July 11, 2016

Writing the Perfect Villain

By Susan Sleeman

As the books in my Agents Under Fire series releases, I hear from readers that they think I write good villains. Some of them, especially the one in Web of Secrets is pretty evil and I’m asked if it’s hard to come up with such a terrifying bad guy. My answer is no, the bad guy comes easy to me. I’m not evil or a bad person, I promise, so let me explain how I create these villains.

The perfect villain for me starts with finding his or her motive and what they are trying to accomplish in the book. What has happened in their life to cause them to do the nasty things they are doing? What is driving them, and what would happen if they failed to achieve their goal?

A villain doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to be a bad guy. His personality has been formed and honed over years and some catalyst has set him off making him do the very evil things we find in thrillers. BUT, he’s still a real person just like the protagonist. He has flaws. Weaknesses and strengths. His motives have to be understandable to the reader. He’s even likeable at times.

He has a plan. Revenge is in sight. He’s highly motivated to achieve his goal and won’t give it up under any circumstance. But he’s also flexible so when the world or the protagonist throws him a curve-ball, he can react and adjust. It may, in fact, just encourage him to try harder and become more creative.

By this point, the villain has told me what has caused him (or her) to go to the dark side and then it’s time for me to figure out what this particular villain might do to express that dark side. For me, a perfect villain acts in unusual and creative ways that we haven’t read about before. Show me something different. Something not seen in another book. That’s a villain I want to read about and so that’s the kind of bad guy I strive to write.

My best villain to date is Van Gogh who appears in Web of Secrets, my latest release in my Agents Under Fire series. This series features three FBI agents who are part of an elite Cyber Action Team called in to solve the most difficult cyber intrusions. You know, intrusions like you’ve heard about on the news with companies like Target and Home Depot. But these stories go beyond simple credit card theft. In each book, the intrusions include high-stakes that involve national security and serial murders. And, each intrusion takes a crazy turn and the agent suddenly finds herself in a run for her life.

Web of Secrets features FBI agent Becca Lange. At fifteen, she was abducted by a serial killer but managed to escape and the man was never caught. So she was given a new home, a new name . . . and the determination to save other foster kids from suffering similar horrors. Now Agent Becca Lange, is the middle of a credit card fraud investigation when she’s faced with her worst nightmare: the serial killer, Van Gogh–given the name because he removed his victims’ ears–has resurfaced.

I hope you’ll check out this series on my website and let me know if you find this villain engaging.
Susan Sleeman is a bestselling author of inspirational and clean read romantic suspense and mystery books. With over twenty-five books in print, readers love her Justice Agency, First Responders, and Agents Under Fire series for the well-drawn characters and edge of your seat action. As a graduate of the FBI, Washington County, and the Beaverton Police Citizen’s Academies, her research is spot on and her characters are real.  Awards include Romantic Times Best Book, Swoony award winner, Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence and EPIC Award finalist. Susan grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing novels and hosting the popular Internet website Susan currently lives in Oregon, but she and her husband have had the pleasure of living in nine states. They have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law, and an adorable grandson. To learn more about Susan stop by any of these locations on the web. Her Website -
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