good, dude.
· Unkindness to another character: This can be simple, such as not holding the door open for the person behind them when they enter an office building, or budding in line at the convenience store.
· Unkindness to animals: Don’t go so far as having them kick a puppy (ACK!!!), but show them griping about the neighbour’s damn poodle peeing on their lawn. This can make a character come across as churlish.
· Lack of manners/class: Give the bad guy a dog, but make it so that he does not poop & scoop.
· Poor hygiene: Sure, why not give your villain B.O. or halitosis?
· Unacceptable speech: This can go as far as using racial terms or terms that are degrading to certain orientations or genders. Be careful with this, though, as you may offend readers!
Having said all of that, be careful: You don’t want to slide into clichés. To avoid having that happen, use the ugly stick sparingly. It can be effective to come at it from an oblique angle, such as having a minor character politely ask the villain not to use the “F word” around children, or have a third party offer the bad guy a breath mint.
Finally, you can have a bit of fun with this by flipping things around. Use a positive attribute as contrast. One of the loathsome guys in my last book speaks and acts like a total dirtbag (which he is), and my protagonist is inwardly cringing at having to talk to him for even five minutes. He grosses her out by chomping loudly and inelegantly on a wad of gum... But then she realizes that the “gum” is Nicorette (one of those quit-smoking aids). This small detail makes a big difference. His quest to quit smoking makes him just a little bit more human, gives him a shred of a redeeming quality.
Writing villains can definitely be challenging, but if you play around with it for a while, you’ll find interesting ways to let their badness reveal itself.
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Jill Edmondson is the author of the Sahsa Jackson Mysteries.
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