View Full Version : What makes an character evil?
May 22nd, 2002, 06:12 AM
What makes an character evil? Worthy of the title, The Bad Guy. Or Mr. Naughty, or even Dr. Evil?
So how do you write a villian? What makes them bad?
Is it their actions? Is it the motivational factors behind their actions? Is it because their laugh goes something like this: Muwahahaha...?
Specificaly I'm speaking about Fantasy(Sci-Fi the bad guy tends to just be another person/foreign species bent on world domination)(Then again there's plenty of Fantasy badies who are out to concur the world too - Sorry Sci-Fi freaks)
So how do you write an evil person?
I ask because I'm kicking around some ideas, and ofcourse my story has the obligatory arch nemesis, but when I sit down to write him he's little more than another likable jovial guy, who just happens to not agree with what the main character is doing.
Also, typicaly the bad guy gets fewer pages of the story, yet they are a major factor in the plot and ultimately why the author wrote the dang book in the first place. Why is that? Is the evil-doer less important?
Okay, that was just a huge amount of questions(although arguably I did just regurgitate the same questions over a few times)
May 22nd, 2002, 08:56 AM
I'd say that someone is "evil" when others perceive him/her as evil, i.e. when you're writing from their POVs. E.g., in Tolkien's LotR we perceive Sauron as evil b/c we see him throught the "good guys'" eyes. Tolkien does use Omniscient POV, but only from the good side. The evil side is "clouded in darkness, mysteroulsy bend on world conquest". Exactly like we perceive the "enemy" in war. Sauron is the "Enemy", almost nameless, shapless, and "evil".
When you flip the story from a bad guys' POV, you start to understand him/her and wonder sometimes if they're right in some of their opinions. That's perspective. It naturaly works that way.
So, if you want a "mysteriously evil" person, I'd suggest to keep them in "darknees" as Tolkien. Else, there is always going to be *some* reason behind their actions, something to think they are "right".
May 22nd, 2002, 11:11 AM
It IS an interesting topic.
By my opinion, a bad guy is who you say is one. He doesn't have to be a bad guy in the beginning, but he could turn.
I'm having a problem with this as well. The arch-nemesis is really hard to write if you're not evil yourself http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif
I haven't got any in my book yet, but he is turning slowly.
Anyway, he should do nothing that normal people find good and right. Oh, and another good way to make the reader hate this guy is to make the hero powerless agains it. So they'll go "You barsteward. I would have knocked the bastard out" Like Regal in Hobb's Assassins. So far he has to be my favourite villain.
May 22nd, 2002, 12:06 PM
I think that the most interesting villains are those that the reader understands in spite of disliking or hating. The bad guy's motives should be logical, where the reader can say, "Yeah, he's not right or good, but I can see where I would do that if I wanted to rule the world."
"Anyway, he should do nothing that normal people find good and right." I'm not sure that this is always true. An effective villain might be someone who has a few admirable qualities that make the evil ones even more awful--you almost hate yourself for finding something good in this guy!
May 22nd, 2002, 06:08 PM
...he's little more than another likable jovial guy, who just happens to not agree with what the main character is doing.
Actually Lifino, you got something there. Imagine a villain who you have a hard time hating because he's so... easy-going, jovial, etc. That would go beyond the cliche of the 'Dark Lord of Evil' prevalent in fantasy genres.
'Course to make him evil, you make him do really bad stuff but it's all done in-- like what you said-- disagreement of the main character. If ever you get a chance, look up Machiavelli's book, 'The Prince'. That's the basis of the saying, "the end justifies the means". Work it around and you'll come out with a villain you love to hate but you'll actually sympathize.
(Hmmm, now that's a thought... http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/wink.gif)
May 23rd, 2002, 03:58 AM
A good subject. Credible bad guys are hard to write effectively. Too many end up just being stereo-typical psycho- or socio- paths with no real motivation other than being cruel.
If you're writing about an arch nemesis as opposed to a nut case, one of the keys for me is for this character to be totally comfortable with their actions and motivations. To them, their actions aren't evil but simply the best way of getting the job done, whatever that is. Everyone is misguided or wrong but them... Everyone is free to act in the same way as them but they all choose not to... Anyway, you get the picture.
I feel this to be a critical distinction between credibility and stereo-type.
Remember, as has been mentioned above, evil and good are matters of opinion based on viewpoint and moral position.
May 23rd, 2002, 04:03 AM
If you want an example of a villian with human emotions and motivations, you should read Terry Goodkind. His "Evil Guy" is the Emperor Jagang. Jagang does some evil stuff, but to him the 'end justifies the means'.
Jagang has clear motivation for doing what he does. We see what he does as wrong or evil, but he see's only the rightousnes(sp?) of his cause.
May 23rd, 2002, 04:28 AM
the villain has to be a "menace to society" and to his surroundings, no matter his character or motivation, i think. everyone around him is in danger and all feel threatened. the most obvious reason for this is that he is also an egoist, which generally, most bad guys are. i would write him so that the reader actually feels disgusted and afraid when going over the lines which describe him. i'd probably give him a specific way of talking and making facial expressions and stuff like that. some mystery around him is required in a way that allows the people who read about him to possibly guess at some motives or hystory behind the guy, but as soon as you really give them something that can justify what he's doing, he will cease to be a true villain. one of the best bad guys ever, in my oppinion, is either boba or jango fett from the star wars movies. especially jango in the episode II because i cheered so much when he died and i think that the thing the reader has to wish for the evil dude when he reads the story is death. and feel really good when it comes for him.
[This message has been edited by Ashgan (edited May 23, 2002).]
May 23rd, 2002, 11:41 AM
Jango fett was not a very good villain I don't think. I didn't see him as a villain, but as a person in employ of a bad guy. He could've been good.
But Count Duku was. He was perfect as a villain.
I love villains that you intensely hate. Yes, the part about them being good in their opinion is right, but they should do bad with such a perfection that you should just hate him with an intesnity.
And if you feel that way against a book character, then you know it is a perfect villain.
May 23rd, 2002, 01:33 PM
I am compelled to respond, only because I write better villains than anything else I imagine.
Here's my take.
A good villain is essential. Weather it be a wicked mage or a mother in law... a focus of resentment is needed to create drama.
I think the most distinguishing characteristic of the villain is their selfishness... while the hero goes out of his or her way to help others, the villain, no matter his pursuit, does it from selfish motives. Selfishness is indeed something we can all relate to, yet despise at the same time.
It is smart to give your villain dimensions that the reader can like... but then twist that admirations neck off by showing just how despicable the guy is... make the reader say... "Ughh, I actually liked him at one point!"
That is the great villains strongest point! His ability to manipulate! He needs to be able to fool people into following him, or trusting him... just so he can crush their naive hope. The great villain thinks only of himself at all times, all decisions are for his own gain... even the seemingly selfless acts are really for his benefit... maybe he is in love... but his love is a love that is self concerned... he WANTS that person, so he must have her...
The villain always delights in what he does... yet conscience is an excellent factor to employ if your going to make him human... just enough self loathing of his actions can make for a well developed "Bad Guy" of course... I generally prefer the villain without a conscience, as they are so much more fun to kill off...
Anyway... that's my nickel and a half, keep the change
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