Everyone loves a good villain.
It’s therefore hardly surprising that many writers have the most fun writing their villains. Trouble is when this happens, it’s usually a sign that your villain is stealing the show in your novel – and unless your novel is about a villain (think Vicious by V.E Schwab) this could spell trouble for your story. After all, the hero/protagonist is the most important character in your book – its who your readers follow and get emotionally invested in.
So, what can you do to take the spotlight off your villain and shine it on your hero?
Typically, when the villain steals the spotlight from the hero it’s usually a result of an imbalance of actions vs reactions. What I mean by this is: The hero is simply reacting to the problems (conflict) that the villain is throwing at them. They aren’t taking action themselves and are merely drifting through the story, letting themselves be directed by the plot. To help even the scales, have your hero act out against the villain – better yet, make them create reals problems that can potentially derail their evil plans.
Pinpoint a quirk or flaw that you like in the hero and think of ways to bring that out. Are they comedic? If so, maybe have them be sarcastic with the villain. Are they charming and confident? Have them flirt the pants off every attractive girl or guy they meet on their travels. Give them something that will make them shine on the page.
Here are a couple of my favourite character quirks:
- Kell Maresh (A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab) is broody and solum despite being one of the most powerful individuals in all three worlds.
- Kaz Brekker (Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo) is cleaver, confident, brutal and most importantly, mysterious. He has a secret – a secret that eventually reveals so much about his character.
- Lazlo Strange (Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor) is not the richest, strongest or smartest of heroes but he does dream big. It’s these dreams that submerge the reader in a magical world of imagination and wonder.
Re-evaluate your character arc. I talk a lot about characters arcs here – but that’s only because its the most important aspect of storytelling. So important, in fact, that without them you will not have a story. When your villain is placing impossible and deadly challenged in the hero’s path, the hero’s transformational journey can easily become overshadowed.
Take some time to re-evaluate your character arc. Can they make an important choice or sacrifice after the villain’s attack that will help mould them into a better/worse person?
Remember: The rivalry between your hero and villain is not the centrepiece of your story. The transformation of your protagonist/hero is the heart of your story.
Which do you prefer writing? Heroes or Villains?