Is Your Salty Sam Good Enough?

A great villain is an integral part of a great story.  The fella, or gal, you love to hate.

However, the villain has to be great, and believable, and must have motives to do what he is doing.  I have an old Ray Stevens song that a high school art department illustrated.  Along Came Jones, But in this case I wanted to show the villain, Salty Sam.  Also I just want to have a little bit of fun with this post as well.

Salty Sam, an early villain from the first grainy black and white silent films.  Complete with the moustache, and evil laugh.  Salty Sam worked for the quick short, but for a novel, or series Salty Sam doesn’t work.

My fellow AQC Speculative Fiction friends were chatting and we were kicking around villains.  Okay, kicking around the topic of villains, not the villains themselves.   Evil just to be evil, aka Salty Sam, doesn’t work.

My own experience with this was in our writing marathon last summer.  I had the chapter where my villain was introduced.  Everyone who gave me feedback told me he was just flat out too evil.  In other words, I had written a Salty Sam.  So I had, and still have, a lot of rewriting and work to do to give the bad guy redeeming traits.

The antagonist of the story needs to have motive, reasons for doing what they are doing.  Why did Salty Sam want the dead to the ranch?  Was he planning to build an orphanage?

Spec Fic is vast.  Aliens want earth and kill everyone.  Why?  What motivates the Aliens?  What motivates the monsters?  Why does the Dark Lord want to enslave all the elves?  Power?  Dominion?  Resources?  To live?  Will the bad guys change and turn good?  Is the Good Guy really the Bad Guy?  Conflict, the center of any great story.

Without giving any spoilers I am thinking about the new Spider Man movie. The villain was really a good guy, with great motives.  Make the villain very interesting.  A good villain makes for a great hero.


About Dean C, Rich

I write fantasy. I've four completed manuscripts, but I've learned I've approached this the wrong way. I'm sharing what I've learned so I can help others avoid the mistakes I've made.

4 thoughts on “Is Your Salty Sam Good Enough?

  1. LucidDreamer says:

    Good points. My critique partner gave me really great advice concerning the aliens in my novel. She wanted to know more “why” and in examining that issue I actually came up with more concrete reasons for their actions that deepened the entire story. It brought a whole new layer that permeated the rest of the book. So, couldn’t agree more — we need to carefully think through the reasons why our vilians (or antagonists, if they aren’t exactly villians) act they way they do.

  2. Rick Pieters says:

    I think it’s a good idea to remember that the worst villain is always the hero of his/her own story. No matter what, they have to believe in their own cause and think, however wrongly, that they are in the right. If you imagine that you’re an actor playing the bad guy, which, as an ex-actor I find very helpful in writing, you must put yourself in the position of finding what’s in him/her to love, to believe in, to protect, and to fight for.

  3. E.F. Jace says:

    I went through a similar issue with the first version of my current WIP, the bad guys were bad guys just to present conflict for the good guys. They didn’t really have a purpose or a reason for the bad guy-ness. When I stopped to think about WHY they were doing what they were doing it actually helped me come up with a more extensive history for my land over all! It was probably the best and most important step I took with my MS, giving the bad guys purpose, because SO MUCH wound up getting fleshed out as a result.

  4. […] few months ago, Dean C. Rich talked about villains and Salty Sam (it’ll open in a separate tab, go take a look). In it, he discusses the concepts of your […]

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