Give The Villian What He Wants

I’m a dutiful student in the fascinating and informative class Rob Preese is teaching for the Kiss of Death Chapter of Romance Writers of Ameria (RWA).  It’s hosted by the chapter’s COFFIN  or College of Felony and Intrigue.

Rob’s calling the class What the Kick-Ass Heroine Knows That The Author Should Know. It’s about martial arts, fighting, and weapons in mystery and suspense.


I have writer Gina Welbourne to thank for this, as she won the course in a writing contest and wasn’t able to take it, so she gifted it to me. A million thanks Gina.

I’m so into this week’s lesson. It’s about the heroine giving her opponent (the bad guy) what he wants, so that she can ultimately win. Rob instructed the class to write our scenes so that our heroine would go with the motion of a bad guy attacker with a knife rather than oppose the motion. That would use the opponents own body movement against him. Then the heroine could strike her own blow.

The idea of giving the villain what he wants brought back to me in an unforgettable scene from Lee Child’s thriller Tripwire. At the end of the story, the nearly undefeatable hero, Jack Reacher is shot while trying to save the woman he loves from a very clever and heinous villain. Jack is losing blood fast and is in serious trouble. That right there is enough to send Jack Reacher fans seeking therapy. To make matters worse, Reacher thinks there’s a chance he may die. At this point fans are grabbing their Prozac. So what does Reacher consciously decide to do. He gives his opponent what he is waiting for. Reacher fakes greater weakness than he has. He fakes the condition he will actually be in shortly. His opponent who has a huge ego and can’t envision losing leaves himself open to make his last strike (using a gun) against an opponent he thinks is incapable of shooting back..and simultaneously moves to grab the woman (who is the one one the villain really wants). Reacher then shoots and kills his evil opponent. Of course then the ambulance comes to take the seriously injured Jack Reacher for medical attention and fans grab for more Prozac.

I did something akin to this in my historical mystery (1946). The hero is in an old Victorian house trying to save the heroine. He’s been shot, but just grazed. It’s weakened him some, but not a lot. Like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher my hero feigns it’s more than it is.

However, he doesn’t only rely upon that. He’s out gunned. He’s got a Smith and Wesson revolver with one bullet left and his opponent’s got a shot gun with unlimited ammo. What the opponent doesn’t know is my hero’s got a second fully loaded pistol tucked into his trouser waistband at his back. He’s also got a knife sheathed in his boot.

The opponent taunts my hero admonishing that he better be a good shot with that one remaining bullet…and my hero gives him what he wants. It’s a difficult shot to take, one that may not hit it’s mark. My hero takes the shot, not missing by a mile, but missing. Then he uses his second pistol when the opponent gleefully charges into the room to finish him  off. Another instance of giving the villain what he wants to gain victory over him. — Rob cautioned me to make sure the hero’s first shot was a serious one, that the hero wouldn’t waste his first shot. I’m going to go back to the manuscript to make sure it actually reads that way.

My hero had a problem with that shot, in that, the angle was off. The villian is on higher ground…up on a staircase shooting down at the hero. That was another thing we studied in the course…angles. Mostly body angles in marital arts, but it would apply to this scene as well. Angles are very important in fight scenes.

2 thoughts on “Give The Villian What He Wants

Comments are closed.