Special Notice: This year, my Writer's Cheat Sheet Blog posts will be updated on the first of every month but quarterly. The next update will be Oct. 1st.
This year's posts deal with "lists" (also known as Cheat Sheets) that help a writer recall necessary elements before writing (or after) that make for a marketable story, a story worth telling and selling.
The Criminal-Villain Qualities List
The Antagonist in a story is The Who or The What that opposes or thwarts the Protagonist. In this month's post, we'll be looking at only The Who type of Antagonist.
It goes without saying that the Antagonist needs to be powerful and ruthless enough to succeed in achieving their goal or goals. The Antagonist goal is to stop or defeat the Protagonist at every turn of the plot.
However, The Who Antagonist doesn't need to be truly evil-evil. Yes, people can be horrendously cruel, greedy, exploitive, and egocentric but not all psychopaths or sociopaths are criminals. Even if that Who Antagonist is a person, being, deity, extraterrestrial, etc. somewhere within them is a spec of goodness or kindness.
And of course, there can be one or more Complicating Characters who are a story's antagonists. Complicating Characters are bent on complicating the Protagonist's life and goals. Complicating Characters act individually or they may team up to thwart the Protagonist on several levels, which don't usually include murder but create a great deal of mayhem, frustration, and anxiety for the hero or heroine.
To better understand your story's Antagonist, ask your villain or each complicating character: What is your "malicious intent?" In other words, name their one, dominant, secret, deep-down desire, want, or need—and why that is.
It might help to know if your villain is AN ORGANIZED CRIMINAL who possesses several (but not necessarily all) of these qualities—
. acts aggressively
. plans the crime or attack in detail
. personalizes the victim
. controls conversation with the victim
. controls the crime scene
. removes weapons from the victim's reach or use
. requires a victim to be submissive and/or restrained
. leaves very little evidence that can identify them (cleverly disposing of bodies)
Or is your Antagonist THE DISORGANIZED CRIMINAL who possesses several (but not necessarily all) of these qualities—
. acts spontaneously, emotionally
. targets people they know, or who they think have done them wrong
. depersonalizes the victim, keeps conversation with victim to a minimum (they don't want to be dissuaded from hating or disliking the victim)
. attacks victim with sudden violence
. does not use restraints
. creates or leaves a chaotic crime scene and may leave the corpse at the crime scene
. leaves weapon(s) behind along with a variety of evidence
. may have sex with a corpse
Here's something you might not know— Villains have a VICE. A vice is:
■ An evil, degrading, undesirable, or immoral practice or habit
■ A serious moral failing
■ Wicked or evil conduct or habits, may be depraved
■ Sexual immorality, especially prostitution, rape
■ A failing, a slight flaw or an imperfection (scar, tattoo, etc.) that is visible to others
■ A physical defect or weakness the villain hates himself for having and perceives others are repulsed by it or he is often ridiculed for it
The above lists are possibilities to think about that can help flesh out The Who Antagonist of your story.
Lastly, I can't be say it enough — A story resonates best with readers when there is a worthy antagonist, one who comes across as a person, not a puppet.