Laura Howard: Trick-or-Treat: It's The Villain! YA Misfits Bloghop


Trick-or-Treat: It's The Villain! YA Misfits Bloghop

Happy Halloween! 

I'm thrilled to be the host for Dahlia Adler from the YA Misfits Trick-or-Treat blog hop today to discuss the rapscallion of the literature scene- The Villain!

Hi everybody! *
waves* Welcome to the Dahlia Adler stop on the YA Misfits Trick-or-Treat blog hop, and a major thanks to Laura for hosting me!

Fun fact: I’ve never celebrated Halloween – my costume-wearing candy-scarfing holiday of choice is Purim, a Jewish holiday that usually takes place in March and is based on the biblical Book of Esther.

Another fun fact: that very same biblical book is the one I just reimagined for my new manuscript, the obviously titled “The Book of Esther.” For those who’ve never done a retelling, let me tell you – I could go on all day about what a challenge it is and why, but here’s another truth about it: It’s really, really fun, especially when it allows you to write the kind of character you never otherwise would. Especially when that kind of character is oh so fun, but all too rare in your genre of choice. Yes, that’s right, in the spirit of both Halloween and Purim, I’m talking about THE VILLAIN

Oh, the villain. He Who Must Not Be Named. In paranormal or fantasy or even sci-fi, the sky's the limit with villains - they can have the sorts of powers and abilities that can kill with a touch, destroy mankind, flood the earth. In historical, it's pretty hard to compare with the evil of the Nazis. But what of contemporary? My genre of choice (for both reading and writing) has great stories, characters, romances, and so many other things, but villains? We're a little meh on villains. Instead of wizards and evil trolls, we've got teachers. Parents who just don't understand. That girl with the perfect blond hair and lip gloss who steals your boyfriend with nothing but a purse of her lips.


But the book of Esther has a real villain - Haman, who sets out to commit genocide against all the Jews in the kingdom. Which means I got to write a real villain - for once! But here's the thing about writing a real villain when your book is set in high school and no one's older than 18: You don't get to make them absolutely, inherently, inexcusably evil. Their motivation can't be world domination or control of the kingdom. How many teens have you met in real life who truly have no good points? Who invite absolutely no positive descriptions of any of their traits? 

Which is why contemporary YA villains are so freakin' hard to write. Because they can't just be evil caricatures; they have to be real honest-to-goodness people. You may not have to feel bad for them, but you do have to understand who they are and why they do what they do. Is your villain acting out because his parents got divorced? Is she a bully because she's keeping a deep, dark secret she doesn't want anyone to know? Or perhaps there's a real social anxiety disorder to explored? 

Whatever it is, make sure your contemp villain's got it. Layer him or her; give us a reason to understand the motivations without making us agree with them. (Or make us agree with them! Sometimes it's fun to be on TeamBaddie.) Even if your villain's strongest weapon is a tongue made of acid, when wielded properly, it can be every bit as dangerous as any sword. So go on, inject your manuscripts with some awesomely fun evil.

Just don't forget that villains are people too ;)

Happy Halloween!

Who are YOUR favorite villains of all time?


  1. In my WIP, my villainess is fey, so my challenge was to humanize her enough so that even if she is still despicable, it's easy to see why she feels she's perfectly right!

    I love a good villain. Especially a good tortured one. Smoldering eyes don't hurt either -cough-Damon Salvatore-cough

  2. I saw the tweet and the first favorite villain who came to mind was from a movie - not a book - but I like Darth Vader, because the good was found in the end and he was redeemed. Right now, I can't think of another villain I "like" which is probably one of the reasons I prefer MG to YA. :)


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