Students Say What? · Teaching's in my DNA · The Writing Life

Working the Inner Villain

Indivi232So I teach high school fiction writing—you knew that, right? (In addition to 7th grade.) And most of the time it’s WAY too much fun.

Monday, for instance, I shared Elizabeth Sims’ article from Writers’ Digest, “Tapping Your Inner Villain,” with my Fiction Writing 2 students. Six of them, all guys, all seniors, who’d pleaded with me to please, please teach a second year writing class.

On my lunch break.

These are some of the nicest guys ever. So I said yes.

Right now they’re working on a 30-page story.

Anyway, they read Sims’ article aloud, taking turns around the table. And I was asking myself, they get high school credit for this much hilarity?

“You must be able to embrace the evil mindset to write a good novel, especially a mystery or a thriller.”  You should have seen the faces. Grins all round. Elbowing too. Not often do they hear this!

“To be an author is to be a villain, and the only way to fully be an author is to relish being a villain.”  Open laughter for this one, with gleeful rubbing of hands. And hooting. Enthusiastic  variations of “Muahahaha.”

“Real villains in the real world often act like the nicest people…”  Shared looks with narrowed eyes. More grinning. And then one student sat upright.

“OH!” he cried. He grabbed his free-write notebook, found a page, and began scribbling furiously. “This,” he assured us, “is the Best Plot Idea Ever.”

I know the feeling.

Heck, you know what? I’d teach this class for free.

Oh, wait. I guess I kind of do. How awesome is that?

6 thoughts on “Working the Inner Villain

  1. No kidding.

    It’s easier to construct the mustache-twirling bad guy rather than the villain who is closer to home … me! The “nice person” … with those quiet, me-first sins. The self-revealing nature of writing is sometimes mighty uncomfortable.


          1. The trouble is, without villains, a story is, well … blancmange. Blah. Tasteless.

            Happily Ever After comes at the end of many troubles, it shouldn’t be the story.

            The trend in Austen fiction, as you know, has been to use sex (instead of clever plot) as the excitement. Oh, please. Bring on the villains, I say, and keep that bedroom door closed.


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