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  1. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    How to describe handsome villain

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by martinkka1488, Jun 20, 2018.

    I am struggling with description of an ex boyfriend of my MC, lets name him Daniel. She comes back home to Los Angeles after years and when she is going to visit her father in his company. She finds out that her ex boyfriend still works there and they meet. The problem is that Daniel abused her when they were together. She left him and it took her 2 years to get over it and become stronger. Even though she is not scared of him anymore, she gets chills down her spine when she can hear his voice after all these years. Daniel is acting like nothing happened and even asks her out. How do you think she should react? Maybe she should be disgusted that he can act like that. I tried to write different reactions but it still doesn't feel right. And how do you describe Daniel from the POV of the girl without showing too much of their past because I am planning to reveal it very slowly as he is the future villain/psychopath in my book. As a person he must be handsome even likable at first sight and he can fake emotions very well but its not something she knows about him.
     
  2. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    Maybe you can compare him with things that's people feel uncomfortable around when describing him, or are predatory? Say that he has eyes like a wolf, moves like a cat about to pounce and things like that. By associating him with predatory animals and perhaps also items that are often used to hurt, maybe this can get the idea to the reader that he's dangerous? Or it could become a clumsy way of bloating the description in the worst case.
     
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  3. Linz

    Linz Active Member

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    Depending on the nature of the abuse she suffered at the hands of this character, it's going to take her a lot longer than 2 years to get over the psychological trauma - closer to decades, if she ever does - and even if she does get over the trauma, she'd still be afraid of him for a long while yet. Kids who suffer from sexual abuse can still be struggling mentally with the abuse well into middle age. Likewise, kids who are caught in the middle of domestic abuse can be mentally scarred for years.

    Domestic violence happens slowly, evolving over months, if not years before physical abuse ever occurs. Abusers are often charismatic, and yeah, can often be extremely attractive physically. They're patient, and willing to put in the time and work in order to fully entrap their victim. First, by social isolation and emotional abuse - they humiliate their victims in front of their friends, while slowly but surely distancing their partners from their own friends and family - passive aggression (a hurtful insult, but when the victim pulls them up on it, "hey, it's only a joke - you're overreacting"), gaslighting, spreading lies and rumours, monitoring phone calls/texts/their mail ("You even get suspicious when I read my mail" Shania Twain) putting them off from going out ("Do we stay in all night because you want me to yourse-elf, or am I just a prisoner - am I doing ti-ime?" Spotlight) turning the charm on and off like a tap/faucet until their victim doesn't know who or what to believe.

    It can take 6 months to break someone down to the point where an abuser can be reasonably sure that their victim isn't going to just run off by the first hit. In this time, sexual assault may appear. Their victim will, by this time, have, or feel like they have, no one to turn to, and nowhere to run.

    You* don't just get over that in 2 short years after leaving. Hell, you may even still be in therapy after 2 years!! And you most certainly will still be rebuilding your life. The very last thing you'd be wanting to do, after 2 years, is confront your abuser, unless it was in the safety of a prison, with thick glass between you and the abuser.

    So if your protag met her abuser after 2 years, the wounds, the scars would still be very fresh in her mind, and she'd get the heck out of that town as fast as she could. If she's strong, eventually, she'll be fiercely independent, and trust will be hard-won - nobody's going to get close enough to harm her again, but even then, 2 years probably isn't long enough unless the abuse was a single event and she got out in the very, very early stages, which is unlikely because at that time, a domestic abuser will still be the epitome of the perfect boyfriend - romantic, attentive, thoughtful.

    I'd put a conservative estimate of closer to ten years before she'd feel confident enough in herself to confront him, but she'd still have flashbacks and alarm bells that won't let her be drawn in by him again. She may warn any friend or acquaintance to keep their distance, even if she knows there's a strong chance she won't be believed, and if a friend of hers did fall under his spell, she'd be a tower of strength for them, and leave the door open for them to talk whenever they were ready.

    *Not personal you - general you.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
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  4. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    Thank you
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
  5. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think it's important that you show off his outer charm and attractiveness and probably NOT make him appear dangerous, superficially, because you don't want readers to think your MC was stupid for getting involved with him in the first place. I think it would probably make sense to show him looking good, acting kind, etc., and just have your MC's reaction as enough to hint to readers that all is not as it seems.
     
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  6. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    Thank you, this is what I needed. I think I am gonna go this way in describing him.
     
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  7. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    Thank you for your post. I get what you are saying and you are definitely right. Let me explain because I didnt want to go in details in my post. Daniel started to work for her father to get closer to her. She was his target for a long time before they even met. He spends a lot of time planning everything. So when they were in relationship he started isolating her from her friends and things she liked but after months when she realized it (after about a year o relationship) she broke up with him and that is where he attacked her. After that she changed her life completely. She focused just on her studies. Now in the first part he is more of an observant and maybe trying to get her back but not dangerous that is what happens in the second part where she gets together with the hero. Maybe she could try to get him fired but that would only make him mad. Also she believes that he is married which is a lie. Its only all part of a plan to ruin her father. There are also more people involved. I am also sorry for my chaotic description as i dont write in english but in my native language. I am just looking for tips and inspiration. I am still working on my characters and doing a lot of research to make it accurate.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
  8. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If it's important for the reader to see what he looks like (as if we are looking at a photo) it might be better if a neutral character described him. Somebody who doesn't know him might describe him as handsome. I very much doubt the abused girl would describe him that way, however—or if she did, she would emphasize the difference between the way he looks and the way he truly is underneath. She is not going to be neutral when she hears or sees him again.

    Why is it important that we (readers) don't know that he abused her in the past? Is it possible to just reveal their past early on? Unless the point of the story is ABOUT revealing her past, you might be making things unnecessarily difficult for yourself, as a writer by trying to conceal it early on.

    We are inside the head of the girl, if she is your POV character, so we need to be able to believe her (unless you're creating an unreliable narrator—which opens other cans of worms.) So if it turns out she's been hiding important facts from us, we're likely to feel cheated.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
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  9. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    It is actually about revealing the past, also I dont want the reader to know that Daniel is a psychopath right from the beginning it would ruin the moment when he starts to act like one. Thats why I wrote that he is likable and handsome. As I explained above they were in relationship for a year and he was trying to slowly isolate her. That why she broke up with him and he attacked her, because she ruined his plans. It involves a lot of planning and observing from his side as he wants to ruin her father for something he did in past through the MC. She was his target even before they met.
     
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  10. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I understand that. But if you are telling the story from her point of view, we will believe we are in her head as we read. We will assume we know what she knows, etc.

    You are going to struggle to keep the readers from flinging the book at the bin in disgust, if it turns out she's known he's a horrible person all along, but you've kept that a secret from us. For example, if you have her describe the guy as 'likeable and handsome' as if she didn't know him very well at all. This makes her an unreliable narrator, which can badly backfire unless it's well-handled. We aren't likely to forgive either her or you for withholding information.

    This has nothing to do with what actually happened to your character, by the way. The events of the story can stand exactly as you've conceived them.

    Instead, this has everything to do with how you are choosing to tell your story.

    If you tell this story using a neutral narrator—somebody who doesn't know about this couple's past history until it is revealed later on—then keeping the dark past a secret from the reader would work. We will be shocked by the revelation, when it comes. Same as the narrator will be.

    OR ...you can use your girl as the narrator, but reveal the past and find some way to make her (and us) think he might have changed, etc. Or she can be very suspicious and wary, and becomes horrified when she sees how everybody else gets fooled by his exterior—same as she was, years ago.

    I just don't see how you can use the girl as a narrator and also fool us into thinking the guy is okay—nothing to see here. If you do this, we will feel very cheated, when we find out she's essentially been lying (by omission) to us all along.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
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  11. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    You are making a good point here. Another thing I had on mind was that she would blame herself for the attack. What I mean is that she broke up with him , right? His reaction was the attack. And now she can see that he has changed, that is also what he wants her to believe. She finds out that he got married which is a lie that is revealed later but that is another story.
     
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  12. Linz

    Linz Active Member

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    Your command of the English language as a second language is fine. :)

    Well, victims often do believe that they are to blame for the attack, but again, it takes a long time to unravel that and place the blame exactly where it belongs. It is feasible that the antagonist will attack her when she leaves but it seems, from what you've written, that she catches on early enough to end it after a year.

    If the antagonist had any idea that she was about to leave, he'd turn on the charm again and reel her back in, making her believe that this sweet, charming side is the "real" him - and he'd keep it up until he was certain that she wasn't going to leave.

    The motive for him persuing the main character doesn't work for me, either. If he wanted revenge on her father and chose to go through her to get it, he'd kill or kidnap her - not start an abusive relationship with her.

    She wouldn't care whether he was married or not, except to say "I pity your wife". That's not going to make her change her mind about him.

    I do agree with @jannert that describing him as charming, handsome, etc would make for an unreliable narrator if it's from the main character/this girl's point of view unless you have the internal dialogue that shows her struggles with how he looks, vs how he actually is inside.
     
  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that was more or less one of the things I suggested. However, if the girl does this, she'll need to reveal that she KNOWS what he's like inside. And that's what @martinkka1488 didn't want to do. She wanted his nature to be hidden from the reader until it's revealed that he's a psychopath later in the story. That's going to be near impossible to do, if the girl is the narrator /POV character.

    At this point, martinkka could maybe play around with various changes of perspective. She could ditch the idea of surprising the reader with the man's psychopathic nature, and deal with it straightforwardly. Maybe make the story revolve around either the possibility that he has changed, or the fact that other people think he's a nice guy but the girl knows what he's capable of. (That could actually make for a more suspenseful story. We'll be waiting for the moment when his mask drops and the evil starts to show again.)

    OR change to a different narrator altogether ...somebody who observes these two characters and sees things that don't quite add up. The new character could even be a woman who has just entered into a relationship with this guy herself, and sees him as the handsome and kindly individual he's pretending to be. So she ignores the old girlfriend's direct or hinted warnings. And etc. Many different ways to tell this story, if the thrust of the story is forward, not back to what happened 'before.'
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2018
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  14. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    She doesn't change her mind about him at all. That is not what I wanted to do. So what would you suggest? I could make it 4 years as the first version and just make it lighter like that she broke up with him for other reason. The kidnapping happens in the second part of the story. When there is the hero present as well. Your suggestions really help me, I have a lot to think about. :)
     
  15. Linz

    Linz Active Member

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    If it were me, personally, I'd split Parts 1 & 2 into 2 different novels.

    Novel 1 would deal with the relationship between Daniel and the main character. I still wouldn't quite believe that Daniel would persue her to get back at her father, though.

    Novel 2 is the one it sounds like you're trying to write now - the aftermath and how she sees him after so many years apart, how she's moved on, and the climax of the kidnap/revenge.

    This might subtly alter the way you write, because you'd be alluding to events that happened in Novel 1, but won't actually need to out and out reveal the abuse in Novel 2.

    So he tries to persue her again and acts like nothing happened, as per OP, but after the abuse she suffered at his hands, she's not going to fall for his charms and his lies again - so why does he feel the need to lie about a wife at all? Abusers often do try to convince previous victims that they've changed, but having a wife (and especially lying about having a wife) isn't going to prove that one way or another.

    4 years would still be a tight turnaround from victim to survivor. Possible, but improbable. :)
     
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  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I have misplaced my pants.... Contributor

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    Wouldn't she know this already? If her abusive boyfriend worked for her father, and it took her two years to get over it, wouldn't the possibility of him still being there be on her radar? I'm assuming the father was not told about the abuse (which is plausible), or perhaps even the relationship (less so, but doable), but I find it hard to believe that she wouldn't ask Dad if Dirtbag Daniel still worked for him before she came to visit. Unless, of course, she's estranged or been out of communication with her father for the interim.

    I know that's not what you asked, but that's the plothole that jumped out at me.
     
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  17. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    I cant do what you suggest as the main story is not about Daniel and the MC.
     
  18. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    ^^^This. This, this, and this. She wouldn't even go near her Dad's workplace. She might not even want to come home at all. (I didn't.) But if she did come home, she'd sure as hell do a recon mission first to find out where the abusive ex was.

    Also as another poster said, two years is not enough. You don't just "get over" it, even with therapy. Especially if the abuse was more emotional than physical...The emotional abuse and mental manipulation take much, much longer to heal because you have to work hard to reprogram all those old messages. Then you have to deal with your own feelings of anger at the abuser, anger at yourself at how stupid you were to get yourself into that mess (that's not a judgment on others; I'm describing the feelings I had toward myself), inherent distrust of other people, as well as fear of ever seeing that person again (which I still have, years later, because he found me online and started stalking me).

    She's not just going to breeze in to her dad's workplace and happen to "meet" the guy there. No way. ETA: Her dad's workplace may even be a trigger for her, if she has triggers. Not everyone does (I didn't), but she would still be fearful.
     
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  19. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    Good point. But the truth is she is coming right from the airport to her fathers company as he urged her to visit him right away. She hasnt been there for three years.t that company. And yes the place is making her nervous even before she meets the x boyfriend. Also her father didnt know about them as there is a reason he arranged marriage for her with a heir of another company. And that is what the whole main story is about actually. I just wanted to show Daniel as I need him in the story as he is the reason why she's hurt and not trusting etc.
     
  20. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    1. Doesn't matter who asked. She wouldn't go to that workplace.
    2. My parents both died never knowing their then 17 year old-20 year old daughter was in an abusive relationship with her ex fiancee. After I left town my ex still stopped by to visit my parents when he was in town, so I avoided going back to visit.
    3.Have him stalk her and "meet" her somewhere else. That's far more realistic.
     
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  21. martinkka1488

    martinkka1488 New Member

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    Thank you for your post I really appreciate your suggestions. I will definitly think about it.
    Thank you. I appreciate you suggestions I have a lot to think about.
     
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  22. Linz

    Linz Active Member

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    @martinkka1488 I think you have a lot of researching to do on the dynamics of abusive relationships, what it takes for a victim to escape, the emotional, mental, psychological effects of the abuse and the psychological strength it takes to break free.

    If you don't, and if you think 2, or even 4 years is enough to put abuse firmly and irrevocably behind someone, then you risk trivializing a very traumatic experience for thousands of victims.
     
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  23. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I have misplaced my pants.... Contributor

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    Okay, that makes more sense.

    That's what I was thinking too. Agree that she probably wouldn't show up at the office if there was the possibility of seeing Daniel there, but people do dumb shit all the time. Also it might not (a separate stalking scene) dovetail as neatly into the scene structure. Like if you wanted to have the MC, the father, and Daniel in a room together for dramatic/dynamic purposes, for example.
     
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  24. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    Good point about getting them all in a room at the same time.
    Ah. I've got one. The ex could show up at her father's house to see her dad because the ex knew she was in town. ("I heard you were in town and I hadn't seen your dad in a while...") That would be the exact sort of thing someone that sadistically manipulative would do.
     
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  25. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    You're welcome. Feel free to PM to ask me anything.
     

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