In my continuous, but pretty ineffective efforts to write “the book,” I have gotten some amazing help from “Techniques of the Selling Writer” by Dwight Swain.
The latest idea I gleaned, just before starting my second reading, is the need to have a villain in my story.
I am not a reader of copious novels, but it’s still amazing to me that I did not see the basic structure of a novel before reading this book, a problem that he says is common among first-time authors. The “art behind the art” in invisible to the untrained eye, much in the way that good time management skills are believed by some to be in the genes, rather than in their practices.
Of course, now that I look back I can see villains everywhere, or at least in almost all the stories I have read. It’s amazing what happens when the mind becomes illuminated in a new way… it’s delicious.
So, my book now has a villain called Vernon (aka “Vermin”) Vaz. He hasn’t showed up in the story yet, but my protagonist’s boss has just recommended that he “work closely with him” because Vernon “produces results.”
Apparently, the management team kinda likes him because he gets the job done, but he’s hated by his peers because he gets it done at their expense, and is only more productive because he puts in marathon hours in the office.
So, just like that… my protagonist has someone to fight with!
According to Swain, it’s all about bringing out emotions in the reader that have been swirling around, felt but unspoken. A villain certainly does help in this regard!