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.


Studying Vogler’s Mythic Structure – Part 1

“All stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and movies. They are known collectively as The Hero’s Journey.” xxvii

I’ve started reading Christopher Vogler’s book, The Writer’s Journey Mythic Structure for Writers (3rd edition). It’s like eating fresh strawberries from the garden dipped in Belgian chocolate. Even though the book is now twenty years old it’s a classic read for writers.

Joan of Arc

Vogler writes about a, “… set of concepts known as “The Hero’s Journey,” drawn from the depth psychology of Carl G.Jung and the mythic studies of Joseph Campbell.” (p. xiii). When he started to relate these concepts to storytelling, he found himself on a mythic-like journey.

“I came looking for the design principles of storytelling, but on the road found something more a set of principles for living. I came to believe the Hero’s journey is nothing less than a handbook for life, a complete instruction manual in the art of being human.” (p. xiii)

He concluded that The Hero’s Journey is not an invention of his or Jung’s or Campbell’s, but rather an observation of life.

No wonder good stories resound within us! As he says:

“An effective story grabs your gut, tightens your throat, makes your heart race and your lungs pump brings tears to your eyes or an explosion of laughter to your lips.” (p. x)

So I’m wondering: Who are your favorite hero/heroine in literature?

News Flash: Black Cat Blues finalled in another contest, the Romancing the Lakes (Minnesota RWA). The final rankings will be announced Aug. 3rd. Happy Dancing