Thursday, April 14, 2016

Start with the villain

In between bouts of beta reading I recently read Kristen Lamb's blog post entitled
What she had to say resonated, especially this.

The more the reader is aware of what is at stake, the tighter we can wind the tension. Remember that fiction is the path of greatest resistance. 

The trick is to make the reader know what's at stake. One of the common ways of doing that is the ticking clock. If you don't defuse the body by midnight - KABLOOEY. Or one that's often used in movies, the villains steal a substance and one of them dies a horrible death so the viewers will see the outcome if the rescue fails. Or the dragon's on his way to devour the princess...

But it isn't always that easy and I was having trouble coming up with that sense of urgency, the prize that's at stake in WIP. (Still hasn't been given a better name). The conclusion I came to is to start with the villain. In that opening scene I can introduce what that individual wants. I suppose you might call it a prologue. But I'll be using the villain's POV in a few scenes to keep that impetus going, so I'll just call it Chapter One.

The only danger is that some readers don't appear to understand that the main characters don't know what the villain knows. Ah well. There's nothing I can do about that.

And since I have a long way to go with this book, I'll consider any suggestions people might have for making sure people know what's at stake. Anyone?


  1. I suppose it depends on how much 'winding 'em up' you plan or need to do.

    What I worry about with your WIP is, if you start with the villain's POV for a few scenes, the reader is going to expect the book to be ABOUT the villain, unless you specify it's a prologue, somehow. I think your point about the main characters not knowing what the villain knows is the best way of winding THEM up, therefore winding the reader up.

    Does that help?

  2. I've never thought about deliberately doing the villain's POV, and don't think I've ever read one. Read some anti-heroes who then become the hero, or characters that straddle both sides. I remember trying to stay out of the villain's POV in my debut novel and actually got my wrist slapped. I didn't WANT the readers to know what the villain was thinking, but went with it. Second revision for re-release had even more in the villain's POV because readers actually wanted more (colour me surprised). So I don't think it's a no no. I can see it as a good way to show the stakes, and to show the villain's motivation. As for readers not understanding - gee, the number of reviews that say so vs those that get it, I'd say the odds are even.

  3. In romantic suspense, the villain's POV is almost always included. My CP writes it, and it's always a balancing act figuring out where to intro it and how often to bring it in.

    I think Keir would've suffered without the villain's POV. Same for Keir's Fall.

    1. Since the villain in Keir had fans, I'm glad I went with it. :)


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