Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Villains to the Rescue

Villains. What is up with those nasty guys and gals who always make trouble for the hero and heroine? Standing defiantly in the way of true love...wanting to rule the world...or destroy the world...or just kill, maim and pillage. Blackmail? Murder? Mayhem? Just good clean fun, mate.

Yeah. Right.

Actually, villains ARE fun in an evil megalomaniac sort of way. Who else gives you the opportunity to live vicariously through the dark side while still ensuring a "happily ever after" for the good guys? Besides the obvious conflict factor they add to a story, villains can really stretch your writing an character development skills. Grey villains--ones that have redemption potential-- are especially fun to write because their journey may arc over several books. Yep everybody luvs a villain.

Things to remember while writing your bad guy:

1. Know your villain at least as well as you know your hero. Love your hero? Then give him a worthy opponent complete with goals, motivation and conflict--one that he can knock heads or trade fisticuffs with. A villain can expose your hero's flaws, reveal backstory or help define character. (I mean, is it truly easy for the hero to forgive and forget?)

2. Villains are heroes with a different point of view. Their actions are justified in their own mind and the reader only knows as much or as little as you (the ominpotent author) shows them. If you've read the book or seen the play Wicked! then you know what I'm talking about. Suddenly that perfect world filled with wonderful people gets cast in a whole new light because you're looking through the villains eyes. Enlightening, for sure.

3. Not all villains are created equal. Villians are like stones you throw into a calm pool of water. The darker the bad guy, the larger the stone. Does your villain barely make a ripple or create a tidal wave? Make the character fit the chaos. Villains run the gamut from simple antagonist (Deep-seeded hatred is not necessary just opposition to the hero) to the classic villian archetype. (Hurt others for personal gain? No problem!)

While some classic villains can be considered stagnant in their nature---merely repeating their role as hero's foil over and over again, my personal favorites will grow, learn and sometimes change...for the good. A grey villian redeemed gives an author a unique opportunity -- to tell a story from both sides. And I admit to being a sucker for a change of heart. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

So, have you hugged your villain today?




  1. Hey Talia, I'm right there with you about villains being heroes from a different point of view. From the moment I saw Spike go from "Big Bad" to "saving the world" I was all melty. From that time I've always wanted my villains to eventually at a future time and place, turn good.

  2. Yup, and I find that transition thrilling to read or watch when done well.

    Thanks, Zoe!!


  3. #2 is the most important one to me when I create villains. Saves them from being stereotypes!

  4. "Villains are heroes with a different point of view."

    Not that is a profound statement. Great post!