Antagonist Backstory

by Lekrad
(Ohio)

Question: I've had such a problem coming up with backstories, mainly for antagonists. I realize that a villain can't just be a villain, and even the bad guy has some good in him. I am creating a really twisted, depraved, villain. However, I need to know what made him this way. Usually my backstories seem weak and are just a series of harsh events placed on the character. How would I perfect it? How would I make the villain a bit more realistic? What kind of a backstory would make him so dark and evil?


Answer: I can't tell you how to write the backstory, but here are a couple of thoughts...

1. Remember that personality is not entirely a result of things that happen to a person. People are born with personality traits, which is one reason why siblings are not identical in temperament (other reasons are birth order, and differences in experience/environment, but they are not the whole story).

2. Consider that the events that happen to someone are not the whole story. The remainder is how they react to those events. A tragic event that scars one person for life will be the event that empowers another--the moment they realize their inner strength. People will make different choices and decisions under pressure, which will reveal as much as set their true nature.

3. If plotting the backstory doesn't work, try pantsing it. By this, I mean try writing in the character's voice without forethought. Imagine a situation in which he is sharing his deepest darkest secrets with someone. Just write this speech off the top of your head and see what comes out. You may be surprised by what a character will say when given free rein.

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