Writing: The Villain
In most stories, there is a tangible villain that works at every opportunity to stop your hero from reaching their goal. They are oftentimes the epitome of evil and hatred, depending on how extremely their villainy runs. In many ways, they are almost as important as the main character, so here are some tips on developing them well.
- Villains should be handled with the same deep thought as heroes.
- Just because they’re the villain doesn’t mean they aren’t a very major character, and complex characters are always more favorable than simple, boring characters. Develop their appearance and personality in detail. Formulate a backstory. Understand the motivations behind what they do, and let their actions reflect their internal desires.
- Find ways to make your villain stand out from other villains.
- Most villains are maniacal. They are almost all willing to do terrible things in order to get what they want. A lot of villains are related to their character in some way, and sometimes this relationship is revealed in a plot twist. These are all well and good, but trying to make these ideas seem fresh and interesting is difficult nowadays. Play with your ideas and tweak these tropes, or maybe even disregard them all together. Do what you can to make your villain not sound like another Voldemort or Darth Vader. (Reading your work and/or having others read your work is a good way to see if your villain (and other characters, too) are interesting and unique enough.)
- Consider that your villain is (probably) still human.
- Even if they aren’t human in the technical sense, they probably still have human emotions. Give your character depth by exploring their sense of morality and where they came from. Why do they think what they’re doing is acceptable. Do they think it’s acceptable? What happened that lead them up to this point of villainy?
- Explore your villain’s relationship with the other characters.
- Are they closely connected with your hero and the hero’s friends? Are they in no way related? What did the good characters do to get on the villain’s bad side? How deep does your villain’s anger or hatred for your hero run? Do they hate them at all, or are they doing what they’re doing for another reason? Are the things that your villain is doing a direct result of the hero’s actions, or was there another cause?
- Decide what the end result of the villain’s actions will be.
- You have one of two very basic routes this can take: your villain can either defeat or be defeated by the hero. The hero also has one of two routes (if they defeat the villain): they can defeat them by force and kill/imprison/etc. them, or they can “convert” them to the good side. How will this decision affect your villain? How will it affect the overall story? How will it affect the other characters? What will the long-term effects be?
- Their motivations must be believable.
- Too often the villain comes off as cheesy or unsatisfying because there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for them to be acting against the main character. Their actions and motivations should be just as definitive and interesting as any other character’s. Try to avoid falling into the trap of “sworn revenge” for no good reason–or, even worse, copping out by saying the villain is “just crazy”.