As others have hinted at, when I first began writing, I had no idea villains were such an important aspect of story telling. I figured writing romance and erotica, all I really had to do well was write about sex!
Okay, so after my first book was published, I realized I needed to do some work on my bad guys. It wasn't easy and I still suck at those really cool ones you don't realize are bad until the end of the story. Mine are all so obvious it's painful. But, maybe that's all right too. You get your cliche' bad dude and it's easy for the reader to hate him. Here's a little snippet from Livin' on a Prayer, one of the Slippery When Wet series':
"Mr. Santino?" Logan reached across the man's desk to shake hands with one of the fattest men he'd ever met. He'd called and Santino had told him to come right over. Apparently, Shane had told the man about him and the job was still open.
"And you're Logan White; Reverend Grayson spoke highly of you."
"Call me Logan, please. I really need the job; I hope Reverend Grayson explained I need to start as soon as possible."
"Sit down," he said and lowered his bulk into the office chair. The office itself was small, a filing cabinet and the desk with the two chairs was about all there was room for. Santino filled his side of the room, and more. Balding and in his late forties, at least, he had a dour look that made Logan slightly uncomfortable for some reason. "Yes, Shane told me you were new in town and money was tight. He also told me you're fresh out of COR."
Logan's stomach lurched, but he sat down opposite the big man. Here it comes—the excuses and reasons why he couldn't hire an ex-con. Logan readied himself for the disappointment.
"Yes, I've been out for about two weeks, maybe a little longer now."
"Any trouble inside?"
An unusual question, he thought, but replied, "No, nothing. I did my time and got out."
"And you want to start right away?" Santino shuffled through a folder, sorting out a set of papers.
"Yeah, the money I had is about gone. I either find work soon or I'll be out on the streets." The confession came hard.
"Can you have these papers filled out by tomorrow morning? You can start then."
"Really?" Logan asked, shocked, glad, confused, but most of all just happy to have a chance. "I mean, yes, I'll have the paperwork back to you first thing and what time would you like me here?"
Santino laughed, a loud belly laugh that rocked his chair, threatening to break it. "Well, we don't do a breakfast so get here at no earlier than ten. Chef can show you were you'll be stationed and where things go.
"One thing, you mind your own business and whatever goes on at Zarah's stays in Zarah's. Got it?" There was a threatening tone to that last remark and Logan wondered what the deal was, but agreed. He really had no choice.
You get right from this little bit of description and dialogue that Mr. Santino isn't a nice man. If I'd made him blond, blue eyed and smiling, he'd have been a better villain, in some ways, but that's my shortcoming.
I'm also very, very fond of strong women who take care of villains. Roses was one, but let's take a look at something from Cat's Claw instead. The villains in this book were a family of hillbilly poachers, the Baxter's, who are so damn obvious it was impossible to make them anything but.
Ahead, the window slammed shut. Both of them ducked a little lower into the weeds. Looking toward the house, she saw the front door swing open and a tall, slightly over-weight man strode onto the veranda. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and at first, Morgan didn't think he was the one—too ordinary looking. Dark-haired and bearded, he looked a little like a bear. But when he reached behind himself back into the house and brought out a rifle, she knew he wasn't just somebody living in Tommy's house, it was him.
A gentle push against her haunch reminded her of how dangerous their position was. Less than twenty-five meters from the house, if they made the wrong move, this man, Tommy, might very well see them.
She watched Joshua ease through the long grass and weeds, moving in a winding path toward the house. She followed his lead, but not his path, and zigzagged forward, always keeping the man in her sight. A thistle caught at her hide, something dug between the pads on her left paw and she bit back a yowl of pain. The journey took too much time. She was afraid the man would go back inside before they got close enough to charge.
Joshua bolted. He'd managed to get a little closer then she had, and took the opportunity to rush the man first. She was right behind him, her cougar scream making the hair on her own neck stand up.
"Christ!" the man screamed. He had just enough time to raise the rifle to his shoulder. But before he could aim, or pull the trigger, Joshua was on him. The man hit the floor with a loud thump, but somehow managed to keep his hold on the gun.
Cat claws ripped through cloth and soft human skin. Cat teeth sank into tasty human flesh. Ear splitting screams tore at them. As Joshua raised his head to scream his triumph, she joined him. Straddling the man's flailing arm, she took hold of the gun with her teeth and flung it off the porch.
"No! Get away!" His pleas came fast, furious, and made little sense to either of them in their rage. "Help! Help me!" The call echoed through the night, unheard and unheeded.
Here's a question for you readers. Do you like to know who your villains are before the end of the story? Do you like to have time to hate him, wish the hero would figure it out? Or do you like that shock when he's revealed, mere paragraphs from the end? I'd love to know.