Four rounds of great book cover battles during January!
They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you liked the cover of my book, Unholy Warrior: Post-apocalyptic Spy Thriller, please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on AllAuthor.com!
I’m getting closer to clinch the “Cover of the Month” contest on AllAuthor! I’d need as much support from you guys. Please take a short moment to vote for my book cover here:
C. L. Cannon offers you a chance to win just the right stuff for a fan of dystopian fiction.
Subscribe to today’s bestselling Dystopian authors for a chance to win a paperback of The Stand by Stephen King, Winter World by A.G. Riddle, After the Flood by Kassandra Montag, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, plus, a Handmaid’s tale enamel pin, a banned books notebook, a set of Fallout coasters, a double-sided Shatter Me bookmark, a Hunger Games travel mug, and a dystopian dreams candle.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced adventure, grab your copy of Unholy Warrior.
A reviewer said: “Miss Jäger’s talent shines through in this dystopian thriller, and UnholyWarrior is not just unstoppable action, it’s a psychological battle as the reader peers into the mind of a woman who survives unspeakable atrocities. I, for one, remained enthralled from the beginning to the unexpected breath-taking end.”
Please leave a short review on Amazon, GoodReads or BookBub.
Twenty-five years after the nuclear war, the world is still a harsh, frozen place. Second Lieutenant Rebane Nordstrom, a sniper in the ranks of a Russian elite reconnaissance unit, doesn’t know how to give up…ever. After someone assassinates the president of the European Union, the EU forces capture her and her lover. He soon disappears, but Rebane has no time for grief. She faces her worst nightmare in the form of Major Weisser, a man who commands the European Union counter-intelligence with an iron fist.
Thrust into a world ruled by torture, and constant fear, the battered, weakened Rebane knows her only chance of survival is to escape from the fortress that holds her captive. Faced with certain death, she becomes an unstoppable force, and escapes the womb of hell. But her battle is far from over. A race across the post-apocalyptic badlands starts, but the man hunting her is a force of nature. Weisser destroys everything in his path. Can the Invisible Zone—the furthest corner of sub-zero Scandinavia—wipe out Rebane’s footprints in the snow?
No woman is an island, not even one as capable as Rebane. She saves a teenager named Liva, and an alliance forms between the desperate women from the opposite sides of the conflict. As the Russian Federation and the European Union head toward the final battle for diminishing resources, Liva proves to have aces up her sleeve.
Spirit animals and ancient Nordic deities have their role in the surprise outcome of this spy thriller. Where arctic weather wipes out armies, heeding an omen can spare your life.
Compared to the hero, a villain needs explaining on the author’s part. I suggest you design him with care to justify at least some of his vile actions. The villain is the driving force of your story’s conflict. Plain evil is boring, but an unpredictable mix of motives keeps the reader turning the next page.
I’ll call my villain “he” throughout this article just to make things easier. You can create a fantastic female villain by using the same principles. Some of the most memorable villains are female—femininity coats cruelty with an extra layer or opposites. Remember that not all heroines are kick-ass fighters. Softness on the surface makes the fangs hurt more upon a venomous bite.
Villain or Antagonist?
Although authors might see villains and antagonists as the same coin’s different sides, they’re two separate things. The antagonist is a plot device, a person, or an oppressing societal system the villain personifies (like O’Brien in Orwell’s 1984). When personified, the antagonist’s sacred assignment is to sabotage and delay the protagonist’s plan. Hell, even mother nature can play the part of an antagonist. Tie the antagonist to the type of conflict you choose as your story’s backbone.
Without a believable, layered villain which you can peel like an onion, your story flattens. Pure evil is a caricature: one-sided and predictable. Think about your favorite books: why do you remember that particular villain?
“But a well-written villain doesn’t fit neatly into the evil box. The best villains are nuanced. Think Hannibal Lecter, Gollum, Baby Jane. There’s a reason why these villains need no introduction. You remember them because they’re complex. They are evil, but they’re not just evil. They’re disturbing, haunting, and unnerving. You can’t look away from them in much the same way as witnessing a train wreck.”
Below is a list of excellent motivations, but the sky is the limit when you mold a villain that breathes. Design a motivation which you haven’t seen before.
– Romantic interest: love and sexual desire are among the strongest motivations on earth. A person will cast aside self-preservation, even stop eating or sleeping. Neuroscientists compare love to psychosis; it’s a state of ultimate bliss and chaos in the human brain–consuming. And yes, the sugarcoated and the vindictive views on that special someone are useful for a writer. You see the person you want to conquer as perfect, but if she dates someone else, that ideal view covers with darker, bloodier colors.
– Duty and honor: at war, your side is the good guys and the enemy the bad. If you have to kill a fellow man, there can be no doubt. But the noblest motivation of doing your duty can turn into the famous last words uttered before a military tribunal: “I only did my duty. I obeyed orders. I had no choice.” Some of the most haunting books and movies deal with this moral question.
– Revenge: being wronged in the past. Nothing drives a blade through the squishy human heart like revenge. Serve this meal hot or cold; it’s always delicious.
– Fear: the hero is the real danger to peace and prosperity. The villain cannot refrain from acting when Superman will demolish earth.
– Family issues: who hasn’t rebelled against a father, or felt like the black sheep? If the king denies your right to the crown, shall you melt into the shadows to plot an uprising? The character of Loki is a famous example.
– Fame or status: classic movie villains strived for world domination/causing the apocalypse just because they could. Rewrite the worn-out trope with a twist: the villain seeks to develop the society. Think of the most massive human experiment in history: the communist dictatorships. The road to hell might indeed be paved with good intentions and the will of men who could.
– To fit in—everyone needs to feel accepted, to belong. What if the people around you are crazy and fitting in means losing your mind? This is the question which the hero Winston Smith asks in Orwell’s 1984. In addition, the villain is more crazy and intelligent than poor Winston can ever become.
– To develop, and not only as evil. What if the villain’s noble goal just happens to hurt other people?
– A desire to better humanity: the fate of mankind demands developing a superior mutant race via cruel human experimentation, making a pact with the world-conquering aliens, or surveilling everyone from the cradle to the grave to keep them in line.
– Desperation: raises the stakes and heightens the conflict—on both sides. What if the villain attempts to keep his family safe? What reader wouldn’t identify with his motive?
– Loss of perspective. They say the first victim of war is the truth. You can lose perspective when the thirst for scientific knowledge overrides everything else. The advancement of a military or political career causes collateral damage. Hunting a fugitive through thick and thin makes the character ignore his fundamental values.
The villain is always right if you ask him, and as a consequence, the protagonist is wrong. Turn the tables: if this were the villain’s story, would good and evil mix with grey shades? Or would he use magic to turn black into white? Right and wrong are perspectives. If Nazi Germany won WWII, the meaning of terrorist and resistance fighter would trade places. The winner writes the history books and no one is a war criminal in his own mind.
Give the villain charm and let him seduce the reader. Thus, he becomes another reason for the reader to keep reading. You also cause a mix of conflicting emotions when the villain rips apart his victim–according to his nature.
Create secondary characters and enamor them with the villain. What villain doesn’t enjoy a court of like-minded followers? How scary is the high-school bully without his posse? Remember that the followers see positive traits they admire. No one follows for the devil because they love evil.
A Force To Reckon With
Make the villain equal, or preferably more potent than the hero. This way, you’ll keep the reader on her toes. The villain must do his job so well that the reader no longer believes in the hero’s success (or survival) during the critical plot point called the darkest moment.
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