Villains – Part II: That’s the Master Plan

LongJohnSilver

Long John Silver by the Scots-born American illustrator Edward A. Wilson (b.1884) http://library.sc.edu/spcoll/britlit/rls/rls3.html

You’re watching a Star Wars Marathon. Darth Vader’s theme song comes on. You know he’s going to “force choke” somebody. Tall, dark and breathy, we expect him to whip out that light saber and start killing rebels. Imagine instead if he were running around the “Goon Docks” chasing Chunk and trying to find One-eyed Willy’s treasure? Not a believable picture. The Villain’s personality must fit the evil plan and vice versa.

Your villain’s master plan must be a living organism that helps drive the story. A classic example of a clever villain’s master plan is Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Long John Silver is the colorful villain who makes this story so memorable. He is one of the reasons Treasure Island remains in the top five of my favorite books of all time.

  • Motivation (see last week’s post Villains – Part I) He served in the Royal Navy where he lost a leg to the hip. Piracy seems the logical choice to earn a living. He feels betrayed and robbed out of a great fortune by his former Captain, Flint.
  • Master Plan: Long John befriends young Jim Hawkins in order to get the treasure map. He has designed a well planned mutiny to take the gold away from Jim and his friends after they’ve done the hard work of locating its hiding place. When things go array, Long John takes Jim along with his compass to get the gold. The betrayal stuns everyone, especially the reader.
  • The Hick Up: Where did it go wrong? The pirates grow impatient. Rather than following Silver’s plan to wait until the Hispaniola’s officers recover the treasure to mutiny, they jump the gun and get clumsy. This allows the officers to escape and come up with a plan.

Final Thoughts – Do your homework on the Master Plan. Is the goal your villain trying to achieve plausible? Does it contain some element of truth? Will it leave the Reader unsettled with thoughts of “Wow. This could actually happen.” Some genres allow for the use of magic and special powers to execute the plan, however, there is still an element of plausibility there. Your goal is to make the Reader worried for the hero and his/her world.

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