I found this book an excellent resource for writers, especially for those of us who may be at the stage I was in at the time of reading – nearing the end of the first draft of my WIP, Director’s Cut – which I have now finished.
Sacha Black equips the writer with plenty of tools to sharpen up and deepen their understanding of villainy. She writes with the knowledge and insight of one who is trained and qualified in Psychology. At times I found her handling of the subject almost too dense and over-analytical – especially in areas such as complexes, which has been the subjec tof one of my past blog posts , based on the writings of Carl Jung.
But then I realised that I could only benefit from Sacha Black’s close attention to this subject; what she writes here repays careful study, because it is so important for a fiction author to understand exactly what constitutes villainy. She is particularly good on the subject of mental health in fictional villains; as she rightly points out, it is no good giving one’s villain a mental health issue and then ascribing their villainy to that issue. She helps the reader focus on how complex the human psyche is and reminds us once again that as writers we must be faithful students of human nature. In addition, her own personal style is very lively, which makes the book more accessible, too, to a popular audience. I highly recommend Sacha’s book.
To see my own book on the writing craft, Perilous Path – a selection of articles containing tips, insights and reminders for writers, including a chapter on how to develop villainous characteristics in a fictional characer – click here
To read my own series of blog posts on how the theories of Carl Jung can help novelists, here are a few for you to dip into:
6 thoughts on “Book Review: “How To Craft Superbad Villains: 13 Steps to Evil” by Sacha Black”
I reviewed Sacha’s book too, and like you found the section on mental health particularly helpful. https://mjmallon.com/2017/06/01/my-review-of-13-steps-to-evil-how-to-craft-superbad-villians-by-sacha-black/
Yes. It is a very sensitive area, and so easy for authors to inadvertently imply the mental health disorder somehow accounts for the villainy. One of the characters in my 2 novels (not a villain) suffers from depression and I carefully researched the subject and have also worked in local community mental health teams. Even so, one of my reviewers felt I implied it’s possible to recover from depression in a short period of time, despite the fact I made it clear within the book (through the viewpoint of a medical professional) that clinical depression sufferers do not recover quickly. This shows how quickly references to mental health can be misunderstood by a reader; the author almost needs to over-emhasise a point in order to guard against this… but even that may not be the right thing to do.
Yes, definitely a tricky area. I touch upon self-harm in the book I am releasing later this summer. I researched the topic and introduced it in an unusual way. I do hope to explore this character more in subsequent books in what I hope to be a series. It does worry me that bringing it into the storyline via a subsidiary character might not give it the depth it deserves. Hopefully, it will be received well as mental health issues mean a lot to me.
Thanks for this review Sheila. Sacha’s book certainly looks like a valuable resource for writers, even if their own stories only feature a single “minor” villain. I must take a look at it for myself.
The interesting thing about villains, too, is the fact that you can do all the psychological analysis in the world and though it’s immensely helpful, on a technical level, to a fiction author, it still doesn’t actually explain why someone turns to evil. That is in the hands of an author’s instinct. And I believe that’s something we just have to trust to our own unconscious, as we write (back to Carl Jung again!)
What a wonderful review, thank you so much sheila. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and more to the point, found it useful 🙂