Bad guys are definitely fun to write, and my current work in progress has a doozy of a bad guy. Now, romance novels don’t always need bad guys to keep them moving, the focus on the relationship being enough, and this guy developed almost by accident. I needed my cop hero and the journalist heroine to have something to work on together, and in he stepped.
Now, fictional bad guys are much like real life bad guys in that they have two vastly different sides to their characters. If you think about it, even Hitler, who is arguably the most evil man we know of, had a personable side. I’ve read articles where people who worked as bodyguards to Hitler said he was fun and laughed and joked with them. They honestly liked him. The other side to his personality was horrifically cruel–all bundled up into the same person.
In writing, maximizing that dichotomy of character is key in showing just how “bad” a bad guy is: the warm smile right after a vicious sneer, for example, or the extra-kindness before doing something particularly cruel. Abusive people, in real life, tend to show this same kind of flip-flopping behavior, keeping their victims off balance with volleying kindness and cruelty. It’s the inconsistency that makes us nervous. It’s that inconsistency that makes them dangerous.
People are often described as having “a good heart.” Hearts seem to be weighed differently than actions by the people closest to them. Motives are taken into consideration. “He didn’t mean it. He was upset because…” or “She only lied because she was trying to protect him…” In these situations, bad behavior is mitigated by “the good heart,” or the motivation. When actions become intolerably cruel, however, actions weigh more than hearts, and flawed characters become villains. That’s the realm of “bad guys.”
But never fear–I’m a firm believer in that happy ending, and the bad guy meets a suitable end. 😉 Also… someone gets married, but sssh… I don’t want to ruin it!