I should start with a basics concept I work with when writing the Mark Julian books. It is my belief that no one is purely evil or purely good. Even angels can sin. Characters, like people, have moral shades to them and therefore their subtle ethical ambiguity must be reflected in the books in which they appear. It becomes even more critical to employ that concept if your villain is a recurring character. Nothing bores a reader like a one note bad man or woman. I enjoy mixing it up in the Mark Julian series, which means my chief villain, is capable of unexpected acts of compassion and goodness while also later performing in the vilest ways possible. I want my readers to hate my villains yet hate that, at times, they actually like these characters while reading brief sections in a book.
I also set out the “whys” underlying their evil actions. No one acts in a vacuum. Past history influences one’s choices. My characters act in the ways they do because of what happened to them in their past. When it comes to my villains that too comes into play. It guides their intricate mental machinations to justify what they feel they must do. If the reader, knowing all this, finds himself or herself feeling compassion for them despite what they did then I feel it’s a win for me as the writer.
I enjoy is setting up someone for the reader to hate yet depicting their inner emotional and psychological complexity so sympathetically the reader unconsciously roots for them. Even better, if the reader comes to like them or at least hate to see their plans unravel. In my mystery series I want my readers to experience emotional confusion about the evildoers in those books.
To sum up I quote a line from song that I even mentioned in one of the books:
"Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, and then you had the feeling that you wanted to stay*"
*Lyrics from a song called "Did You Ever Have the Feeling That You Wanted to Stay?" by Jimmy Durant originally sung by him in the 1942 movie "The Man Who Came to Dinner",
THAT is how I try to write my characters and especially my villainsJ. . go buy one of my books and see if I pulled it off *wink *