Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Devil and the Romance Writer

By Nan Comargue (Guest Blogger)

Thanks to Lisabet Sarai for giving me this opportunity to guest on her wonderful blog today!

Romance novels don’t require a villain. Often, the necessary emotional conflict is provided by internal conflict, meaning that the characters themselves are the biggest obstacle to the Happily Ever After (HEA) – think about your prime witness to a crime heroine who’s been on her own since was sixteen having to accept help from the hero police officer. There’s nothing stopping her from falling for the sexy cop except her own hang ups about being dependent on another person. And maybe he’s got his own reasons for disliking her attitude. Sexual attraction is masked as irritation and love grows out of proximity. HEA.

But sometimes, you want to write about an external factor that’s keeping the main characters apart. Enter: the Villain. Duh duh duhhhhhh.

Villains don’t have to be all bad. They can take the form of the girl who still loves your hero from since they went out as teenagers. She’s acting out of love when she does everything she can to sabotage the hero and heroine’s HEA. However, the villain’s motive is rarely so lofty. They can be acting to keep the lovers apart due to greed, hatred, revenge, or any number of other reasons.

Wait a second. The villain’s motives? You’ve spent all this time crafting your heroine’s character, her personal history, her likes and dislikes. You even know what size undies she wears! And you’ve done the same for the hero as well. Why the hell would you waste time coming up with motives for a third character?

Because, in a really good story, often the villain is as interesting and important as the protagonists. Hannibal Lector, anyone? Not to mention Kurtz from Heart of Darkness or Voldemort from the Harry Potter series. Indeed, the villain may even be worthy of titular notice, like Count Dracula, who’s far more famous than the hero of the piece (extra points if you can even remember his name).

So who is the villain in a romantic story? Well, if you read Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of more than just Anne of Green Gables) the ‘romantic hurdle’ villain is often a family member intent on not allowing an often younger relative marry a particular person, or even at all. Typically, the dutiful younger child or sibling makes the promise and sticks by it for many years, until the villain’s beliefs change (sometimes on the death bed or even beyond) and the aged lovers reunite. Of course, contemporary romance fiction may require an extensive suspension of disbelief to envision such a dutiful young relative nowadays.

This means we can get more creative with our villains. Often, the villain in contemporary romances is a sexual rival. An ex-spouse or lover who pops back up just as the main characters are on the verge of finding bliss. A would-be lover who still persists after several rejections and whose bitterness causes them to intervene in the lovers’ plight, to their detriment.

In my first published erotic romance, the villain was the Devil. Well, not quite. It was actually just a demon, one of the dark lord’s underlings, but just as evil and obstructionist to the protagonists’ (a pair of angel-warriors) HEA. It didn’t hurt that the demon was gorgeous and virile, although he was still unrepentantly evil. To a large extent, the demon’s motives revolve around the fact that he is just evil, plain and simple, but to add a little complication (and sex) to the plot, I made him fall for the angelic heroine. Ooo, classic Good versus Evil with a hearty dose of sinful sex. Just the way I like it.

Conflict is essential to any good story and a villain ratchets up the tension with their evil machinations. Your bad guy doesn’t have to be the Devil himself but a little devilish behaviour can make life just that much harder for your hero and heroine—and make the reader cheer extra hard for them while at the same time booing and hissing the villain.

About Nan Comargue: I’m a romance writer with erotic tendencies. My first two erotic romance stories were recently published with Total-E-Bound in April and May. The first is about a war between angels and demons that separates an angelic couple. The second is about a woman who returns home to the ranch where she grew up and finds herself falling in love with both brothers who own it.

Twitter: @NanComargue


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Nan,

Welcome to Beyond Romance, and congratulations on your recent releases. I absolutely love the cover for Captive Angel. The light surrounding the characters definitely feels spiritual.

One of my mentors suggests that villains should be in some sense mirrors of the hero or heroine. The villain should have a similar history or perhaps similar goals, but they should be twisted in some way in the direction of evil. It's critical that villains not be 100% bad just for the sake of being bad, or they end up as cardboard caricatures ("mustache twirlers" in my mentor's term).

The villain in my M/M paranormal NECESSARY MADNESS has received a lot of positive commentary, I think because I followed this advice. Like the hero, he's a child of parents gifted with paranormal capabilities, but somehow he ended up without any power. So he's bitter and frustrated. He studies black magic to learn how to steal power from others. But you end up feeling a bit sorry for him. (Also he's gorgeous and very intelligent...!)

Anyway, good luck with these books and the ones I know are in your future!

H-K Carlton said...

And sometimes the villain can be rehabilitated, keeping some of his finer evils and ruff edges just for fun, and turned into a sequel.
I think both covers are fantastic. All the best, Nan!

JP said...

I like villains - the more irredeemable the better - they are often easier to write about than the good guys - what does that say about me I wonder?

msspencerauthor said...

Very interesting & comprehensive. Villains are fun to write, but I agree--they must have believable motives for it to work. 3 of my 5 romantic suspense books have really evil (human) villains; the other 2 follow your first scenario of internal conflict keeping the lovers apart. That's what I love about romance--it's so flexible!

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