Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How To Build A Better Villain

(Or Any Other Believable Character For That Matter)

by Christina Westcott

In my latest book, the villain, Janos Tritico, is so driven by the desire to gain ultimate control of the Scyran Empire, that he’s willing to form an alliance with the alien Tzraka. Half a century earlier, humanity waged a devastating war against these creatures, a conflict in which Tritico himself was nearly killed. What type of person would lust for power so fiercely that they would be willing to destroy everything they sought to gain total control of it?

That answer can be found in an intriguing personality typing system called the Enneagram. Its origins are thought to date back to the ancient Middle East, but it came into modern prominence in the self-help boom of the 1980s. A fellow author turned me on to a book entitled Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso as a guide to put together believable personalities for the people who lived in my books. I’ve used it so often my copy is dog-eared, held together by tape and full of underlines, yellow markers, tea stains and cat hairs.

The Enneagram separates personality types into nine distinct numbered groups and this book further divides them by Healthy, Average and Unhealthy, with personality traits and motivations listed for each. I chose to make my villain an Eight, often called the Leader or the Boss. Oddly, this is the type where we’re most likely to encounter the Alpha Male. Healthy Eights are magnanimous, heroic and able to inspire others. They seek power, but to use it for the good of humanity. Conversely, the Unhealthy Eight also seeks power, but for his own twisted reasons and he doesn’t care what he has to do to achieve his goals. The two sub-groups are mirror images. A Neurotic Eight is the most destructive of all types, while the healthy individuals can be among the most magnanimous and heroic.

We want our characters to grow, or disintegrate, in response to the changes we put them through, but to transform in a way that is consistent with their personality. After all, an introverted artist type wouldn’t deteriorate into a megalomaniac—or if they do, you’d better give us a good reason why it happened. The Enneagram supplies us with a glimpse into our character’s personality traits as he rises to become the hero (Luke Skywalker) or steps to the Dark Side (Darth Vader).

These are a couple of sites to take the Enneagram Personality test for yourself, just for fun, and then as your character. Once you’ve established their type, you’ll be able to find a wealth of information on how they’d behave and craft a richer, more complex character.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are solely that of the author and not of the SFR Brigade
A Hero for the Empire: Book One in the Dragon’s Bidding Saga
Warning: Space is no place to go it alone. We recommend taking along a telepathic cat, an immortal mercenary, and a cybernetically augmented Imperial SpecOps agent. You never know what kind of trouble you’ll run into…
Blurb: Commander Kimber FitzWarren is running on borrowed time. The cybernetic augmentations that give her superhuman strength and speed have also shortened her life. The success of her next mission is imperative, not only to save her Empire, but because this operation could be her last. She and a cabal of idealistic officers are plotting to topple the corrupt Imperial government. The key to placing missing military legend Arianne Ransahov on the throne lies with the one man who can find her, mercenary Wolf Youngblood.
Having just survived an Imperial assassination attempt, Wolf is understandably on edge when Fitz shows up in his bedroom at 0-dark-30. Except she isn’t there to kill him, but to plead for his help. Help he’s reluctant to give—until another assassin pushes the issue. Pursued by Imperial forces, left with no one to depend on but each other, a passion grows between them that even their secrets can’t destroy.
But before they can explore what’s left of their futures, they have to survive this mission.

Bio: As long as she can remember, Christina Westcott has had imaginary people living in her head. Cyborgs, mercenaries, wizards, dragons and cats. Lots of cats—shape-shifting cats, talking cats and telepathic cats. After continual nagging from this weird cast of characters inside her, Chris decided to turn them loose on the world in her science fiction and fantasy stories.
She’s been an collector of not only books and cats, but of experiences, riding in rodeos, driving racecars and flying airplanes. All good experience for becoming a writer.
She lives in sunny Southwest Florida where she delights in telling all her friends “up north” the local temperature in the middle of January and she proudly wears the moniker Crazy Cat Lady. She and the cats are hard at work on Cypher, the second book in the Dragon’s Bidding Saga, where we find out what happened when our heroes returned to the Empire and tried to live their happily ever after—not an easy job for two Imperial cyborgs.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I'm off to take the test as different characters and see how they fair :)


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