3 Key Points From Allison Brennan About Villains (2014 RWA Nationals)

Allison BrennanI hate to make a sound-bite out of a comprehensive hour long workshop, but I like to think of this post as an appetizer. Check out the tape from the conference to get the full meal deal.

How do you make a really good bad-guy? You need to know:

One – Every villain is a hero of his own journey.

Allison quoted Christopher Vogler (The Writers Journey) who says that every villain believes himself to be the hero of his own journey. When you create villains this way it makes them believable, and far more interesting.

Two – Every villain has GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict)

A well developed villain like every other character in the book has to have a goal, clearly stated motivation and internal and external conflict. Make them real.

Three – Every villain has an epic moment of choice.

Like the hero, the villain has an epic moment of choice in his life. It might come before the story even begins, but we need to know it to understand what makes them tick.

Bottom Line – Make three dimensional villains that have some humanity. Make them real. They will, “make or break your story.”


I love developing interesting bad guys. Maybe that says something about me. I don’t know, but I find cardboard evil villains fall flat. As Brennan says a good villain challenges the hero and the hero needs to be worthy of the villain. His badness is pivotal.

What do you think?

Whose your favorite bad guy? Any opinions on villains?

One of Allison Brennan’s latest releases, Dead Heat, can be be found here on Amazon.


Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

13 thoughts on “3 Key Points From Allison Brennan About Villains (2014 RWA Nationals)”

  1. This is so true. Thomas Harris does an amazing job of creating an unforgettable villain in his book, RED DRAGON. And so do you, Allison. Love your books, This is a little off topic, but can’t wait for the next Lucy Kincaid. And pretty please, write Kane Rogan’s story. =)


    1. I love Allison Brennen books too. I’m going to add Red Dragon to my tbr pile.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting
      Best Wishes


  2. I agree with Jan about Thomas Harris, except mine is Hannibal, from Silence of the Lambs. He was a marvelous villain! We know he is a notorious serial killer who eats his victims, but he has his own set of moral standards of things he would never do. This character has so much depth. I feel he’s the greats villain ever!


    1. Hi Diane
      I’m too scared of the legend of Hannibal to read his story. You make him sound truly compelling. Maybe if I left all the lights on.
      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation. I always love chatting with you.
      Best Wishes


  3. I especially liked point number three. Excellent authors create very rich and detailed back-stories for the villains. I’m always interested as to how the villains ended up taking the route they did. I guess that would be the pivotal choice. Often, it appears that nasty/ugly events took place in the villain’s childhood that transformed them into a person/character with altered values. Lately, I can tolerate book villains better than I can the ones that I see in the media. Some villains are too warped to have their lives highlighted on the radio or t.v.


    1. Hi Jodie
      I don’t like warped individuals being highlighted in the media either. It seems like nothing is too foul for hungry news people who only want to use horrible stories to draw us in. Yuck. If I have to hear one more time about the five year old Australian boy holding a severed head in his hand, I’m going to throw my beloved radio through the window!
      Good book villains, on the other hand,speak to me about good and evil and the complexity of humanity. And I agree with you, knowing their pivotal moment of choice makes them even more interesting.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes


    1. Hi Pat
      Is this the medical thriller guy? Interesting. I can’t wait until you publish it.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes


  4. I have a compelling reason for my bad guy to do what he has to do. I just have to decide where to reveal it in my WIP.
    Good luck Jo Ann hope you make the NYT best seller lists.
    Allison, I’m with Jan can’t wait for the next Lucy Kincaid and would indeed enjoy Kane’s story.


    1. Hi C.K.
      Thanks for stopping by. I’m intrigued by your bad guy lurking in you WIP. I hope he finds his moment.
      Again, thanks for your kind words.
      Best Wishes


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