How to Make Your Villain Domestic but Still Evil
It’s the oxymoron that attracts us. Billowing black
cape, terrifying worldviews, a willingness to make the streets run red with
blood – and you know what would be hilarious? Them trying and failing to make
morning pancakes. You know what would really hit us in the feels? Watching them
show tenderness around a special someone.
Having a villain with a domestic side is lassoing a black hole, and it’s a tantalizing thing to watch. However, anyone who’s indulged in these daydreams with their own villains has probably encountered one very specific issue: it makes them less evil. They lose their edge.
For example, look at Crowley from CW’s Supernatural. This was a guy to be feared at one point; arriving out of nowhere at unexpected times, always playing both sides of the conflict, and you could be certain he would skin anyone necessary to get what he wanted – usually without getting a single drop of blood on his impeccable suit.
Flash forward to recent seasons, and we’ve seen Crowley cry and whimper more times than Dean has died –which is saying something. At first, it was fascinating to discover this powerful character actually had a tender side; and now, when Crowley makes a threat, we’re about as afraid as when any low-level demon makes one. This is because his evil was too compromised. He let himself go.
How can we avoid this mistake with our villains? The answer isn’t making them crush puppies and hate butterflies at every turn; it’s in balancing their core scariness with their softer side – giving them complexity, giving us a bit of “aww,” and making their eventual whiplash back into ‘terrifying’ all the more wonderful.
For this, we’re going to use Epic of Lilith by Ivars Ozols as an example. This book centers on arguably the original female villain – Lilith, the first woman of the Garden of Eden, who got on the “good guys’” bad side by refusing to submit to someone who was clearly her equal. There won’t be any spoilers below, but if you give the book a read (it’s an easy page turner), the points will be driven home stronger.
Plus it’s a book with a great female villain who isn’t objectified (don’t let the cover fool you, seriously) and prose that isn’t full of sexual over- or undertones. Talk about a win, eh?
Here we go.