Until now, I'd always written a compelling backstory for my "bad guys." Generally, I believe that people (or characters) have both good and bad attributes. In other words, no one is all good or all bad. There are no absolutes. Life is a result of one's experiences and choices.
While self-editing my latest book (second last step before submitting it to my publisher), I made a startlingly realization. My "bad guy" was just "bad."
From the moment I introduced the character, Sherrie, she was a complete bitch. She abused a position of power. She treated my heroine, Beth, with disrespect and embarrassed her publicly. In front of other characters, she acted like a totally different person. My hero, Nick, stood up for Beth. He made Sherrie accountable for her behavior. By the end of the story, Sherrie became unhinged, resulting in her downfall. Sherrie had specific motivations for her actions, but they weren't justifiable. Her character arc was a simple cause and effect. Karma. She was a terrible person who lost everything.
This was the first book I'd written in a while that didn't include physical violence and danger. It can be pretty exhausting to spin that kind of intrigue so I thought I'd write something lighter. Stories still need conflict though. As it turns out, I only exchanged physical violence with emotional abuse. Both my main characters encountered judgment based on preconceived notions. It made my heroine defensive and distrustful. It made my hero reckless and self-sabotaging.
My writing is a personal reflection. I often incorporate (knowingly or unknowingly) my experiences into my work. Through fiction, I discover truths about myself and I can control the outcome for my characters (or at least they let me think that I can). Sherrie represented a malevolence I encountered and faced alone. In my story, Nick listened to and supported Beth. I gave Beth what I'd needed. This was painful to write, but powerful to realize. I couldn't rewrite my past, but I could bring the lesson forward.