Making a Villain: Doing Bad Good

Welcome back readers! Today I have something very special for you. Today I want to talk about villains! I had a discussion recently with someone reading my book as I write it to give me ideas and our discussion turned towards the character who will be the main villain of the book.

Disney

(Behold the face of true evil)

After our discussion I thought a lot about the character and how I’ll present them in the book and show the reader that they’re evil. Now I could go the traditional way and just show them choking people out for no reason, kicking puppies, and wearing all black.

Darth

(So close Darth! Just remember that 2 out of 3 ain’t bad!)

But this feels like a kind of over-done stereotypical way to show evil that I just don’t want. Be honest, how many of you watch movies or read books and look at the villain and think, “Ok, yeah, they’re clearly the bad guy and evil…but they’re not really cool.” If you want an endless list of physical traits to show someone is evil, the best place to look is Bond movies. The villains in those movies run the gauntlet of “evil looks,” from being bald, scars, dead eyes, metal teeth, being not English, to even just being short (though to be fair that actor did actually turn out to be evil as hell and is currently in prison so they may have had something there).

All this still feels superficial to me though. I want my villains to not just be one dimensional physical representations of evil, I want the reader to need to get their blood pressure checked after reading my book they hate the villain so much! To do this I’ve come up with three basic things I think all villains should have using the case study of this evil bastard:

tywin-lannister-1920

This is Tywin Lannister from the show Game of Thrones in the event that you’ve been handing under a rock for several years. He is not the person I hated most on the show (BURN IN HELL JOFFERY!!!), but he was one of the best villains not only on that show, but anywhere. So what are the three things that Tywin had that made him an amazing villain?

One: Personality. This is what I mean when I said earlier having a villain be more than just black clothes and scars, I want them to have depth. All the best villains have a personality that comes out through dialogue and action and gives the feeling like a real person and not just some cardboard cut-out with the word, “Evil,” written on it. Tywin through the course of the show displays ranges of emotions from rage and disappointment to smugness and joy. Tywin is more than just your standard angry and brooding villain, he has a range of emotions that bring a 3D sense of his character. This coupled with his backstory that’s revealed through bits and pieces lets you know who he is as a person. Because of this that leads to the second thing that makes a great villain.

Two: Relatable. Tywin at his core is a man rooted in family. If you look past the horrible things he does, you see a father trying to keep his family protected and together. He is a father looking to make a better world for the kingdom by making it better for his family. Any good villain, the kind of villain who sticks with you, has something in them that the audience can relate to. A parent can relate to the base ideas of Tywin, enough that they won’t condone his actions, but they understand him. Which brings us to the third requirement.

Three: Motivated. Tywin is nothing if not motivated. His grand plans and desires drive him without failure through the story. This is key for a good villain. No one fears, hates, or worries about a villain who never gets out of bed and has plans to do evil deeds, but never gets around to doing it. This is where if a villain has a personality and is relatable, they will have motivation.

All real people have these three things and characters, whether an evil sorcerer king, a suburban drug dealer, or an intergalactic mobster slug, have a personality and relatable desires to make them highly motivated and engaging villains that you’ll love to hate!

I know there are lots of other good things that go into making a good villain, too many to list here. Go ahead and comment here or on the blog’s Facebook page to let me know what you think makes a great villain!

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