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S.L. Scott Headshot

Writing Evil to Balance the Good

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While sitting through many panels at Comic Con in San Diego this past week, I noticed a commonality among all featured movies, whether dystopian or comedy -- good and evil go hand-in-hand to keep the attention of the audience. This is not a religious take on an ancient philosophical topic that has been discussed across many platforms and millennia that I'm bringing up. But in regards to film and publishing, the most successful stories have both of these elements prominently featured. From Pride & Prejudice to Harry Potter, good is challenged by evil, leaving the reader in suspense which will prevail until the end.

Focusing on publishing specifically, I've discovered whether a book is self-published or traditionally published, storylines are more balanced when they contain both of these components. A protagonist can only be called a hero if he overcomes something worth honoring him with the title, often battling outside obstacles as well as internal negative barriers -- the virtuous winning over the malicious.

The hero/heroine represents the good in human nature. Sometimes, they go into this role reluctantly and sometimes, they are born to fill these shoes. But what is a victory worth if there is no battle to be won? A well-developed villain makes the hero of the story someone we want to root for and love and someone worth continuing to read about.

I love a great wicked character because they come with baggage of their own and a past that defines them, and discovering what that past is can sometimes be the most intriguing part of a story. A well-written villain has layers to them that are revealed throughout a storyline when the scene calls for a fitting revelation.

My favorite types of heroes are the ones that come from humble beginnings and show growth and strength from the start of the story until the ending. When I'm writing, a villain is easier to develop in my stories. I find extreme characteristics and flaws much easier to portray than the quiet of everyday life. But I consider capturing everyday life, normal interactions and routines the most critical in showing what your hero is capable of when called upon to step into those shoes, to show growth from an average person to a worthy lead in a novel.

Paranormal and Science Fiction novels have the flexibility to include elements of evil that are not necessarily found in the form of a character. The introduction of the bad forces to a plot can seep in many ways, but are still usually structured to highlight a hero's actions.

From romance to mystery, when writing a story where you want to make your lead character stronger, dreamier or unforgettable, don't forget to include the opposite of those same traits. The bad in a story always makes the good shine brighter.