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December 13, 2017

Back in 2016, I wrote an article called Focusing On The Bad Guys that sort of brushed on this subject. However, it wasn’t quite what I want to get at this time. I’ve further brushed on the subject here and there since I started the site. Today, like with many of my articles, I drew inspiration from a book I just read, though I won’t name said book. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that as a writer, I want to present the best story possible. As a reader, I have certain likes and dislikes. Of course, I’m not everyone, but I bet I’m not the only one who feels the same way about certain things. Will this affect who ultimately likes my books? Sure. Can I make everyone like my books?

Of course not.

All I can do is write not only to my best satisfaction, but with as much integrity as I can, and to what I gauge will please the audience the best, based on my sixty plus years of reading and what I’ve learned.

If that isn’t to everyone’s taste?

This is not from a literary perspective, but rather an action perspective. After what I took from a recent book signing event and another author, I want to make that perfectly clear!

Oh well…


Here, I have to quote one of my favorite cowboy actors from the 60’s and 70’s.

Jack Elam often played a bad guy, though later in life, he found a much better niche in comedy. With a bad (wayward) eye and a flair for being faux-serious, he made a perfect comical presence.

I once read an interview with him, after he retired to his home in Oregon, not long before he passed away. He grumbled about the changes in movies and how the bad guys were portrayed. I’m paraphrasing here.

“I don’t really care what the bad guy’s motivations are. Who cares what his mother or father did to him? What if he just wanted the money and robbed the bank?”


The bad guys are essential to any novel. It doesn’t matter how you define bad guys (or gals), the fact is, no matter what, you have to have conflict. The “bad guy” is only in matter of degree and description.

When we’re talking about mysteries, thrillers, adventure, westerns, or any story with a significant conflict, this usually involves one or more bad guys, non-gender specific. Even if it’s a disaster story and the main bad guy is nature, there always has to be a human element as well. It can’t be just nature without some human nature thrown in.

The question comes into how much real estate are you, the author, going to spend on the bad guy(s).

I usually dread, or at least blow out a long breath when I come to the sections where the author delves into the thoughts, feelings and actions of the bad guy or guys (once again, non-gender-specific). To me, though the intent is to justify why the baddie is being bad, it also slows down the action of the hero, the main gist of the story – in other words, the reason why I’m reading it in the first place.

These “pauses” to delve into bad guy character development bring the story movement to a screeching halt.



Way too often, authors waste time and resources, better spent elsewhere, rambling on the bad guy, when they could be carrying the story forward through the good guy.

This is exactly why I often cringe and blow out a long breath when I come to a bad guy chapter. That is, until I see how the author handles these things.

“I don’t really care what the bad guy’s motivations are. Who cares what his mother or father did to him? What if he just wanted the money and robbed the bank?”

            Good old Jack Elam comes to mind again. In fact more often than not, his goofy old face from The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County or some other comedy pops into my head. At these moments, I recall that quote.

Old Jack was dead on.

I don’t want to know why the bad guy’s mother treated him poorly. Just get on with it!

Now, if the bad guy’s doing something that moves the story forward, like setting up an ambush for the good guy, well…that’s okay to a point – as long as it doesn’t take five chapters to get there.


Someone like Stephen King would probably hate me. If you’re a big fan of King, you might, as well. He can take forever to get to the point. At the same time, there are plenty of readers that prefer authors that do get to the point.

There are plenty of King fans out there. There are plenty of literary leaning readers and authors as well. They eat up this wordy stuff.

There are also plenty of readers that cringe at old Jack’s comment.

At the same time, I bet there are lots of readers, and writers that like to get to the point.

To me, any story has to have a light balance of bad guy stuff mixed in. There has to be enough to justify why he or she does what they do, but not enough to drag the story down and take away from the main characters. That’s my take on it. When I get one of those books I can’t put down, you can bet it’s got those features.

How about you?

Happy writing!

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