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.


My 4 Fave Workshops at the 2014 RWA Nationals


Among the two thousand plus attendees and hundreds of workshops, it’s impossible to be everywhere at an RWA Nationals. As a result, these aren’t THE four ¬†best workshops. They are my favorite four that I attended.

1. The Villain’s Journey presented by Allison Brennan

I can never get enough Allison. She’s not only a great writer, she’s a maverick at pulling apart what makes stories work and explaining it in understandable language. Her humor and humility are epic. I think many of us want to be her when we grow up. In this workshop she talked about how to create a good bad-guy.

2. The Fabulous, Sexy, Selling Novella presented by Connie Brockway, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn

These ladies really know how to write good novellas, and they shared lots of tips, steamy and pragmatic.

3. Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space presented by Amazon reps and a panel of Indie Writers

Fascinating. I think we’ve all felt the shift in the winds of publishing, but the stats blew my mind. I learned about the new programs Amazon is rolling out, and kept getting the message: “You can Indie publish and succeed.”

4. Deconstructing Alpha Heroes presented by Eloisa James

I came away with lots of ideas about how to tweak my main guy. A great resource.

In the weeks to come, I’ll re-listen to these workshops on tape and write up more detailed posts.

My One Crotchety Note:

We all paid big bucks to be there and expected to attend whatever workshops we wanted, but the rooms weren’t large enough. The big names drew so many people, attendees stood along the wall at the back and sides and were ten deep at the door. I passed on several workshops as a result and quickly learned to arrive early if I wanted a good seat.

Your Turn

Tell me about a favorite workshop you’ve attended recently.