Friday, December 27, 2013

Bad Guys Who See Themselves as Heroes

by L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers

The villains in thrillers are often extraordinary human beings. Super smart, physically indestructible, and/or incredibly powerful because of their money and influence. As a reader/consumer, those characters are fun for me too, especially in a visual medium where we get to watch them be amazing. But as an author, I like to write about antagonists who are everyday people—either caught up in extraordinary circumstances or so wedded to their own belief system and needs that they become delusional in how they see the world.

In my Detective Jackson stories, I rarely write from the POV of the antagonists. That would spoil the mystery! But in my thrillers, I get inside those characters’ heads so my readers can get to know them and fully understand their motives. I’ve heard readers complain about being subjected to the “bad guy POV,” but that’s typically when the antagonist is a serial killer or pure evil in some other way.

I share their pain. I don’t enjoy the serial-killer POV reading experience either. But when the villain in the story is a fully realized human being, who has good qualities as well as bad, and who’s suffered some type of victimization, and/or has great intentions, then I like see and feel all of that. And I think most readers do too.

In The Trigger, the antagonists are brothers, Spencer and Randall Clayton, founders of an isolated community of survivalists, or preppers, as they’re called today. As with most real-life isolationists/cult leaders, they are intelligent, successful professionals—with a vision for a better society. But these everyday characters decide to mold the world to suit their own objectives and see themselves as saviors—becoming villains in the process.

From a writer’s perspective, they were challenging to craft—likeable and believable enough for readers to identify with, yet edgy enough to be threatening on a grand scale. On the other hand, my protagonist, an FBI agent who specializes in undercover work, was such a joy to write that I’m launching a new series based on her.

The first book, The Trigger, releases January 1 in print and ebook formats, with an audiobook coming soon after. To celebrate the new series, the ebook will be on sale for $.99 on launch day. Everyone who buys a copy (print or digital) and forwards their Amazon receipt to will be entered to win a trip to Left Coast Crime 2015. For more details, check my website.

If that weren’t enough, I’m also giving away ten $50 Amazon gift certificates. So there’s a good chance of winning something. But the contest is only valid for January 1 purchases.

Who are your favorite villains? Supermen types? Everyday delusionals? Or something else?


  1. Some protagonists ARE the antagonist - the tragic, flawed character or hero or heroine: Macbeth, Hamlet, Anna Karenina.

    But there are some antagonists or villains whose POV we MUST appreciate for the story to work. Classic examples: Lex Luthor (classic, not modern, although see the first 5 seasons of Smallville, and season 6 finale) and Magneto.

    In mysteries, the humanity and motives of the criminal-villian-antagonist come at the end. The reveal is also important, there.

    1. I agree, David, that the only way to fully show certain antagonists' motives is to get inside their heads. Which I love to long as they're not serial killers or sadists.

  2. The villain thinks he's the hero of his own story, and I agree, it's not a mystery if readers know what the villain is doing.

    On another note, since by law you have to allow people to enter a contest without buying something, I saw on your website that you're permitting entries with subscriptions, but the link to that wasn't clear. And do those subscriptions have to be entered on January 1st?

  3. What really defines a villain? How one person sees them or how a society sees them? A protagonist/ antagonist that stands out to me was Norma Rea. She started out good then turned not so good - with good reason. Seems to me a bad guy can be bad for good reasons especially if pushed to switch sides.


  4. I love getting inside the head of my antagonists, even the seriel killers. Because that's when I see their full stories. I also enjoy writing from their POV because it gives me an opportunity to try and show their other dimensions.

    I've read mysteries where the villain has his/her POV shared throughout the story and it's still a surprise in the end. But I agree, it's easier with a thriller where the bad guys are often known earlly on and there's no mystery except how people are going to survive.

    I'm excited to see your launch of THE TRIGGER. It's a terrific story with great characters. And zowsters... who could possibly not want a trip to Left Coast Crime???

  5. I love your new main character, Jamie Dallas, LJ! She seems kind of flawed and sometimes you just want to shake her, but that's what makes her so realistic! And I definitely found myself rooting for her! Go Dallas! Can't wait to see her kick more butt in future books "starring" her!


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