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Avoiding Cartoonish Villains in Fiction

By Emily Golus   When I was a kid, nearly every animated movie I watched had a Villain Song. You know the Villain Song—when the movie’s antagonist takes a well-deserved break from Doing Evil to sing about how fun Doing Evil can be. Dozens of minions appear and perform a choreographed number that must have taken them weeks to learn.   It was often the most enjoyable part of the whole movie. It reassured us kids that this villain wasn’t a real person—just an animated caricature that we didn’t have to take too seriously. Dear writing friend, the last thing you want in your novel is a cartoonish villain that your readers don’t take seriously. Whether you’re writing contemporary fiction, fantasy, historical romance—really, any genre besides farce—you want a convincing antagonist that raises the tension of the story, not one so unrealistic that he undermines it. Here’s how to identify cartoonish traits in our fictional antagonists, and how to make them more believable instead. Ca

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