Friday, 19 June 2015

Guest Post: Do Not Bring the Villain Back Too Soon by Richard Held

Do Not Bring the Villain Back Too Soon
by Richard "Tony" Held

I recently edited the first volume of a series of fantasy/adventure novels.  In the original draft, the author had the main villain seemingly be killed—only to reveal a couple pages later that he had faked his demise.

I urged my client to reconsider this plot twist.

If you crave a story where the “big bad” gets his/her comeuppance, only to read a novel of good versus evil which ends with the villain avoiding that fate, chances are you will slam the book shut and think, So all that action/adventure was for nothing?!

Reality can leave you parched and thirsty for a cool, intoxicating drink of good storytelling where “real life” does not apply, especially when it comes to stories that pits good versus evil, because let’s face it:  in the real world, people can get away with evil deeds right and left without so much as a slap on the wrist.  A good story about good versus evil which ends with evil’s decisive defeat is marvelous escapism from that drab reality.  Having the villain come back at the end of a story—especially an intense one—risks a downer ending.  (Downer endings may have a place when making moral statements in fiction, but the moral statement of good versus evil is that evil is vile, good is decent.)

Bringing the villain back has another risk.  If you plan to write a series of novels and bring your villain back at the end of volume one but never write volume two, your readers will feel both cheated and unsatisfied.  This alone is a good reason to save your villain’s return for book two.

I am happy to report that my client took my advice and is saving her big bad guy’s return for the second volume in her series.  I strongly advise that you do the same, because such details can help make or break a story.

Richard “Tony” Held is an author.  He is also the proprietor/chief editor of Held Editing Services.  He would rather work with words for a living than unload trucks.

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