Thursday, 5 April 2012

What Every Villain Needs

As writers we're sometimes so preoccupied with making our protagonist tangible enough to jump off the page that we forget about the antagonist. Villains create conflict, therefore they are essential to any good story, and deserve to be fleshed out as much as your hero.

There's nothing more unsatisfying than reading about a bad guy whose only purpose is to be...well bad. Even though he-who-must-not-be-named was truly evil, J.K. Rowling made sure to show how his past explained his cruelty.

So, does your evil doer have the right stuff? Scroll down to see what every villain needs.

1. A diabolical plan. There has to be a reason for their nastiness—being mean isn't enough.

Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians
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2. A mysterious past. People aren't born evil, they're made.

Count Dracula
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3. A slimy sidekick. Usually with dependency issues. However, it's more interesting if their loyalty is from fear, and consequently unreliable.

Scabbers aka Peter Pettigrew with baby Lord Voldemort
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4. An arch nemesis. It's the hero of the story who represents what the villain secretly fears the most.

White Witch from The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe
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5. High tech gadgets/special powers. Okay, not totally necessary. It's cool and it helps raise the stakes against the hero.

The Joker from Batman, The Dark Knight
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6. An irresistible charm. A cool demeanor coupled with a handsome figure always helps.

Mrs. Coulter from The Golden Compass
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There you have it, now go make some bad guys and watch your story explode!

Who are your favorite villains? Cheers!


Tonja Drecker said...

I just saw this and had to read it immediately... I love villains! And yes, these five things make a perfect one.

BR Myers said...

Thanks, Tracy. The list could go on and on...

No One said...

So true. And the pics definitely help. =)

BR Myers said...

Yes, thank goodness for movie adaptations ;)

Kimberlee Turley said...

Love all of these. One thing that I'D sort of add is that every villain needs at least one redeeming quality.

BR Myers said...

Nice. Good call. Thanks, Kimberlee.

Anonymous said...

Ann Coulter was in "The Golden Compass?" GTFO. Might've watched that one if I'd known that. Chick's scarry, just saying.

I would quibble with KT on redeeming qualities. All too often, redeeming qualities read tacked on, a la Hannible Lecter's determination to better/heal/upgrade Clarice but not Will Graham. Of greater concern, for me, is competence. Don't get me wrong, an anti-(uncle?)-hero must have a redeeming quality to open the door to redemption before slamming it on all his/her hopes and dreams, a la Blanche Dubois/Stanley Kowalski. However, above all else, the big-bad must be competent. Which I believe counts as #5.

Crazy (more commonly applied now days than evil) isn't enough. The Joker, contrary to his assertion, has a plan, Voldemort has a plan and Lecter has a (meal) plan.

Happy Easter, all!

BR Myers said...

A meal plan! Ha! I love it. Thanks, Elias.

Sarah Tokeley said...

Villains are awesome. The best ones always believe they are in the right :-)

BR Myers said...

They believe until the dying end...Thanks, Sarah.

Amanda Fanger said...

I like to keep in mind that real, believable villains don't think they're the bad guy. They think they're right too.

Great post - thanks!

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