How to Write the Perfect Villain
A good villain is hard to come by. He can’t just be bad, sadistic or scary. If you don’t hate the villain, he’s probably not a good example of one. Sometimes it’s good to have a villain who inspires sadness instead of hate. He can’t be simple or easy to defeat. If you don’t give him enough attention, he’ll be forgettable. To make a good villain takes the same consideration it takes to make a good hero. It’s about balance. Before you worry about how powerful he is or what his capabilities or resources are, you need to look at deeper issues.
Here are some factors you need to consider.
Function is a given
What you need to make sure of, of course, is that the villain opposes the hero. He presents one of the obstacles standing between the hero and his goal. But it goes far beyond this. This is simply a function within the story. The next thing you need is build his character.
Makes sure you know what’s good and evil
The most obvious requirement you need in order to create a villain is knowledge of good and evil. You need to know and be absolutely sure of what’s wrong and what’s right. Maybe it sounds too simple but if you didn’t have a clear concept, you’ll make a villain that no one thinks of as a villain. You might even make a story where readers will root for the villain and not the hero!
A questionable moral code
A villain might have a twisted moral code. He might have a different idea about what’s right or have skewed priorities. Heroes tend to place others’ needs before their own, but the villain might do the complete opposite.
However, a better villain would be someone who knows what’s right and wrong, but is willing to cross the line. Antonio del Drago (mythicscribes.com) says that a villain will justify his actions in this case. A sadder sort of villain would be someone who’s inherently good but is driven by something that tortures him to do bad things.
The driving force
Just like you hero needs a reason to pursue his goal, the villain also has to have a reason to oppose the hero. To make it more credible use something that’s realistic. Some traumatic experience is usually good, but sometimes it could be a simple experience that drives the villain. Remember, in the real world some murderers have unbalanced personalities. They have excessive reactions to certain stimuli we would hardly notice. While you do not need to remind the reader continually of this experience, it helps to keep it in mind every time you write about a scene in which he features. The experience made the villain who he is.
The intelligence ratio
Your main villain cannot be stupid, otherwise he would fail against the hero (unless you’re striving for a sort of comical conflict where both characters are incredibly stupid). Intelligence is one of the key requirements in a main villain. It doesn’t mean he won’t make mistakes, but part of the reason he fails is more about his beliefs rather than his intellect.
Give your villain some action
Even if you have these things sorted, they won’t mean anything without action on the part of your villain. Nobody will hate the villain if he doesn’t do something. Part of why we want villains to fail is because of all the bad things they do. Maybe he’s cruel and merciless; that naturally makes a reader want him to fail. He might have some seriously bad plan that you wouldn’t want him to fulfill. So everything he does to reach this goal makes the audience keener for his downfall.
What else is there?
Remember, the villain isn’t just about conflict, which is something a minor character can provide. He’s got to have a reason to do things. He needs to be intelligent, but not perfectly so. His morals need to be atypical. He needs to do bad things otherwise nobody will want him to be stopped. All these issues mainly revolve around the personality of the villain. There other things to consider, however, like what he can do, and what he actually does, and so on. Cover these bases first and then you’ll have the foundation for a perfect villain.
Written by David Hendricks
Image credit: Microsoft Images