3 Tips To Brainstorming A Captivating Antagonist Or Villain

Photo by Ear Candy

Photo by Ear Candy

There is nothing as suspenseful as a creepy villain or cunning antagonist. Books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Sail by James Patterson draw their reader in by their intense villains. Regardless of the genre, an author needs to pull in an antagonist or villain to build the tension in their novel.

How can you brainstorm a captivating antagonist or villain?

The key to developing an antagonist or villain that captivates the reader is all in the purposeful brainstorming strategies to create them.

Just as an author brainstorms the backstory and characteristics of the hero and heroine, it is necessary to brainstorm the backstory and characteristics of a villain.

3 Tips To Brainstorm A Captivating Villain or Antagonist:

*Brainstorm what formed the villain/antagonist. A villain/antagonist is created by the combination of environment, intellect, and personal qualities. In determining what formed the villain/antagonist, the author can determine what motivates their actions in the story. This will make the villain/antagonist more believeable and more able to add conflict.

*Brainstorm the elements of their private world. This is the lair where they obsess over their villainous actions. Writing mentor Rachel Hauck taught me the key of setting up this world for the villain or antagonist. The antagonist might enjoy plotting at their desk, scribbling over the faces in a year book. A villain might have a grungy shack in the woods where (s)he keeps their trophies.

*Brainstorm a public persona. Determine what face your antagonist/villain shows the rest of the community. Are they a loner, the next mayor, or a down and outer. Build this piece till it is deeply layered. It will allow you to place the antagonist/villain right next to your hero/heroine, ratcheting up the tension. Then determine the secrets that they might hide with their facade.

What is your favorite villain or antagonist in literature?

Heartwarming Thursday: Where Two Hearts Meet

Prince Edward Island is brewing up romance, and Thoughts on Plot contributor, Liz Johnson, is to blame! Where Two Hearts Meet, the second book in Liz’s Prince Edward Island Dreams series, releases October 18!


This book follows Caden, a chef at her friend’s bed-and-breakfast, and Adam, a long-term guest with a secret. After a traumatic stint overseas, Adam is afraid he’ll never be able to write the article promised to his editor, and Caden worries about the financial state of the inn. Both have their own reasons for spending time together, but neither plans on falling in love.

If you’re new to the series, be sure to pick up book one, The Red Door Inn. I grew up reading Anne of Green Gables, and I feel as though I’m back on Anne’s stomping grounds when I read these books. Liz has such a warm writing style. I hope you’ll try these!


I’ve never been to Prince Edward Island, but I would love to visit someday! And now I feel like reading Anne of Green Gables again…

Have you been to Prince Edward Island? Did you love the Anne of Green Gables series as much as I did?

Have a terrific day!

Super Sleuth Wednesday:Tele-drugs


I’ve read some crazy stuff, but this one takes the cake. I’ve actually worked at a tele-marketer in college to make some quick cash. Yes, I’m the one who interrupted your dinner with, “this will only take a minute” or thirty…

But I never called anyone and tried to sell them drugs. I mean, is this guy too lazy to comb a park, a school yard, the mall? (I’m being a bit snarky. I actually hate that people sell drugs anywhere.)

That’s what this cheeseball did though. He cold called people to sell drugs. So how was he caught? You decide.

A: He called and a teenager answered and agreed to buy the drugs. They set up a meet at Dunkin Donuts. A cop in the drive thru caught the exchange and busted them both. Maybe it pays for cops to eat donuts after all.

B: He called and got a mom who runs the PTO and MADD group in her community. She agreed to to the purchase and called the cops. They watched while the transaction was made and then moved in and made the bust. Don’t mess with moms.

C: He called and randomly reached a police officer, who agreed to buy the drugs. He made the arrest himself at the drop. Murphy’s Law. It’s a real thing.

*The answer to last Wednesday’s Super Sleuth Challenge is #2!


How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part 2 – Tips From The Show “Timeless”

Photo by Bruno Sercocima

Photo by Bruno Sercocima

Plot has a rhythm that breathes on the page. Sometimes that rhythm goes rogue with a bit of help from the author. Not knowingly, of course, but rogue all the same. Getting stuck on a theme, or bogged down in the ordinary can create a lackluster plot.

If your plot’s gone rogue, there are a few things to analyze to salvage it from the heap. One of the key causes of a plot gone rogue is the lack of solid conflict and tension.

Let’s take a look at a clip from the new show Timeless to get a bit of insight into our stories.

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue 2:

*Place the hero/heroine in the middle of the action.  Ask yourself if you have placed your hero/heroine as close to the action as possible. Notice in the clip of Timeless that the heroine is in the same booth with Abraham Lincoln. The writer realized how much more dramatic it would be to place the heroine there.

Removing the hero/heroine too far from the action, can make a plot grow lethargic and dull. Analyze your story and reposition the hero/heroine in the middle of the danger or adventure.

*Create an impossible choice between two competing values. In this clip the heroine is forced to decide whether to let Lincoln die, whom she has admired her whole life, or let him live, changing history forever. She doesn’t know whether her world will be the same, or not. A seemingly impossible choice. This is a part of plot I learned from my mentor Susan May Warren.

*Figure out what your hero/heroine’s fighting for. Recognize that deviating to far from the noble quest will result in a plot without an end point. The great climax will not occur. Slowly escalate tension in increments of least to most intense until you reach the climax.

Deescalating conflict can make for flat plot. Deescalation occurs when rabbit trails are followed away from the main plot. These can include over intensification of issues, unrelated story world or side plots, or even character distractions.

What television shows inspire you in plotting?

Super Sleuth Wednesday

ID-100244022Do you ever wonder about some of the people who commit crimes? Lately, I’ve been reading about the stupid things criminals do to get caught and I can’t keep from laughing at some of their antics. But first the answer to last week’s Super Sleuth about the suspect the police were searching for.

It’s #2–He had attended an anti-crime event the day before and beaten several officers at a doughnut-eating contest. He claimed his prize and left before officers realized who he was.

Now for this week’s Super Sleuth. Below are four scenarios. Three are true and one is a fabrication of my mind. Which one is the fabrication?
  1. Two men tried to pull the front off a cash machine by running a chain from the machine to the bumper of their pickup truck. Instead of pulling the front panel off the machine, though, they pulled the bumper off their truck. Scared, they left the scene and drove home. With the chain still attached to the machine. With their bumper still attached to the chain. With their vehicle’s license plate still attached to the bumper.
  2. A fraternity made a raid on a sorority house and stole certain unmentionables. Even though they were able to conceal their identities, they couldn’t leave well enough alone. The men, with their faces concealed, posted photos on Instagram holding their prizes. And in the background was a sign with the name of the fraternity and was all the police needed to round up the criminals.
  3. A man walked into a local police station, dropped a bag of cocaine on the counter, informed the desk sergeant that it was substandard cut, and asked that the person who sold it to him be arrested immediately.
  4. A man walked up to a cashier at a grocery store and demanded all the money in the register. When the cashier handed him the loot, he fled — leaving his wallet on the counter.

Leave your guess below for a chance to be this month’s Super Sleuth!

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part 1

Photo by hamedreza ahmadi

Photo by hamedreza ahmadi

Have you ever had a plot take on a life of its own? You started down the path of story world with the best of intentions only to discover your plot soured and you’ve lost your way?

This can happen to the Seat-Of-The-Pants writer and the Careful Plotter as well. I land somewhere in the middle of those two and call myself a Purposeful Pantser. But whatever method you use to write, it can be sabotaged by a plot gone rogue.

Most plots can be salvaged if you don’t mind doing the painful work of cutting out the stray pen strokes that don’t belong in the masterpiece.

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue is essential to meeting deadlines and avoiding writer’s block.

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part 1:

*Identify your own personal weaknesses.  

Photo by Myles Davidson

Photo by Myles Davidson

If you’re a Seat-Of-The-Pants writer, it may be a story structure break or a side track a character took that wasn’t helpful to the plot.

If you’re a Careful Plotter, the plot may be too predictable, have missing conflict pieces, or borders on episodic.

Possibly the underlying agenda of the story has taken over the plot, hiding tension from the reader.

Being honest with yourself is the first step in finding a solution. Identifying what you struggle with can help you salvage your plot.

*Revisit your story structure spine. 

Photo by Cathy Kaplan

Photo by Cathy Kaplan

Writing mentor Susan May Warren has taught me how to develop the spine in my novel, regardless of my writing style.

It must start with a character’s belief in a lie that drives their decisions. When sent on a noble quest, they change and grow. For tips on story structure/spine, check out: How To Create Believeable Character Change  and How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style. You can also check out the category Plot Development in the side menu.

If you’re looking for in depth information a great resource is My Book Therapy.

*Make sure your plot is not episodic. 

Photo by Andre Lubbe

Photo by Andre Lubbe

Television series are created in episodes. Each episode can stand alone, but there’s still an overarching theme or character’s story line that last for several seasons.

Novels must avoid interior stand alone plots, but strive to be about the overarching story.

For example:

A character’s noble quest may be to find their mother’s killer like Kate Beckett in the show Castle. But solving a murder in every chapter as they get closer to finding the answers to the overarching theme would most likely feel episodic. It allows the reader to walk away.

Instead try placing a hero/heroine on the job, while their life experiences are leading closer to the end goal. The noble quest must have conflicts on the path that escalate very clearly, until all is revealed and the character overcomes their greatest fear.

Next Tuesday I will share How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part II.

How do you salvage plots gone rogue?

Music Monday: Evoking Emotion

Morning everyone! I am loving this fall weather. Crisp mornings and warm, but pleasant afternoons. Ah! I’m trying to ignore the fact that winter comes next. I’m not a fan of the cold. Since the weather has been glorious, I’ve been doing a lot of writing in my sunroom. Breeze. Sunshine. It’s motivating.

But what’s really motivating these romantic scenes I’ve been crafting is the following songs. They evoke such emotion. The lyrics. The musical score. Genius!

What do you think? Can you feel the romantic emotions? The angst? Do you like any of them? Have you heard any of these before? Can I ask any more questions?🙂