voldy's

3 AM in the Boy's Dormitories
  • Ron: Hey Harry?
  • Harry: What
  • Ron: Do you think Voldemort was a virgin?
  • Harry: Seriously Ron-
  • Ron: I was just wondering-
  • Harry: *sighs* *pauses* In the Chamber of Secrets, the memory had him in 5th year...
  • yeah, he wasn't a virgin
  • Seamus: Imagine being the lass to do the frick-frack with ol' Dark Lord Voldy
  • Dean: The Gryffindor boy's dorm; the place where we can talk about sex with the Dark Lord but not say the word sex.
  • Seamus: *throws pillow at Dean*
  • Neville: *after pause* Doing the Do with You Know Who.
  • Ron: He Who Must Not Be Laid
The 9 Elements of a VILLAIN

If we’re being honest, one character is always the most fun to develop when you’re writing a new story. It must be the main character, right? The person you’re going to follow throughout the story, the one that means the most to you?

Nope. It’s the villain.

Villains are just FUN. You get to creep into the darkest corners of your writer brain and conjure up the most unashamedly detestable human being you possibly can. 

This is how we look when we begin creating a villain. 

But sometimes, it can be difficult to to make sure they’re fully believable humans. So here are the nine elements that have helped me out when developing these terrible people … 

1) Hero’s Shadow:

The relationship between the main character and the villain is the most important one in the story, because it is the source of all conflict. Without the villain causing trouble, the main character wouldn’t have the chance to be a hero. Without that trouble, the main character’s weaknesses wouldn’t be pressured, which means they couldn’t change. The villain is a condensed and magnified embodiment of the inner weakness that the hero is battling. They’re the SHADOW of hero, the example of what will happen if the main character goes down the wrong path. Both are facing the same problem in different ways. For example Darth Vader and Luke.  

2) Conflict Strategy:  

In the pursuit of stopping the hero from achieving their goal, the villain is going to attack them on 1) a personal relationship level 2) a societal level and 3) an inner level. They’re going to attack the people around them, they’re going to cause consequences for the community surrounding them, they’re going to get into their head and plague them. Because the hallmark of a villain is that they’re the person who’s perfectly suited to attack the hero’s greatest weakness. Villains should have a distinct set of tactics to destroy the main character, on at least two levels. 

3) Flaws: 

This one’s expected. Of course a villain has flaws, it’s in the job description. But flaws do not equate to ‘He kicks turtles every morning before breakfast’ or 'His favorite hobby is butterfly stomping’ or, more within the realm of possibility, “He wants to kill the hero”. These are evil actions, NOT flaws. A lot of villains, particularly in movies, will be given horrible things to do without any explanation for WHY they do them. And it’s pretty easy to give them reasons: just give them human weaknesses! That’s it. Whether the actions they take are as small as theft or as big as blowing up a planet, these actions stem from recognizable HUMAN FLAWS. So like a main character, a villain needs mental and moral flaws.  

Yup, even Maleficent has human flaws. And she’s a dragon part of the time. 

4) Counter Goal: 

All characters exist because they want something. And what do villains want? To get whatever the main character wants (for very different reasons), to stop them from reaching their goal, or another goal that directly conflicts with the hero’s goal. As long as that big tangible thing they want locks hero and villain in battle, you’re good. Think 101 Dalmatians: Cruella and the good guys are fighting over the puppies.  

5) Surface Motivations:  

Why is it that villains always have a team of followers? Because villains never outright state their true motivations. They always have a cover story, and that cover will paint them as righteous. Villains want to look like the good guy. So their real Hidden Motivations are defended by twisting perceptions of Good & Evil, by portraying evil acts in a positive light, by indulging their followers selfish emotions and desire to feel like “one of the good guys. " 

Take Gothel for example: she’s a loving mother who wants to protect her daughter from all the world’s darkness. (Sure you do, Flynn stabber.)  

Surface Motivations never stand up to logical scrutiny and a functioning moral compass, but giving your bad guy a compelling argument against your good side always makes things more interesting, which brings us to …

6) Counter Statement:

The main character needs to learn some kind of truth that will enable them to fix their lives, overcome their weaknesses, banish their ghosts. It’s whatever statement about "how to live a better life” you want to prove with your story. Your villain has other ideas. They don’t agree with that statement, have other beliefs about living life well, and represent an argument against it. For example, Voldemort: “there is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it." 

Although your argument isn’t very convincing, Voldy. I mean, you’re living in the back of some guy’s head.

7) Characterization: 

This is everything on the surface of the villain. The way they speak, the way they look, the way they act, their role in life, their status and power. This is the facade they project for the world to see, a calculated effort to control how they are perceived. This is closely connected to that surface want, because that surface is what they wish people to believe about them. Over time, the reader and the other characters are going to be able to see through this mask and see what it conceals. My favorite Disney example of this is Mother Gothel: on the surface she’s this bubbly mom who loves Rapunzel and wants to protect her from the harshness of the world. 

You can think of this as the text … 

8) Hidden Motivation: 

And this is the subtext. That surface motivation they want the world to believe is a mask concealing their true motivation, which is always rooted in their flaws,  selfishness, and skewed beliefs. 

9) Ghosts, Justification, Self-Obsession: 

These three are closely related, so they get counted together.
Like main characters, villains have GHOSTS: events from their backstories that knocked their worldviews out of alignment, that marked the beginning of their weaknesses, that haunt them still. Because these happened, the originally benign person allowed themselves to turn into someone who could occupy the job of "villain” in a story. Usually, these events are genuine misfortunes and are worthy of sympathy, just like the ghosts of a main character. Think of Voldemort growing up in an orphanage talking to snakes.

BUT! When it comes to ghosts, the major difference between a hero and a villain is HOW THEY DEAL with these unpleasant past events. Both have suffered, but react to suffering in very different ways. A villain will be consumed by these events, obsessed with the real (or imagined) persecution or disadvantage they’ve endured, convinced that all personal responsibility is nullified by their status of injured party. Past tragedies become a talisman that grants immunity from decency. 

This scene from A Series of Unfortunate Events sums it up.  An adult makes an excuse for a terrible person by saying he had a terrible childhood. And Klaus replies: 

Yes, maybe they’ve both lived through tragedy. But THE KIDS aren’t hurting others because of it. 

Because villains, who are constantly victimizing heroes, are completely convinced that THEY are the true victims here. No matter what they do, no matter what they are, they blame everything on that ghost, whether it was another person, society, or circumstances. And later they blame the hero, who they see as the REAL villain. For example, Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame:  

“It’s not my fault, I’m not to blame”

So! WHY are villains like this?

SELF-OBSESSION! Yup, villains spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about themselves and their plights and their plots. Think of any villain and it’s not hard to see the inherent narcissism behind everything they do. Like willingness to take action is the nonnegotiable trait of a main character, self-obsession is the trait that all villains seem to share. 

So! Developing villains in this way has worked out for me so far. If it looks like it might be helpful for you, give it a try.

And in the spirit of creating someone to torment our main characters and ruin their lives, here’s one more maniacal laugh for the road:

  • harry: i'm sorry ginny...i've got to go and hunt horcruxes to stop voldemort...i have to break up with you because you'll be in danger too...
  • ginny: i mean, first off, dude's probably gonna take over hogwarts so technically i'll be in less danger if i go on your little soul-searching bff camping trip
  • ginny: second of all, i don't think voldy's gonna give a shit if we're dating or not when he murders me for being a 'blood traitor' or whatever bullshit reason
  • ginny: and thirdly, i am better at magic than you and ron combined so like, move over scrub, me and hermione are gonna be killing us some dark lord

important things to remember

  • three houses stood between harry potter and pansy parkinson
  • mr & mrs weasley fought the battle of hogwarts without knowing where ron was
  • harry was so caught up in battle prep he forgot about the horcrux thing
  • neville & his herbology buddies threw mandrakes @ death eaters 
  • then neville used venomous tentacula to ensnare them
  • sir cadogan being IN HIS ELEMENT and rushing from painting to painting shouting encouragement @ people
  • mrs norris hissed & batted at owls
  • firenze showed up to fight 
  • poor hermit bewildered alberforth dealt w/ literally hundreds of people passing in & out of his house & then came to fight when he realized what was happening
  • slughorn finally decided his loyalties
  • ron: “so what’s new with you?”
  • colin creevy snuck back in after the evacuation
  • ron went after the basilisk fangs & remembered parseltongue to get them
  • hermione’s quick thinking w/ that slide literally saved their lives
  • mrs augusta longbottom put on her hat before she came to see what the what was up @ hogwarts
  • even the Headless Hunt people showed up
  • all the portraits encouraged ppl
  • instead of grieving in the great hall, ginny went outside, probably to be alone, and found it in herself to comfort a scared, lost girl whimpering for her motherneville & wood gathering the dead
  • professor trelawney throwing crystal balls down @ people
  • percy cursed the minister of magic & cracked a joke
  • minerva in her tartan dressing gown w/ a flock of galloping desks trailing behind
  • peeves dropped snargaluff pods onto death eaters so they were covered in wriggling, fat green worms
  • a dying snape was still with it enough to give harry those memories
  • He is dead!
  • mcgonagall’s scream
  • He beat you!
  • neville charged voldemort and mouthed off to him & slayed tf out of that snake
  • hagrid had his bro carry him from the cave to hogwarts, got shoved through a window, got carried away by giant spiders, and sobbed & carried dead harry all the way back to hogwarts
  • the rest of the centaurs, everyone & their mom, the threstrals, and even buckbeak came to fight
  • kreacher leading all the house elves w/ carving knives & cleavers stabbing & hacking @ death eaters
  • Not my daughter, you bitch!
  • harry literally waited until the opportune moment to reveal himself & it was so dramatic. bless him, sirius would’ve been so proud.
  • harry tried to get voldy to try remorse and redeem himself
  • ppl throwing food out the window into grawp’s mouth
  • blessed luna saw that harry was exhausted & distracted ppl so he could get out of the great hall
  • peeves immediately made up a verse about moldy voldy
  • harry: i’ve had enough trouble for a lifetime. *immediately joins the aurors*

voldemort was so fucking ugly when he was resurrected. for someone who was all about the aesthetics (and we know voldie was) he should have taken one look at himself and jumped right back into that fucking cauldron.

I am really annoyed with the idea that Slytherins are always cool, calm and unemotional. Most of the Slytherins we see are very emotional, and make a lot of important decisions based on strong emotion, and even foil themselves because they get too emotional. They’ll absolutely tear themselves apart for whatever they love, whether that’s a person or power. You have to feel strongly about something to be truly ambitious.

I MEAN JUST LOOK AT THE EXAMPLES. Someone insulted you/your family/someone you care about? Forget the snide comebacks, it’s time to SCREAM, YELL, CURSE THEM WITH BOILS. Family doesn’t approve of your boyfriend? ELOPE, it doesn’t matter whether this turns out to be a terrible decision. Boy Who Lived refuses to be your friend? OBSESS OVER HIM FOR THE NEXT SEVEN YEARS. Telepathic Dark Lord is threatening your son/childhood friend? Lie on the spot AND RISK A TORTUROUS DEATH TO DEFY HIM. Dark Lord is threatening your house elf? DRINK POISON AND THROW YOURSELF INTO A PIT OF ZOMBIES.

Slytherin is the House of cunning, not the House of rational decision-making??

The 2 Elements of an ORIGINAL STORY IDEA

If you’ve been doing this writing thing for more than one day, you’ve likely experienced the following worry: 

“What if my story idea ISN’T ORIGINAL?”

And if my experience is any indication, things spiraled downwards from there: “What if it’s cliche? What if there’s nothing new here?! It IS cliche. It ISN’T original. I’m a failure! ALL MY WRITING NEEDS TO BURN!”

Calm yourself. There’s a way to make sure that your story concept is unique.  

First, what IS a story concept? It’s the initial idea that made you want to write the thing. It’s the “What If” question that starts everything off. Later, it will be the promise that hooks the reader or audience, and makes them want to experience the story. 

So for example: What if Cinderella was a cyborg? What if a rat wanted to be a french chef? What if a fish had to venture across the ocean to find his son who’s captive in a dentist’s office aquarium?   

All great concepts. All of which seem to be comprised of two elements: something that we already know about, a set up that establishes expectations, and then something contrasting and surprising, which creates irony or surprise.  
So the first element of a successful story concept is FAMILIARITY. 

Establishing expectations? Something we already know about? Familiarity?! That sounds like the definition of UNorginal. 

Hear me out. 

What do readers do when foraging for a new novel at the bookstore? Certain readers gravitate to certain shelves. Some go to mysteries, some to crime, a whole lot to romance, and the rest to the other genres that are too numerous to list.

 Why is this? Because genres give them a pretty good idea about what they’re going to get. Readers already know the conventions of the genre. They’ve already put in the work of learning, accepting, and enjoying these conventions. 

Genres give both reader and writer something to go on right away. For the reader, genres are expectations for story events, setting, character, and more, which are automatically enjoyable to them. For a writer, it’s a set of expectations which can be flipped to create something remarkable and unique.  

It’s like telling a joke. Without a setup, there can’t be a punchline. 

The genres are the setup, the individual twist the author puts on that genre is the punchline. Or in other words, readers truly do want the same thing –only different.  

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at one of the most successful stories of all time.

With space ships, interplanetary travel, sentient robots, and aliens running amok, Star Wars LOOKS to be the kind of story that requires the audience to expend lots of mental energy to comprehend and believe. At first glance, it seems that imaginations are going to have to stretch a great deal, and there won’t be anything familiar to ground us – this SEEMS like an uncomfortably new, unwelcoming world. But I doubt if anyone has ever felt uncomfortable or unwelcome while watching Star Wars. And the reason for this can be summed up with one ellipsis-ended sentence:

Suddenly, all is clear. This isn’t the hard-to-imagine future, this is the PAST. We’re not being asked to imagine and believe a totally new world; we’re being taken to the realm of “far, far away”, a place we’ve known since childhood. Isn’t “a long time ago” just another way of saying “once upon a time”? Yes, it is, so we know where we are now. We are in a fairy tale, a myth.  

The familiarity of fairy tales sets us at ease and sets our expectations in place. Expectations which Star Wars meets with flying colors: A farmboy who must become a knight. A princess imploring for aide. A mystical wise-old-man mentor. Sword fights between good and evil. A magic that operates like religion. A dark lord and a dark side. Star Wars was built upon something we already know, something timeless, something we’ve always enjoyed. 

And once those well-known expectations were set, Star Wars was free to add the unexpected and create one of those most memorable story worlds ever.
Think of a story you love, and you’ll probably be able to identify the something-already-known aspect of it.  

How about Harry Potter? 

When we hear “boarding school”, mental images and probabilities are instantly conjured in our minds. We picture classrooms, dormitories, a campus with very old buildings, kids in uniforms, a giant place for meals, living through a schoolyear with a bunch of kids your age, etc. Even if we don’t know much about boarding school, we all know what regular school is like (even us homeschoolers over here *waves*) and our expectations for that are nearly identical from person to person.  

So what does this prove?

It proves that one half of your story’s concept must be grounded in something we already know, and know well. These are the expectations you are going to establish for your reader, before the second element of your concept upends everything and creates something wholly unique. 

You need FAMILIARITY. You need to ground your concept in something WELL-KNOWN. Only then will you be able to create something ORIGINAL. 

Where can familiarity be found?  

1. Genre Conventions 

2. Occupations 

3. Well-known stories  

The possibilities are not limited to these categories, of course. Familiar subjects can be found within many other areas. However, Familiar elements seem to share certain qualities … 

Provides a rough timeline

⦁ Conjures imagery

⦁ Sets expectations for events, characters, opposition, etc

⦁ Has natural potential for conflict 

⦁ Serves as a goal-oriented backdrop for the plot

To see how this works, let’s look at Harry Potter again: 

Familiarity: Going to boarding school. (An occupation)

Timeline: A school year (which Voldy always lets Harry complete before trying to kill him again, bless him.)

Story Expectations: When we hear “school”, we know what we’re going to get.

Imagery: Boarding school conjures tons of possibilities. 

Conflict Potential: It’s a thousand kids living in one castle with a handful of adults – there’s going to be conflict. 

Goal-Oriented: School is inherently goal directed. You want to graduate. And in the case of boarding school, you want to win the house cup. 

But of course, this familiar environment is only HALF of the concept for Harry Potter. The other half, of course, is WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY. Which brings us to the 2nd element of a successful story concept, which will be the subject of the next post.

I love how people underestimate Slytherins’ loyalty. It’s not always the loyalty you think you would see, they do everything the way they want to and they are loyal to the people who they want to be loyal to. You cannot make a Slytherin do something they don’t want to if they are not loyal to you.

  1. Narcissa Black: literally looked Voldy in the eyes AND LIED, like the nerve it takes. She looked Death in the eye and lied for her son.
  2. Regulus Black, I’m not even explaining this. The kid died out of his loyalty to Kreacher??
  3. Severus Snape: his loyalty to Dumbledore (not to anybody else but to him). This may not be a popular idea but good lord that man did some crazy stuff out of his loyalty to Dumbledore.
  4. Bellatrix Lestrange: went to prison, came out never changed her ways. She was loyal to Dark Lord to the end. Borderline obsessive but at the beginning everything she does is out of loyalty.
  5. Andromeda Tonks: her loyalty to her family knows no bounds. Not to her blood family but to her real family.
  6. Draco Malfoy: who almost killed his headmaster because he wanted to protect his family and himself.

I’m sure there are more examples but these are the ones that came to my mind. Do not underestimate Slytherins my dears.