I’m in need of a bad guy….

Here I am, ready to start work on a new novel, and I’m stuck before I start. I have a wonderful protagonist, a strong female, about whom I’ve already written several scenes. This gal, Andi, could be the best character I’ve ever conjured. Best of all, I’m taking her along with my bride on my Number One Bucket List Trip. We leave very soon for New Zealand and will be gone for three weeks. I seriously doubt I’ll be posting anything on this blog until we return. [Note to potential intruders: we have both a well-armed housesitter and a vicious canine to protect the premises in our absence.] 

Story-wise, I’ve already got two great things–a powerful character and the potential for a fabulous setting. I even know why my wonderful marine-trained protagonist is going to the lands Down Under. Now I need to figure out who or what needs to get in her way.

What I don’t have, and what I desperately need, is a bad guy, an antagonist who continually gets in the way of my lovely protagonist, who builds a stumbling block for my gal in his on-going efforts to get what he wants.

I could dredge up something corny like the charming fellow here, but I’d be hard-pressed to give him the sort of background that would make him either interesting or believable. In the world of commercial fiction, there are a few things one has to do to create a really good bad guy. Chief among these is the bad guy’s belief that he or she isn’t really bad. There are reasons for their behavior that seem utterly rational, at least to them. I’m not sure the guy in the photo is capable of that. The sledgehammer tends to emphasize that particular shortcoming. Besides, I suspect Andi could disarm this yahoo in nothing flat. (Yeah, she’s that good!)

Another option, of course, would be to introduce something from nature. But, while Australia seems to have cornered the market on deadly creatures, New Zealand is relatively free of them. The only real contender I could find is a tiny spider that appears to be a close relative of the North American Black Widow. It’s called a katipo. This nasty bit of work bears a jagged red racing stripe down its back, and just looking at it sends a stripe of something else down my own back. My protagonist would likely be far less ruffled than I and would probably just squish the little beastie. Personally, I’d rather see it fed into a shredder, but either way, it wouldn’t qualify as a great villain. A horde of them operating as a team might qualify, but then I’d be writing science fiction, and I’m not terribly good at that.

Another option from nature might be some kind of traumatic geological event. The recent and tragic eruption of a volcano on White Island in New Zealand is a great example. And while the two main islands of this wonderful country seem to have more than their fair share of volcanos, none of them are in the neighborhood I have in mind for Andi’s adventures.

So, what does that leave for me in terms of villains? A pack of domestic animals, perhaps? Angry sheep?

Evidence of the native Maori culture is everywhere in New Zealand, and the country’s history is replete with conflicts between the native people and the Europeans who moved to and ultimately dominated their homeland. The so-called Age of Exploration had many of the same devastating effects on these “discovered” lands as it did in the Western Hemisphere. If Andi’s story were set amid the 19th century, there would be plenty of human villains to work into her tale. But hers is a contemporary story.

I’m thinking I might just use a type of villain any of us is likely to encounter at almost any moment. These particular “do-no-gooders” come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and ethnicities, and while they used to be most closely associated with government centers, they’ve now spread virtually everywhere. I’m speaking, of course, about bureaucrats, hired naysayers who enforce rules they make up by themselves for everyone else. One or more of them could prove to be poor Andi’s worst nightmare.


About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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17 Responses to I’m in need of a bad guy….

  1. Robin Castillo says:

    Oh, good! You’re going back to the story I was falling in love with! I am almost finished with GARDEN CLUBBED but have been distracted by real Garden Clubbing. Our chapter was asked to prepare a contribution to the traveling Smithsonian Exhibit, “Change in Rural America,” which just opened yesterday at the Summerville Depot. I found the research into the 90 year history of our club to be right in my wheelhouse. Interestingly, we found that the club started life as a social gathering replete with hats and gloves, not evolving into a service organization until the 1960s.

    • joshlangston says:

      I feel reasonably sure my Garden Club book will set the institution back a good century. So, the folks at the Smithsonian may be a bit premature. Just sayin’….

  2. Erika Passantino says:

    Well, quite a bit of homework you have given us. Been thinking of that country without having the slightest idea what it’s like. My Washington boss once said (he had been there in the 50s for a certain agency): “Nothing there but sheep and beer, why would anyone want to go?” Well, so much for the agency.

    How about a handsome devil who takes folks on flight safaris and herds wildlife, of whatever kind, especially rare kind, with his plane, gets paid by the tourist, then shoots the rare animals and sells their ears and genitals to the Chinese as symbols of potency. He also sleeps with pretty passengers after having gotten their husbands drunk on laced beer. A little bit of Hemingway. Well, surely you will get better suggestions. EP

  3. Betty Smith says:

    It might help us to know why she’s going there. Her cousin has been kidnapped by New Zealand’s version of the mafia mayhap(Regency term for perhaps). Oh well, have fun and keep away from volcanoes and katipo.

    • joshlangston says:

      Actually, there’s a better than even chance that she’ll inherit a distant relative’s shop (shoppe?) which specializes in curios and collectibles. If so, I may need some help from you!

  4. sonyabravermanaolcom says:

    Here’s hoping you come across not a single villain, environmental or man made, on your trip to New Zealand! I suspect you will discover much to blog about there. Happy travels.

  5. Barry Womack says:

    I was thinking along Erika’s track. Maybe there is some shared history between them and the bad guy’s path to the dark side begins there. He could act as her foil. If she is in the business of providing security, his business is to breach security, etc. I think once you get to New Zealand, the process may become much easier. Either way, I wish you safe passage and a glorious stay.

  6. Okay… the flight hours are enough to put your heroine to the test… There should be an antagonist on the flight to get you started… just sayin’

  7. compozer322 says:

    Josh, how about a charming, handsome, psychopathic villain who has a nefarious plan to kill Andi? He ingratiates himself with her while sitting in the airlines waiting area, and works it out for him to be seated next to her on the plane. They begin to date.( He could despise her for a number of reasons. Remember, he is a psychopath.)

    • joshlangston says:

      That might work, though he’d need some sort of reason to single her out. I definitely like the idea of a stalker on a plane. We’ll see. [grin] Thanks for the feedback!

      • compozer322 says:

        How about the fact that Andi has an identical twin sister who is in the witness protection program. The villain wants to kill Andi because he mistakes her for her sister. He stalks Andi and gets on the same plane. Due to the Corona virus, all of the airlines desperately need travelers. It is easy to get a last minute ticket.

      • joshlangston says:

        Rhonda, m’dear, I think you need to read one of my writing books. The Naked Novelist! would be a great place to start!

  8. Marlin Teat says:

    Hi Josh! Here is a reference book I flip through to help my bad folks out a bit. https://www.amazon.com/Bullies-Bastards-Bitches-Write-Fiction/dp/1582974845

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