What makes a good villain for writing?

Discussion in 'Writing' started by Fred Gallney, Dec 30, 2007.

  1. Fred Gallney

    Fred Gallney The Writer of Fantasy

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    Some of you may think I'm contridicting myself with the title of this thread. "What makes a good villain?" Now, I don't mean what makes a villain "good", as that is not the purpose a villain. :D I mean is what makes a good villain "evil" and acceptable in a story?

    My opinion is a villain that is pretty much pure evil, such as Lord Voldemort, Morgoth, Sauron, The Dark One (wheel of time), Torak (Belgariad), Darth Vader, Palpatine (Darth Sidious) and the likes of those.

    Why? Because they strike fear into your heart at their menacing and evil appearance, and because they don't have any remorse or pity. They are the embodiment of evil, the heart of the dark.

    That's the sort of villain I aim to create in my epic fantasy series (more info in the "Progress" thread, coming soon)

    What about the rest of you, what sort of villains do you include in your writing?
     
  2. Malik

    Malik New Member

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    I think the most interesting villains are the ones with a human side. The antihero villain. Any of the villains in Die Hard come to mind -- we just finished watching this. (It's a Christmas movie, after all. :D ) The Mongolian-looking mercenary sneaking a candy bar while waiting to cap the SWAT team, or the mercenary who flips out when his brother is killed and keeps getting more and more P.O.'d at Bruce Willis screwing up their plan, or even Alan Rickman himself in all his beautiful, flawed, glory. Weakness in some form -- some unforeseen form -- makes them seem all the more possible, and that, IMO, makes a really scary villain.

    The villain in my book isn't particularly evil; he's a self-serving prick who finds himself in a position where killing off the protagonists is in his best interest.

    In my second book, there is a villain who is truly, Caligula-in-Camelot, kill-you-for-the-laugh, psycho evil. He was fun to write. He throws the aforementioned villain (who survives the first book and appears in the entire series) into sharp relief.
     
  3. Bluestar

    Bluestar Voracious Reader

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    I like villains that are not evil for evil. The villain in the project I'm working on is a mostly decent guy trying to save humanity at all cost.
     
  4. Fred Gallney

    Fred Gallney The Writer of Fantasy

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    Yes. I must say you two are part of the majority that prefer "misguided" characters who aren't pure evil. I can understand where you're coming from as well. :cool:

    But for me, in an epic fantasy series, it always has awed me where there is the "Umtimate Good Side" verses the "Ultimate evil side". And as a result, in my fantasy series, that is what i hope to catch in my outstretched hand - (figure of speech :D )
     
  5. Malik

    Malik New Member

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    Cool. Make it work.
     
  6. Power to the J

    Power to the J Catacomb Kid

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    I like bad guys that could be good guys, but they make bad choices. Also, I hate when the bad guy is out to destroy the world for no apparent reason. I think it's important to have a bad guy who could possibly be a good guy, and a good guy that could possibly be a bad guy. What divides them is what choices they make.

    Good luck with your "ultimate battle". That's a real original idea that's never been tried before.:rolleyes:
     
  7. Fred Gallney

    Fred Gallney The Writer of Fantasy

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    Lol, 'course "ultimate"battle has been done about a million times before.

    But...Voldy, Sauron, ect were out to gain domaince accross the world - to be the most powerful - even godly. But they are pitiless towards others.

    Of course, there'll be other bad guys with the hope of one day being "good".
     
  8. Expendable

    Expendable infomaniac

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    There are many different types of villian. The question is what are the goals of your villian? Or have they already achieved them?

    I like a villian that's intelligent and ruthless in their determination. Being clever enough to manipulate others into seeing things their way is great. Using the protagonists to further their own goals is good too.

    But really, what makes for a good hero makes for a good villian, it's just in the goals and how they go about achieving them.
     
  9. Triceratops

    Triceratops Browser

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    Give your evil character a motivation for his cruelty, and by that I mean bringing out some type of identifiable human quality or weakness. Evil for pure evil's sake is rather groundless and two-dimensional. He/she might be hell on earth, but we can understand or relate to a cruel person who might adore pigeons and go out of their way to feed or rescue them.

    Tri
     
  10. Power to the J

    Power to the J Catacomb Kid

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    I know. I was being sarcastic. It was my way of suggesting that your story is written where the line between hero and villain is hard to see, rather than the cliched ultimate bad guy plot.
     
  11. Fred Gallney

    Fred Gallney The Writer of Fantasy

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    I think that a villain that strikes fear into your heart at the very sight of them is the best sort of villain you could wish for. Their motivation (in most cases) is for power and the rise of the Dark Order. They might even want to play the Creator and try and create objects from nothing, which is what Melkor/Morgoth did in Tolkien's Silmarillion.

    Or the Dark One from the Wheel of Time.

    I absolutely adore books with those kind of villains.

    I'll tell you a little secret: For my main villain in my epic fantasy series, he was once human...
     
  12. Power to the J

    Power to the J Catacomb Kid

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    It's your book, I just wont like it.
     
  13. Michael B

    Michael B Doomfarer

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    I go for villains that are very much like normal people, but am flawed and/or twisted. The sort of character whom there is only a very small veneer of difference between them and ourselves. The most scary bit about them is just how close they are to "normal" people.
     
  14. goldhawk

    goldhawk aurea plectro

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    If you want a scary villain, make him enigmatic. Consider Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs". He was scary because you could never figure out everything he was thinking. He was always planning something that and you knew not what. Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear.

    Also, you can take another page from the movie and have the villain present your hero with a moral dilemma. When Clarice Starling first asks Hannibal for help, he says he'll tell her everything he knows if she sets him free: capture one killer by freeing another. From that point on, you know the everything Hannibal says will in some way add him in gaining his freedom, you just don't know how. Choosing between good and evil is easy. Having your hero decide between two evils, that's interesting.
     
  15. kater

    kater Filthy Assistants!

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    Depth and ambiguity work best for me, a villain who is so simply for the sake of it, just strikes me as pointless. I like the grey characters who can go either way, or one whose actions seem justified yet can be construed in several ways depending on perspective - Jon Shannow is a good example of what I mean. Ultimately though - why have a villain? Many of the best f&sf series to my mind don't define things so simplistically - Erikson, Peter Hamilton, Bakker, Stover all avoid the need to have something so cookie cutter clear and that's when it works best for me.
     
  16. Fred Gallney

    Fred Gallney The Writer of Fantasy

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    Someone made a point here. Too lazy to see who, but they were quite correct: Haveing a hero choose between two evils. make them fall to the dark side out of necessity. That is a good idea. :cool:

    Wow, I seem to be one of a kind. That's amazing, how I am the only one loves the Super evil villains like Voldemort, and The Dark one, and Morgoth. I feel extremely special now. :)
     
  17. Hellsfire

    Hellsfire Registered User

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    I like the characters that were once villains but then become heroes and even friends with the good guys. Although they still have some tendencies to do things the old way. I can think of about half a dozen shows that have done this but when it comes to books, I can't.

    I guess for books, I don't actually like villains. I prefer the protagonist to struggle with himself and what he does and his inner feelings than anything else. I think the problem is that things can't be told in books so easily. If the POV had to do with the villain then it would be his book instead of the hero's. Off the top of my head, I can only think of King's Randall Flagg as a great villain. His demise was extremely crappy but he made for a great character in the 6 books, not to mention the shoot offs he was in.
     
  18. goldhawk

    goldhawk aurea plectro

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    I was talking about the villain forcing such a dilemma on the hero but it works equally well for the villain.

    Another thing you may have noticed about these types of villains is that they all work through henchmen: Voldemort used many included a book and his younger self; Morgoth uses Sauron and balrogs; Sauron used Saruman and the Nazgul; the Dark One had half-men and the Forsaken; Palpatine (Darth Sidious) had Darth Vader. The point is that the ultimate evil was kept hidden from the audience. The audience has to figure out what it was planning through the actions of the henchmen.

    And by having the hero only kill the henchman, you can write a sequel ;)
     
  19. Fred Gallney

    Fred Gallney The Writer of Fantasy

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    Yes. The Ultimate evil are pretty much cowards, or don't think their opponants are worthy for a straight confrontation by the suprer villain.
     
  20. Power to the J

    Power to the J Catacomb Kid

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    That's quite a cliche. I think you'd be better off saying that evils tend to be cocky, if they have their power. Lust for power is a reason many villains exist. I think that cockiness is a fantastic flaw to put into your villains, unless your still going for the trope approach.