Before getting to the question I just want to say thank you so much for the content you guys have here. It’s been such a huge help, even outside of writing.
So I’m working on a fantasy series (crossed fingers on getting published) where the main character is half vampire, half human. I already have a nice bit of conflict between vampires and humans to keep the story flowing, but I want to add a big bad for the hero to face off with near the end. This villain is supposed to be like our MC, not fully human/vampire. The issue is, although the villain will have influenced the conflict in the story, they do it from the shadows and no one really knows they exist. Of course they’ll be traces of them before they went rogue, but I suppose my question is, when and how should I introduce my villain into the story?
Hey LB, thanks for writing in!
If you want a villain to be mysterious until the big finale, the most reliable way is for the character’s to know someone is out there causing mayhem, but not who. If you get to the end and the villain reveals themself, only for it to seem like everything they did could have happened without them, readers just won’t be that invested.
Instead, your heroes can discover the aftermath of your villain’s actions. The pro-peace vampire leader and their bodyguards are all dead – who killed them? The human council is all sucked dry even though their chambers are warded with silver and garlic – who got to them? This will build up your villain’s presence in the story without revealing who they are.
If you need most people in the world to not know about your villain, then your hero can be one of the few who’s been able to put some of the pieces together. Perhaps they saw a piece of evidence that linked the villain’s mysterious actions, but the evidence was destroyed before the hero could show anyone.
It’s also possible to have a big “I was behind it all” reveal, where the villain’s existence is also a surprise to your hero, but that’s more difficult. It requires you to have a situation where it’s not obvious that a bunch of different events are linked beforehand, but it makes sense that they were all linked after the reveal. Such reveals also tend to involve a lot of monologuing, as the villain has a lot to explain. Those are fixable problems, but it’s the more difficult option.
The other thing to consider is if all you want this villain for is a climactic showdown, that might not be enough of a reason to create a new character in the first palace. Your villain could end up feeling tacked on at the end, which readers are likely to notice.
Instead, you might see if your existing characters can provide the big finale you’re looking for. Perhaps your protagonist has to battle both the human and vampiric champions to keep them from fighting each other instead? Just something to consider.
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!
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