When does the villain show up in the story? When everything seems just right. When the world is established. When the love interest comes along.
After creation, God rested. Why? Was He tired? Did He have a busy day He needed to rest up for? Of course, not. He’s God! In the sense of story, it seems like the perfect place for the reader to pause and catch their breath; to revel in the beauty and perfection of the story world, like Dorothy landing in Oz. But the wicked witch lurked in the shadows waiting to strike, as does the serpent in Eden, waiting for just the right character to enter the scene and release chaos into the perfect world.
Let’s back up in the text and see what other writing tools are used. In verse five, God mentions how He hasn’t caused it to rain yet. Why? As a reader, we know rain is a part of life. It cleanses the Earth and sustains all life. God provides a mist to cleanse and sustain. He was the source. This is an important new rule for our story world. Why? Because it foreshadows to the story of Noah. It is a simple line in chapter two, yet it provides a double-edged sword of meaning for the reader:
- The rain will come
- God is the sole provider for this world
Next, God talks specifically about the creation of Adam and Eve. From dust, God breathed life and created the first Biblical character. In verse seven, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” What an awesome illustration of our role as author. Our job is to breathe life into our characters, not to just mold them from clay. They need to be complex, realistic entities with a spirit and a soul, not just a body.
What makes us human? What separates us from animals?
- Appreciation of beauty
- Awareness of death
- Understanding time
- Meaning of life
- Lack of harmony with nature
- A sense of morality
- Free moral agency
- Capacity for wisdom
- Desire to worship
If your characters don’t exhibit varying degrees of many or all of these traits, they are simply animals wearing human skin and clothing. This skill takes time to cultivate, but by reading books and observing what makes a character great, you will soon develop it. I like to study actors when I watch films to see the dynamics of their flaws. To me, it helps me to translate these inconsistencies into my own characters.
After verse 7, the chapter goes into a detailed description of the Garden of Eden, its rivers and boundaries; its resources and trees; ah, yes…the trees of Eden. One contained the entire knowledge of all things good and evil. The other contained the answer to eternal life. How many stories have been built on those premises? The Indiana Jones franchise. Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Time Machine. The trees are neutral, like the red and blue pills in The Matrix, but the consequences of the choices are purely owned by the beholder. In your stories, you need to have those “trees” which tempt and lead the character into forced decisions. They must dangle as lures desensitizing your characters by becoming a familiar place within the story world and therefore less ominous. (“My precious…”)
Your main character may have the will power to face his task and not be easily swayed. He, like Adam, does what he was created to do, day in and day out. So here’s where you throw in the wrench. Adam, amidst all this perfection and beauty, became lonely. He had no one to share it with; no one to enjoy the journey and grow with.
Enter the love interest.
Lois Lane. Rhett Butler. Augustus Waters.
The love interest brings out the main characters weaknesses. They can either be oblivious to their impact or diabolical in their strategy. Their role, as illustrated by Eve, is to play helper and fill in something that is missing within the main character. “And they shall be one flesh,” verse 24. This doesn’t mean your book must mirror the 50 Shades; it’s more of a “You complete me” Jerry Maguire kind of one-flesh.
Take some time to dissect and list the pluses and the minuses, the positive traits and the negative ones between the main character and the love interest in your favorite stories. Don’t be surprised to discover that where one is a two for shyness, the other is an 8 for outgoing. Where one is a three for compassion, the other is a seven for tolerance. Build these traits into your characters and flip them in the love interest. You’ll provide both deep-felt connections and hostile contradictions within their relationship, which makes for believability and, more importantly, relatability for your reader.
In Genesis chapter three, the villain enters; stage right. “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” (verse 1) Interestingly, God points out that he deliberately created this creature. Your villain also is a reflection of you, of your upbringing, prejudices, biases, and experiences, if only the flipside. When my villains appear, I may ask myself, “What wouldn’t I do in this situation?” or “What could this character do that would be the most horrible thing imaginable?” These answers are based in my beliefs and convictions. Why? Because I created my villain.
In Eden, the serpent heads straight to Eve, twists God’s words just enough to enter doubt, then sits back to watch. Eve forfeits her fate. Why does this method work? Because a partial truth is always easier to believe than a flat out lie. Your characters are smart. Your readers are smarter. The partial truth—“This is just a game, Ender”—is easier to swallow. We want to believe it’s the whole truth so badly that we override our common sense to satisfy our immediate wants. That’s human nature, and that’s what the serpent toyed with. The betrayal worked because Eve chose to believe she was being shafted by God. If the serpent had told her, “You’ll gain ultimate knowledge and realize there are evils in the world beyond your comprehension, find yourself banished, and experience horrible pain during childbirth,” she wouldn’t have taken the fruit. Again, the questions from The Matrix rings true: the red or the blue pill?
This form of deception is seen in Frodo’s quest in Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter’s journey to defeat Lord Voldemort. Both Frodo and Harry are fed just enough of the truth to hook them and bring them to the dark truth of what they were really getting involved with. Both stories are brilliant and powerfully written, utilizing the very writing tool showcased in the Garden of Eden between the villain and the vixen.
(This is an excerpt from Writing Your Novel, Using the Bible as Your Guide, published by A Writer For Life, LLC, which you can purchase from Amazon as a paperback or ebook. For assistance with writing, editing, publishing and marketing your book, visit awriterforlife.)