I have trouble writing villains. Blame it on my parents. I'm too nice.
I'm at a turning point in my story where I'm struggling with making my villain really bad. It's pretty easy to have him do something evil, then have my hero show up to save the day. But it's too easy. Part of plotting is conflict and turning points. Fortunately, I had a lot of rewriting prior to this critical point in the story which kept me involved while I sorted through black moments and turning points. But when I finished the rewriting, or at least as much as I had planned until I'm done with everything, I was still struggling. So I pulled out some old writing magazines - I called it cleaning house - and went out on the deck on a sunny afternoon to read through them for articles I might want to save (that's why I didn't throw them away in the first place, right?).
Wouldn't you know it? I found an article on just this problem - something about "saggy middles." It talks about the middle part of your story where you lose focus or lose motivation and while you're busy rushing through the conflicts, you still have 100 pages or more to write. It's helpful to revisit these lessons, and particularly at such crucial times! Suddenly, I had a clearer picture of where I was going. Okay, let the hero find her, but what if she doesn't want to be found? Or what if the villain allowed the hero to find her for a darker purpose? Immediately I went to my PC and started writing the rest of my story arc, the villanous side that so often eludes me. I knew who the bad guys were, I knew what I wanted them to do. The problem I was having was the why and the outcome and what's the worst that could happen? It was all too simple until I remembered to throw in a couple of impossible twists for the characters to work through, even if the hero was able to rescue the heroine quickly.
Yes, I recycled a bunch of my old writing magazines, but I also rescued some of the articles that resonate or remind me of points to remember when I'm plotting. Even after hours in a classroom or with my nose in books, some lessons have to be refreshed regularly. This is the benefit of subscribing to market related magazines.
I work for a company during the day where "professionals" are required to complete "continuing education" on an annual basis. This is to educate them on changes in the industry and to refresh lessons already learned. The same principle can be applied to any vocation and was clearly demonstrated to me again today. For writers, continuing education most often comes in the form of conferences and trade magazines.
Important lessons to remember: 1) Writing is rewriting and 2) Learning is an ongoing process.
Gotta go - I have villains to write about!