Posted On February 25, 2013 by Print This Post

Three Ways to Make Your Villains Come to Life with Valerie Parv

I’m just thrilled to welcome author Valerie Parv to Romance University today! Her book, The Art of Romance Writing, was the first craft book I purchased. Welcome Valerie!

Valerie ParvWhen you’re writing, it’s easy to fall in love with your hero and heroine. They’re the people we wish we could be – braver, smarter, thinner (!), more attractive. Part of the fun of writing is being able to make the world exactly the way we’d like it to be.

While we’re doing that, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the bad guys. They test the heroes to their limits, showing us what they’re made of.

A police officer of 30 years’ experience told me that criminals don’t see themselves as bad. They think they’re clever, streetwise people who take advantage of opportunities we stupidly provide for them. It’s all in the point of view.

To bring your villains to life, they need three things:

1. A believable history

Who are they as people? When and how did they start to go bad? In Birthright, disgraced astronaut, Burton Hackett, came from a megarich oil family. He grew up with such a strong sense of entitlement that he felt ordinary rules didn’t apply to him, up to and including murder.

2. An everyday life

Too often writers only bring the villain on stage long enough to cross swords with the hero and heroine. While your good guys are saving the world, what are the baddies up to? As well as scheming and plotting, they’re living day to day just like everybody else. Which brings me to the last need…

3. Their own goals and dreams

Just like your hero or heroine, bad guys have needs and wants. Let them strive for something for a reason, not for the writer’s convenience. Burton Hackett sense of entitlement leads him to use people without a second thought. In my book, he hides a gay lifestyle with a man he uses as much as he loves. Hackett desperately wants to prove that he really saw aliens heading for earth, and to make those who laughed him out of the astronaut corps eat their words.

Give your villains all three elements and watch them become worthy opponents for the good guys in your story.
One comment will win a download of Birthright for Kindle or Nook, with a personalized “authorgraph” to make it special.

About Birthright
Birthright-coverFormer police officer turned deputy governor, Shana Akers, is used to handling high-stakes situations. But after learning that a space shuttle mission about to be launched from her island home may have a shocking secret agenda, she must turn for answers to the man who has challenged her mind and emotions for years.

Scientific genius and space center director, Adam Desai, is a truly self-made man. Found adrift at sea as a baby, he knows nothing about his origins until two VIPs attending the launch force him to confront the truth about his past, changing everything Adam has ever believed about himself.

Faced with a danger that threatens the entire world, can Adam and Shana find the strength to trust not only each other, but the mysterious VIPs whose unusual abilities defy logical thinking? Especially when it becomes clear that they’ll need all of their combined resources to reclaim humanity’s BIRTHRIGHT.
Published by Corvallis Press USA 2012.


Who is your favorite villain from fiction or film? Why do you think they work so well?

Join us on Wednesday for RU’s newest contributor – free lance Editor Heather Webb – When is it Time to Hire an Editor?


Bio: Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. So it’s no wonder she’s taking romance to the stars and beyond In Birthright, her most ambitious novel yet. She loves connecting with readers via her website, blog, @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook.

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20 Responses to “Three Ways to Make Your Villains Come to Life with Valerie Parv”

  1. I’m glad you found The Art of Romance Writing helpful, Carrie. and it’s good to be here. It’s late evening in Australia. I’ll call in again tomorrow morning my time to say hello.

    Posted by Valerie Parv | February 25, 2013, 5:21 am
  2. Hi Valerie,

    Favorite villians? I have to go classic Disney. The Queen in Snow White and Malicifent (love the green tinted skin) in Sleeping Beauty rank very high. They have been passed over or defied and are back for revenge.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | February 25, 2013, 6:47 am
  3. Morning Valerie!

    I don’t read a lot of thrillers, those bad guys keep me up at nights! But I do love JD Robb, and man, does she ever come up with nasty villains! I can’t remember which book he was in (several, I believe) and his name was Dave. He felt it was his JOB, and his life’s work to see how long people could last through his tortures. It wasn’t anything personal – no no no! It was for his research!

    That man stills scares me, even if he’s just ink on paper. =)

    Thanks for reminding us villains have lives too!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 25, 2013, 8:42 am
  4. Villains are HARD! When I’m reading I want villains to be bad enough that I worry about the hero/heroine and I want to see the baddie get his/her comeuppance. It’s hard to make them believable without going too far and making them sympathetic. Thanks for the great advice here – I need it!!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | February 25, 2013, 9:20 am
    • Thanks Becke. Yes they are hard, but it’s a good sign that you’re worrying about your hero or heroine’s safety. It means readers will, as well Heroes need villains worthy of them, to bring out their heroic qualities. In real life, none of us really shines until we’re tested, do we?

      Posted by Valerie Parv | February 25, 2013, 4:53 pm
  5. I love any villain who almost… almost makes you root for him or her. One that you see has been so damaged by others; so screwed up by life that you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for them.

    Posted by Meg Allison | February 25, 2013, 12:26 pm
    • Damaged is a great word to use, Meg. Most villains would have been damaged by their life experiences. If we can get that across to readers, they understand the villain, even while they’re turned off by the ugly behavior.

      Posted by Valerie Parv | February 25, 2013, 4:57 pm
  6. I think the Joker as played by Heath Ledger was the ultimate villain. Sometimes I wonder if trying to play him, it ate Heath Ledger up.
    Your book sounds fascinating, Valerie.

    Posted by Cathleen Ross | February 25, 2013, 1:56 pm
  7. Hi Valerie!

    I think the scariest villains are those who are just like us. They could be your neighbor or your co-worker. Great point about villains not seeing themselves as bad people. Fleshing out their GMC is key, otherwise they’re just a prop in the plot.

    When it comes to villains, I always think of Hannibal Lecter and the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz. She gave me nightmares for years.
    Thanks for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | February 25, 2013, 2:19 pm
    • Excellent observation, Jennifer. Villains are seldom as obvious as the Joker and yes, fleshing them out is vital. Simply treat them as you do your other main characters so they become real to you and therefore to the readers. Thanks for the welcome…and your little dog, too. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

      Posted by Valerie Parv | February 25, 2013, 5:01 pm
  8. Hi, Valerie. I agree with Jen on this one. The Wicked Witch is an amazing villain. She’s so evil, but she’s motivated by her love for her sister. Even if her thinking is whacky, you gotta appreciate how much she loved her sister.

    Great post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | February 25, 2013, 4:21 pm
  9. Thanks so much for posting with us today Valerie! Looks like we’ve run the gamut of villains from the Wicked Witch to Hannibal. *shiver*



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 26, 2013, 12:21 am
  10. Congratulations to Sharon Hampton! You’ve won Valerie’s ebook, with authograph!

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | February 27, 2013, 12:28 am

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