What do the Bad Guys want?

Mock up of an evil plan in a gantt chart

I've been planning a novel over the last couple of weeks, and although I've got 20,000 words of outline and setting I was getting a bit bogged down.

I realised that I had the same problem that I'd had with my outline back in 2012 for the first novel that I drafted: I didn't really know what the bad guys wanted.

I knew a lot about their 'evil plan'. I knew how it affected my protagonist and supporting characters, I knew where it was set, and I knew what pressures were driving the bad guys to take action. I even knew the sort of plan it would need to be to fit in with the novel's theme.

You can go a long way plotting the rest of the novel with all of that, but eventually you have to decide what the bad guys actually want.

That was when the penny dropped.

"What do the bad guys want?" should have been the first question that I asked myself.

Once you know that, you can look for the collateral damage. Somewhere in the mess caused by the plan will be the protagonists, and they'll have ready-made reasons to act.

So, the next time I plot a novel I'm going to start by thinking evil thoughts. I'm going to head down to my secret lab, and I won't surface until I've got my evil plan. Then I'm going to think of all the ways I could be stopped, and make sure my plan's watertight. And I'll come up with all the justifications that prove to me that I'm the good guy in all this. And I'll work out the timetable. And then the world will be mine! Mine, I tell you! Aha, ha, ha!

Except it won't of course.

Because there will be some little detail that I'll have forgotten, and a hero waiting to exploit it.

And that will be the novel.