Saturday, August 1, 2009

What makes a good villain in a mystery?

While we finish reading "A Little Murder" by Cindy Davis let's talk tips on mystery writing and the Villain.

Guidelines for the VILLAIN

In most cases, not all, the villain will be a murderer.


The murderer should be intelligent. A brainless killer would be no challenge and be caught within the first fifty pages of the story. On the face of things, the villain presents an impossible puzzle for the detective and the readers. The villain should be a challenge.

Amoral or immoral

What’s the difference?

Amoral means 'not concerned with morality' while immoral means 'not conforming to moral standards' or 'evil'. This is important because it may dictate how many bodies stack up in the villain’s wake. An immoral person knows the difference between right and wrong, but decides to do it anyway. An amoral person (serial killer) believes that rules are made for others, and does whatever he or she pleases.


The murderer should have an arrogant ego. The most egotistical action in the world is the taking of another person's life. Exhibit the ego outside of the actual killings. Demonstrate this ego somewhere else in the killer’s psychological make up for the reader to accept them as able to commit the crime. The villain might appear modest and easygoing, but he always hangs his clothes by order of color in his closet, presses his trousers just so, or never permits anyone to call him Dick when his name is Richard.


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