Not every story needs a villain. But if you’re going to have a villain, you probably want to have a good one. Depending on your point of view, The Loyalty of Pawns may have several villains. Several of the arguable villains have been in the story all along. But there are a few changes.
Minor spoilers after the jump.
The original story featured essentially one additional villain. As I’ve alluded to in a previous entry, Nathan Beck wasn’t always in the whole book. He was originally a non-viewpoint character (someone whose eyes we don’t see the story through, such as Leland Hart) who dropped out of the story after Aaron, Blake, and Katharine left Chicago. And without a doubt, the original Nathan, so long as he was involved in the story, was a straight up black hat; the manipulations he went through with Katharine to try and get at Blake and, by extension, Aaron were ugly. When Nathan dropped out of the story, it was after a rather satisfying comeuppance.
When I decided to turn Nathan into a main character, the first thing that had to change was softening the abrasive asshole tendencies. That’s not to say that I needed to make him likeable; there is a fair share of characters in the book that aren’t really designed to be liked. But they do have an understandable motivation. So now Nathan’s bad attitude needed an explanation.
Nathan joined Jameson and Michael as someone else pursuing Aaron, Nicole, and the stolen prototypes. As to whether Jameson and Michael are villains your mileage may vary. But they’re certainly abrasive. Nathan’s motivation became a guy just trying to solve a case—pursuing Aaron because he was a criminal and it was nominally the right thing to do rather than a means to a selfish end; that single-minded righteousness could cause all manner of unsavory behavior all on its own. Of course because of Nathan’s previous function as an antagonist bit player, I knew very little about him. A lot of Nathan didn’t make sense to me in the newest version until Jake suddenly appeared. Their relationship ended up defining Nathan from that point on (and, in edits, retroactively).
So I’d fleshed Nathan out pretty well but by the time Jake rolled into the fray, Nathan as an antagonist simply wasn’t working out as well. I abandoned that effort entirely. I couldn’t make Nathan a convincing bad guy so I ceased trying. Given the way so many other characters were behaving, I think the book was served by one fewer villain.