Puppies are horrible creatures. They chew the couch, pee on the rug, poop in your shoes, and invade your nasal passages with their tongues. They are needy, noisy, flatulent, and they can’t even use a staircase properly. Yet we bring them into our homes by the millions and, in many cases, pay good money for the inconvenience. Why?
Because they’re Puppies! Vulnerable, guileless and adoring, they expose their rub-able tummies and steal our hearts.
Villains should be like that. Not two-dimensional nightmares but three-dimensional characters that grab the plot by the throat and give it a shake. Whether omnipotent, egotistical, malevolent or simply daft, if antagonists show some vulnerability–a brokenness–they are humanized. Even cherished. Severus Snape anyone?
How do we, as writers, do this? We must write with passion, knowledge, frankness, and an all-out commitment to the story. Instead of hiding a character’s faults, we must embrace them, showing the gash in the black cloak, the rust on the invincible armor, the sob behind the maniacal laugh. That means recognizing our own dark places, being vulnerable, and showing our bellies.
If you want to win a reader’s heart, you must reach out and touch it.