Stephen King on Creating Believable Bad Guys - Writer's Digest

Stephen King on Creating Believable Bad Guys

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They’re not hard to spot: One-dimensional. Predictable. Occasionally drawing up half-hearted ruses and doomsday scenarios, perhaps with a cigar and some maniacal laughter.

Bad bad guys.

So what’s a key to breaking out of the stale villain mold, no matter what you write?

Stephen King offers his thoughts in today’s installment from the Top 20 Tips From WD in 2009 series. (We’ve almost breached the top 5!)

No. 6: Villains in Shades of Gray
“Writers must be fair and remember even bad guys (most of them, anyway) see themselves as good—they are the heroes of their own lives. Giving them a fair chance as characters can create some interesting shades of gray—and shades of gray are also a part of life.”
Stephen King, as interviewed in the May/June 2009 issue of WD (click here to check it out).

Be sure to check back Wednesday—I’ll be posting an interview with the spectacular Steve Almond (The Evil B.B. Chow, Candyfreak, (Not That You Asked), My Life in Heavy Metal) about literary journals—submitting, their role today, how they can help you sharpen your abilities, and how being rejected thousands of times isn't the worst thing that can happen to you.


Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings (I feel another one coming on next week …).

The sun is setting in dramatic hues of pink and tangerine, but nobody is watching it—they’re all staring at him, instead.


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