I’ve bounced around an idea of starting a series of blogs titled “We’re Here!” – the search for characters and what makes a character-driven story.
Today, I thought we’d focus on villains. What makes a villain and what makes a good villain so bad.
In our very first post for “We’re Here!” we’ll explore villains from multiple angles and discover the antagonists all around us.
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Bad to the Core
There are, of course, people in the world who are simply bad. They seek only to please themselves. They run after pleasures of the flesh and the physical, always chasing that which they believe will make them feel happy and fulfilled.
You can use this in a story. You can have a villain who is simply selfish, and every reader will understand their motive and cringe at the injustice of it all.
There are other levels to selfishness too. Some people have a specific skill set, such as gambling, swindling, lying, stealing, and they take pride in those skills. Give your villain a defining skill, something to make him realistic in your reader’s mind.
Bad by Default
Wouldn’t you agree some people just strike on bad luck? They were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. This can be discouraging for the human soul, which strives to believe everything it does is for good.
Now this villain needs a place to belong. They’ve given up on life and got caught up in whatever racket has been chasing them down. It could be a gang. Maybe they’re a follower for an evil ruler. Maybe they’re simply so hurt, all they care about is hurting others. Hurting people hurt people.
So give your villain a strong emotional connection on the negative side. Make them angry or bitter, resentful, unfulfilled. But try to strike for something specific – their father left them/beat them/etc. Their only friends were the neighborhood gang who treated them terrible but promised them a place to belong. Be creative, but try to stem from real-world examples if you can. Maybe they were kidnapped, human-trafficked, or simply raised by plain old mean people.
Usually these villains can have a great redemption moment. Play with that. Maybe in your story, you want to save people, not simply create an environment for your hero to be heroic. We all love stories of forgiveness.
Bad for the Sake of Good
This is a tough one. There are people in the world who believe what they do is for the good of humanity. Conquers of old were good examples of this. In those days, it was conquer or be conquered. So as ruler, you sent out to battle local countries to display your power. This in turn kept your own people safe, because no one dared challenge you.
This villain believes they are good. They are completely justified in their mind. One could almost write the story from their point of view and make them the hero!
One of the best ways to write this villain is to make them so believable even the hero begins to falter. Make your readers question everything they thought they knew about right and wrong. This is a powerful villain, because if the readers believe for even a second that their hero could fail, you’ve added the perfect element to any story – RISK.
A good way to find villains is to look at people, politicians, religious leaders, and anyone you don’t like. Dig into questions of why you don’t like them. Do they challenge your way of life? Do they cause you personal harm? Are they resisting your cause for good and well-being?
Now hop the fence and study your personal antagonists. Read up about them and their values. Discover why they do what they do. Why they believe what they believe. In doing that, you’ve just researched material for a great villain.
Now go write about them.
This has been,
Fan T. C.
in “We’re Here! – Villains”