Obvious villain is obvious?

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
Post Reply
Nick
Posts: 236
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 5:59 pm
Location: Pennsylvania
Contact:

Obvious villain is obvious?

Post by Nick » January 9th, 2010, 10:23 pm

So, I've been having a bit of trouble with my recent WIP. I keep running into spouts of writer's block (like I've been in for the past...week-ish?). And I think I've finally figured out why. I love the overall story for the WIP, and I think on the whole it's a pretty good mystery (alright, I'm biased, but honestly if someone else were to writer something with the same basic premise, as long as the writing weren't terrible, I'd totally read it in a heartbeat). But I feel like the villain is obvious. Sure, I intend to include red herrings and things to throw people off the scent, but I still feel like the villain is obvious. I think it's decent set-up, the first few bits what with the client coming and explaining the circumstances of the death and all, but then we get to town and start meeting some of our suspects, and I feel like from the first time the villain talks to the detective, he pretty much gives himself away. I really don't want to say more for fear of spoiling stuff, just on the off chance this ever does become published (unlikely as that is), but at the same time I feel like spoiling is the only way I can adequately explain. So, sorry if this doesn't really help much. Anywho, and now that I think on it, I had the same reservations until around the eighth chapter of my first, unfinished WIP with this protagonist. That is one I will be more than happy to spoil, if people want me to. But now I'm wondering...

Am I really writing obvious villains or is it just because I know who the killer is from the get-go?

'cause I think the latter might be it. I've never really written mysteries before. Always read them and loved them, but never written them (instead, I tried to write my own fantasy epic, then moved on to science fiction, and then on to cold war thrillers, none of which I am particularly adept at (okay, well, maybe scifi)). And one of the problems I ran into with my waaaaaaaaaaay first draft of the unfinished WIP was forcing myself to write it, because I was so used to reading mysteries that my brain would say "Killer identified. Next story!" And I'd have to say, "No, we need to tell people who the killer is. We're not working it out this time" and pluck on writing. So I think this might be some lingering of the "Killer identified"-ness. But I think it might be a genuine problem with my writing.

And yes, this is pretty much all just rambling for the sake of getting it off my chest. But I figure some talk might be nice, sooo...I got nothing. What would you say would make for an obvious villain? Should I post the spoil-y goodness regarding that old WIP for some point of reference? Ideas regarding how to get the discussion rolling would be much appreciated.

Oh, and, chalk all the half-bakedness of this post up to the fact that I just thought all of this about two minutes before I posted it while lifting weights. I didn't really think anything through beyond "Aha! The villain is obvious!"

Kaitlyne
Posts: 103
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 7:41 am
Contact:

Re: Obvious villain is obvious?

Post by Kaitlyne » January 10th, 2010, 1:26 am

Post the spoilyness. Also, if you don't mind, the conversation at hand that you think gives it away would be nice to see, IMO anyway. :)

Nick
Posts: 236
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 5:59 pm
Location: Pennsylvania
Contact:

Re: Obvious villain is obvious?

Post by Nick » January 10th, 2010, 2:42 am

Convo at hand is not fully typed out atm, but I do have some sentences and the whole outline of it me noggin. Will either post it (or PM it to you) along with stuff from previous WIP. But, not tonight. It's 2:40 in the morning and I'm just in here running a quick check on shiz before I plunk down. So fourth thing in the morning...er, later this morning, after I wake up, I will post them.

User avatar
Hillsy
Posts: 303
Joined: December 9th, 2009, 4:33 am
Location: Gravesend, UK
Contact:

Re: Obvious villain is obvious?

Post by Hillsy » January 10th, 2010, 9:59 am

You can do this with most CSI episodes - it should help.

If you stop about 80% of the way through the episode, list all of the characters involved with the murder you've been introduced to, then list motive (often given in CSI), alibi and opportunity. More often than not you'll find that the murderer is someone introduced early on who is dismissed because just one of those things doesn't stack up. Turns out they lied and are exposed. Even something with a proven record like CSI can be cracked, but only because there's enough of them to find a formula. You won't have that problem......yet....hehe

Now, if you've done that with your WiP using the story so far you'll have a list of characters, motive, opportunity and why they could/couldn't have done it. The trick is not to make the real killer invisible, but to make the reader NOT SURE if he is the villain, therefore each of your characters (other than the hero) shouldn't be totally discounted and shouldn't be utterly confirmed. A mystery novel ought to have you prepared straight out to suspect everyone, then discount them 1 at a time. If you think your killer is obvious, have another suspect who seems as obvious, then the reader isn't sure, do it with a third, fourth, fifth.....et voila, you've hidden an obvious killer.

owlandsparrow
Posts: 20
Joined: January 14th, 2010, 6:42 pm
Contact:

Re: Obvious villain is obvious?

Post by owlandsparrow » January 15th, 2010, 9:35 am

Hillsy, I love this advice - great idea. Thank you! And Nick, I see from the dates it's been a while since you posted this question - how has your dilemma evolved since then? Any progress with fixing it, or renewed faith that it doesn't need fixing after all?

-KO

Nick
Posts: 236
Joined: December 10th, 2009, 5:59 pm
Location: Pennsylvania
Contact:

Re: Obvious villain is obvious?

Post by Nick » January 17th, 2010, 4:17 pm

Yeah, sorry, kinda forgot about this thread. Hasn't been that long has it? Anyway, I've resolved the issue, more or less. At this early point the villain is still a bit obvious, but again, early point. Haven't been introduced to all the suspects yet. I just had to go in and change some stuff around -- specifically, make some more people come out alive. That was the real issue. Victim is a treasure hunter who had returned from an expedition to the Himalayas. To help add to the case of the overall fear that the victim was experiencing upon his return (probably mentioned this before the victim is, literally, scared to death), we find one of the members of his expedition dies in an accident, and he ends up killing the rest. Which I know, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But it worked. Sort of. Eventually. Maybe. Anyway, killer only got away alive because he was forced to leave early. And some stuff he says while discussing that expedition pretty much gave him away. So I've revised it so only the one guy dies in an accident and Mr. Killer doesn't leave early. Totally keeping the victim as treasure hunter seeking Shambhala, though, because frankly I think it makes for an awesome character. Even if he is dead throughout the entire narrative.

Kaitlyne
Posts: 103
Joined: December 6th, 2009, 7:41 am
Contact:

Re: Obvious villain is obvious?

Post by Kaitlyne » January 19th, 2010, 4:02 am

The fact that your character is dead intrigues me. :)

I just realized I'm facing a similar problem in my current WIP. I've figured out that the villain is semi-well known (as an innovative businessman), and I'd like to introduce him prior to when he actually shows up, just have him on TV or something. Thing is, if I give his name it's just going to be really obvious to the reader when the name shows up later on that they're the same person. :P I think I'm going to just talk about his business or something in a kind of background non-important way, but then when the narrator figures out who he is the reader can say, "ooh, that guy!" Hopefully haha.

This sorta thing is tough, isn't it?

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 15 guests