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Friday, May 16, 2014

Some Tips for Creating Well-Rounded Villains

Yesterday I talked about characters in general. Today, I'm going to expand on what makes a villain work.
By the way, for anyone who didn't read the last post (I don't know why you didn't; you should!), the characters, Kinlar and Keldrin, that I reference, are from an old story that I wrote about six years ago.

So, what makes a good villain?

1. Motivation. No one does anything for nothing. Keldrin joined the sorcerer, and the only reason he did so was because he was ... evil. 
There was very little motivation. He would most likely have done it whether Kinlar had been around or not. There should always, always be some reason villains do what they do.

2. A range of human emotions. Keldrin had jealousy, fear, and hatred. He had no emotions besides these; no remorse, uncertainty, or longing.

3. He (or she) must believe that what he is doing is right for either himself or everyone. Either your villain must believe that he is above the law and can do whatever he wants; or else he thinks that what he is doing is best for everyone. 
And I don't mean in that annoying, patronizing way that authors will do where they sort of do the sarcastic aside: 
'Of course he was doing it for the greater benefit! Greg was firmly convinced that poisoning all the dogs would be best for everyone. Why couldn't anyone see that?'
I mean where he firmly believes that whatever it is, he is in the right. 
He has to have reasons (of course the wrong reasons) that he's thought out and convictions that he holds to.

4. He must believe that the ends justify the means, but he shouldn't necessarily like the means. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of villains who get kicks out of evil. I'm not saying that they should dislike being cruel, but it really is boring when villains seem to forget their goal and instead focus on being nasty for no reason.

5. He should have at least one moment of almost choosing right over wrong. Perhaps I should say that he has to have an inner struggle. Especially if he sees the protagonist doing the right thing despite the trouble it causes him. He should wonder, at least for a little while, what it is that motivates the hero. He should maybe remember back when he himself wasn't evil. Then, the next time the chance presents itself, he should struggle against doing the right thing.
Now, the way he goes will depend on your villain. If you intend to redeem him by the end, then perhaps he should choose the right thing ... just this once. Not necessarily, but possibly. Even if it's not a positive act, such as helping a beggar; maybe it's just not doing something wrong. Maybe he decides not to poison the king, or he lets one of his enemies go free.
If he's going to be evil to the end, then he will probably end up choosing evil over good, sending him on a further downward spiral that will result in his destruction at the end. Or he might choose the right thing, but when the consequences are negative he quickly goes back to the security of his evil.

6. They should be at least of average intelligence. One thing that gets my goat is how overtly stupid villains usually are. 
How in the world (that they plan to utterly dominate) did they ever get in the position they're in if everything they do is obviously calculated to overthrow their own regime? Never mind the hero destroying them; they should have destroyed themselves long ago. Cackling evilly and revealing your evil plans will never get you to the place you want to be. Here's an example of a typical villain's List of Things to Do: 1. Conquer the world. 2. Destroy the good guys. 3. Enjoy it.
Conquer the world. Yep, that's a pretty broad category. They don't even have an idea of how they're going to do that. I guess they just figure that being fearsome and treating their own henchmen bad will cause everything to fall into place.
Your villain should have a set and definite plan for how he's going to get what he wants, and it should either be a plan that would probably work out if the hero didn't throw a wrench into it, or it should be the 'perfect crime' sort of scenario, where everything should have worked, but, because of the very nature of evil, no matter how perfect it is it's doomed to failure.

So, I hope this was helpful and entertaining! If there's anything I missed, please let me know in the comments box :)

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