Expansion Pack: The Villain’s Journey + The Monster

Hi Gang, Craig with you again. Time for another Expansion Pack that ties in with The Hero’s Journey, also known as the Writing Monomyth.

This time we’re dealing with our villains. Before you go all feral on me, there are some stories where the antagonist isn’t a human. Man vs Nature, Man vs Self, that kind of thing. This probably won’t help with those stories.

This Expansion Pack is more about what you need to know, not what you must put on the page. You’ll pick and choose what to include, but if your main character is the villain, you’ll include more.

I’ve researched all this stuff, and am trying to condense it for you guys. One of the things I find myself hating is the section names I’ve been running across. Therefore; I’m renaming all of them.

The Hero of His Own Story: The villain perceives himself as the master of his own destiny. He has a track record of success, and can manipulate things to get what he wants. Additionally, your villain should be stronger than the hero.

Examples are in order, so mine is Thanos. The Avengers have been prime theatrical real estate for a decade or more now. Thanos has conquered entire galaxies at the time we first meet him. He doesn’t suffer fools, and honestly doesn’t suffer much of anyone at all.

Galaxies > a few superheroes. Honestly, those galaxies probably had their own heroes, but Thanos remains.

Your villain might be somewhat arrogant, overconfident, and might be a bit of a showboat at this stage.

House of Cards: The villain is going to lose somewhere along the line, or fail to gain something he or she wants.

Tantrums are in order, and hurting people should be on the table. In a love triangle the woman scorned isn’t going to flatten a city, she might clean out someone’s bank account or forward a file to the FBI. Maybe she sex-shames her former lover online somehow.

Jack Nicholson’s Joker shot his own henchmen at this point.

Justification: The villain will come to the idea that the ends justify the means. Mere humans cannot understand the better world of the villain’s vision. They’ll forgive him once they see it.

Think about the creation of Indian Reservations, Japanese Internment Camps, and such.

Lord Beckett wants to get rid of piracy so the East India Trading Company can do whatever it wants. He has a royal charter. It’s just good business.

Donnybrook: This is the first Hero vs Villain fight. The villain gets to win this one. There are three steps to this section.

1.) The hero tries to help the villain. Think Luke telling Darth Vader he feels the good within him. How about Captain America trying to help his former friend, Bucky, who is now the Winter Soldier.

2.) The hero is defeated. This is the symbolic death of the hero we mentioned in previous posts. The true hero cannot rise from the ashes until he’s reduced to ashes in the first place.

3.) The hero is out of the way and the villain is unstoppable. The villain pulls back the veil from his master plan without concern for those who might not like it. Think about Saruman building his Orc army right out in the open after Gandalf was out of the way. It adds a great layer of pressure to the hero, because he can’t take long to lick his wounds.

Rematch: This is the hero’s big victory. Show the villain’s anguish as his master plan is completely destroyed. Villains are selfish people and will take this personally. There could be fallout or losses for the hero.

More than Memory: Something of the villain should remain. Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings started at this point.

Maybe it’s Saruman visiting The Shire as a shadow of his former self. (Not in the films.) This makes a neat parallel to how Sauron was a shadow of his former self at the beginning of Lord of the Rings. Maybe the next war is fighting with Saruman as he comes back from the shadows.

A shadowy character whispers Hail Hydra even after the big defeat. The South shall rise again. Give your readers a tiny bit of unease.

It’s worth repeating that you might not include all of this on the page, but as an author you should still know about it.

I promised a little something extra today, so I’m going to introduce you to a supporting character called The Monster.

This character is not the villain. The villain is in charge of the evil plan, and usually believes he is doing what must be done. He’s creating a utopia. The monster works for him, usually as a second in command.

The monster cannot be redeemed. He does terrible things, and enjoys it. He’s a Kool-Aid drinker, in that whatever the villain wants he buys into it completely. He usually gets his by the end of the story.

The monster is shockingly successful at his job. You want readers to hate him, so curdle our milk here.

Because the villain believes the ends justify the means, he is not going to correct or discipline the monster for whatever awful things he does.

In The Untouchables movie, Al Capone was the villain, Frank Nitti was the monster. He killed Elliott Ness’s mentor and friend, then taunted him about it. He threatened Ness’s family. He killed his accountant friend, then taunted him about it yet again. When Ness threw him from the top of a building, it was story gold.

Think about the creepy SS Officer in Raiders of the Lost Arc.

Dolores Umbridge anyone? She beats the word “disloyalty” like a battle drum, and takes great pride in carrying out her perceived orders. Crushing others like butterflies gets her off.

Alright, gang, that’s our quick visit to the dark side. Do you make notes about these steps? Do you understand how the villain should step up his game after the defeat of the hero? If you’ve never done this, would you consider it in future projects?

What about the monster character? Have you written one? Tell me about it. Can you see a use for them? Some of them have been extremely memorable characters.

48 thoughts on “Expansion Pack: The Villain’s Journey + The Monster

  1. This really resonated with me: The villain perceives himself as the master of his own destiny. He has a track record of success, and can manipulate things to get what he wants. Additionally, your villain should be stronger than the hero.
    Saving this post, Craig, thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I LOVE this so much. So often, you find villains that are barely fleshed out. But so much of your comments here give us the step-by-step to create a really good one. Reading this, I began to wonder…what would it be like to focus on a villain, to create him/her first, or do extensive POV for them. So interesting! Thanks for such a lovely and thought provoking post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Leesha! That’s an awesome thought about focusing on the villain first and creating the plot story around him/her. Craig is currently out of WIFI range, but he wrote an awesome post, IMHO, and will pleased this resonated with you. Thanks for visiting and commenting. A fleshed out villain really makes the difference in a story!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. When I wrote urban fantasy, I tried to come up with strong antagonists, and that’s the closest I’ve gotten to strong villains and a monster or two. They were fun to write. Since I’ve started writing cozy mysteries, the villains are more mundane. No big evil plan, but selfish motives. The size of the story (small town, personal crimes vs. a bigger landscape–saving the world) helps determine the size of the villain.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What an excellent point, Judi. And, as I’m currently enjoying one of your urban fantasies, I can relate to this comment. Cozy mysteries don’t see the “big bad” so much as some other genres like thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi ,and urban fantasy, but they still have their bad guys. Craig is out of WIFI range at present, but I know he’ll appreciate your comment. Thanks for sharing today!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I just found your blog. Damn, I’m glad I did. I am also late to the writing game, but having a blast. Working on my first book and your discussion here about villains and monsters just hit the spot. Thank you! You’ve sparked some ideas which I think will work very well.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This is a well-thought-out post, Craig. I think many of these qualities could apply to any of the antagonists in our stories, monsters/villains or not. Of course, if the villain is the character’s self, this wouldn’t apply. Good stuff!! Enjoy your weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That are some stories where it just won’t help. Inner demons might work, but it isn’t required. Obviously, Jaws, won’t follow this pattern. For the majority of our stories the villain might benefit from this arc.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Another great expansion pack post, Craig. A lot of times the villian (and/or monster character) doesn’t get the attention they should, and they need to be as carefully crafted as the hero and other leading characters. Definitely food for thought!


  7. This was a fabulous post. One of the best SE has released, I think. I LOVE delving into the villainous aspects of stories.

    I have written the “monster” character. In my Medici Protectorate series, I have a secret cabal working against our heroes. Each book looks like it has a Big Bad, but they’re actually just henchmen to the real villain of the piece (revealed in book four). The number twos can be fun to write because they’re no-holds-barred mean. But the true evil genius is my favorite because their motivations make them so complex (and usually, at least in my work, totally twisted).

    Really good job, Craig.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Expansion Pack: The Villain’s Journey + The Monster | Legends of Windemere

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