Saturday, November 6, 2010

A worthy advisary

There's nothing I enjoy more than a good villain, unless it's besting a good villain. Often when we right we are so consumed about what our heroine or hero looks like we leave our bad guy or girl to the reader's imagination. Not good. As a writer you want your reader to boo and hiss at the villain just as one would at a penny opera. So, put on your thinking caps and give your readers that mental picture.

His attributes should be as interesting as your hero. Remember not all villains are dark and swarthy. Some may be blonde, blue eyed and cunning. Perhaps they are skilled at getting into a woman's bed or coaxing the information from her lips by plying her senses with kisses and flowery speech.

When I wrote A Ranger's Honor, I wanted a card shark. He needed to be just as glib as Rhett Butler and as dangerous as a rattlesnake. Instead of giving him a dark appearance, I wanted him to be like the blond Adonis with a cold heart. So I painted this lovely picture of a man bent on acquiring an empire off the misfortunes of others. Here is an example of Yellow Jack Anderson the notorious card shark of Cold Creek, Texas.

“Your coffee, sir,” he replied, tipping the metal pot, to poured the cup full, and then disappeared.
In the silence, Yellow Jack spread the white cloth napkin across his pinstriped trousers, smoothing the linen from left to right while making sure both sides were equal. His manner was impeccable. Yellow Jack detested an unkempt man. He knew what image he wanted to give and dressed the part. A second glance out the window caught his reflection. Again, the instinctive motion to smooth any hair out of place took over. He looked good - like a white man, not the half-breed his linage indicated.
A movement stirred and caught his interest. Yellow Jack watched as a wagon moved toward the deed office. His eyes narrowed as they focused on the occupants - a woman with a blue bonnet and a man in work clothes. A pastoral scene artist would claim. Under Yellow Jacks glare, they exchanged words. The farmer leaned over, and beneath the brim of her calico headdress, no doubt, left a kiss. How touching, he thought.
The right side of his cheek twitched. Fools, he wanted to laugh. They wouldn’t stay long. The soil may bend to a plow, but it would not hold the seed past the second, the third or fourth year. This was cattle country, not farmland. Even now, the great cattle companies of Texas were finding it hard to eke out a measurable living in the dry climate.
“Sir, your food.”
Yellow Jack lifted his hands, allowing the man to deposit the platter of steak, eggs, and potatoes before him.
“Thank you,” Yellow Jack murmured, picking up the knife and fork.
Again alone, he pressed the sharp edge of the knife to the darkened meat. A faint tinge of blood oozed to the surface. His tongue darted out, ready to taste the warm red liquid. His nostrils flared at the odor, a smell he would never forget. Spearing the meat, Yellow Jack’s thoughts turned to ways to alleviate the widow from her land. Yes, the game was afoot. With Frank Prentiss gone, nothing seemed to stand in his way.

From A Ranger's Honor by Nancy O'Berry.
Who ever your villain becomes, do him the dignity of bringing him to life! A good villain is a work of art.

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