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Creating a Credible Villain


Renee Stevens

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Creating a Credible Villain


When creating a villain for your story, there are many things that need to be considered. Villains are not ALL bad. While they will have mostly flaws, they most likely will also have something about them that is good. This could be anything. A serial killer could also be a devoted family man. Your villain could be the go-to guy of the neighborhood, the one who watches the neighbor’s dog while they’re on vacation.

When creating your villain, you need to decide your villain’s depth of evilness. Some plots will require your villain to have more depth and loftier goals. If the goal is complete domination, then chances are your villain is going to have to be more complex, more evil. If the goal is to simply make everyone’s life miserable, your villain could be someone who is just a bully. A school bully who takes younger kids’ lunch money, or a corporate CEO who fires people for a single minor mistake. Make sure the degree of evilness is relevant to the plot of your story. Also, keep in mind, that the more demented your villain is, the more likely he will be to succeed in what he sets out to do.

Another thing to think of is, unless of course your villain is a demon that from the time of birth was evil, or a robot that was created to destroy a world, chances are that there is something in their past that was the turning point for them. What was this point for them? Maybe they watched their parents or spouse be brutally murdered. Maybe they were bullied in their teenage years. Be creative, but make this turning point be something that is believable. Whatever this point is, it's going to be the driving force behind your villain.

When creating your villain, you need to decide what the villain’s purpose is. What is his overall goal? Does he focus on people like your hero and just set out to thwart them? Or does he hatch plots and set forth to make his goals a reality while the hero’s job is to thwart him? Essentially, the question here is: who is trying to do the thwarting?

Once you have all of this, you need to decide what the outcome is going to be. Is your villain going to be evil until the end, by rejecting redemption, or does he end up being redeemed somehow? There should always be a chance of redemption, so you need to think of that throughout the story, because you will need to plant things throughout the story that show he is redeemable, especially if you plan to redeem him. Otherwise, a villain just suddenly becoming a good guy, it’s not going to believable to your readers and may leave them feeling confused at the end of your story.

Think also, about what fears and weaknesses your villain has. These are what is going to allow your hero to win in the end, if that is your ultimate goal. Even if you are going to have your villain win in the end, everyone has some sort of weakness. It might not even be something that the villain will readily admit to, but these are things that you can use throughout the story for the villain to overcome. If you are going to allow your hero to win in the end, then these are things that he will be able to exploit to ultimately win the day.

In the end, how you create your villain is up to you, but the above guidelines will help to create a believable villain. A couple other things to keep in mind are: your villain doesn’t have to lose every battle, your villain may hold a view that others can sympathize with, and with the exception of demons and things like them, many villains will have some good qualities as well as bad. Your villain is going to drive the story as much, if not more than, your hero.

Good luck with creating your villain!!!

I would like to invite all Mentors and Mentees to share an example of a part of this lesson. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!
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How's this:

 

I have one real villain in my story: Tim in Hot'n Cold. I think he is complex and absolutely not straight forward. He becomes crucial part of the story and I think I managed to make him quite loathsome character. He is revealed to be the best friend of the lead character, Aleksi, a drug dealer and eventually even a date-rapist. Tim violates his best friends trust and almost destroyes Jaime, the boyfriend of Aleksi.

 

Before the story ended, I twisted the plot around and played with reader's feelings, making them see Tim's other side, his motivations and why he was such a screw up guy. In the very end I wanted readers to feel sympathy for him. He is my one of my favourite characters of all my boys.

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That's really good Maria! I'm glad that you were able to show different sides to your villain! Just out of my own curiousity, did you get many thoughts from your readers on what they thought of Tim? And how showing the other side made them feel about him?

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That's really good Maria! I'm glad that you were able to show different sides to your villain! Just out of my own curiousity, did you get many thoughts from your readers on what they thought of Tim? And how showing the other side made them feel about him?

 

Yes I did Posted Image

 

Some readers wanted to drop him from a roof top, they hated his character SO MUCH. People got really agitated by him, they did suspect Tim was a bad boy and up to something, they just never saw it coming how low he would go. When I did the twist, I got quite a lot feedback that said it was incredible that I managed to make the readers feel for Tim. Some were blown away with the mixed emotions towards him. They wanted to hate him but couldn't. Even some of the biggest Tim-haters showed empathy.

 

What Tim did was absolutely horrible, but I wanted to try out if I could create a villain that would not be one-dimensional. I wanted there to be real issues that explaned why he was the way he was. I wanted to make readers feel compassion, I wanted them to almost forgive him.

 

The readers' reactions actually did go exactly by the script I planned. Posted Image I'm quite proud of that.

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Why are villains always named Tim? Posted Image

 

You're definitely right about demons, though sometimes, especially in eastern lore, demons themselves aren't necessarily evil. Sesshomaru from InuYasha, for example, isn't evil, though he does act as an antagonist at the beginning of the manga/anime. In my story, The Sorcerous Prince, there is a group of demons that aren't necessarily evil, though most of the demons are evil incarnate. I'm also planning to write a half-demon into the series who struggles with evil but ultimately because a fierce defender of good. Right now I'm recharging my battery by reading a good story or two, but I'm going to be digging into SP quite soon as well as starting another series. Posted Image

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Great to hear you're going to be writing agian, Tim.

 

I can assure you that none of my villains are called Tim, or are likely to be :)

 

As for Maria's Tim, I have to say that i was one of the ones who wanted to throw him off a roof. I really invested in Jaime and Aleksi and when TIm did the dirty I wanted to feed him to sharks.

 

It was with great reluctance that I was FORCED to give the bast*** erm, guy sympathy at the end. But I did and I do think he redeemed himself, if not in Hot'n'Cold then in the sequel.

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I'd give The Shrouded One from my story The Woman's Game.

 

She is pure evil when she is the shrouded character; but when she is her alter ego she shows nothing but love.

 

She essentially isnt human so had to learn everything from scratch from her 'mother' figure. But she was then possessed by an evil spirit from the mayan period; and basically everything went downhill and she was hellbent on taking over the world. But she becomes more and more physically weak as the story goes on and is eventually killed off. But then I have the ending where everything returns to the first scene of the book; where everything is normal again :)

 

I love her as a villain :D

 

My other character I would give is Pharzuph from Trust me...

 

She is an evil character; who has developed alot. Enough that I wrote one of my anthologies about her. I think she is brilliant. A mad creature who has always loved but never had that love reciprocated and it made her cold. A bittersweet villain in my eyes...

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Why are villains always named Tim? Posted Image

 

You're definitely right about demons, though sometimes, especially in eastern lore, demons themselves aren't necessarily evil. Sesshomaru from InuYasha, for example, isn't evil, though he does act as an antagonist at the beginning of the manga/anime. In my story, The Sorcerous Prince, there is a group of demons that aren't necessarily evil, though most of the demons are evil incarnate. I'm also planning to write a half-demon into the series who struggles with evil but ultimately because a fierce defender of good. Right now I'm recharging my battery by reading a good story or two, but I'm going to be digging into SP quite soon as well as starting another series. Posted Image

 

That's a good point Tim. Demons are seen as evil, but even they might have "soft spots" so to speak. Like, maybe you have a demon that terrorizes everyone he/she comes across but yet they love Puppy's. And no, not for food Posted Image. Or you might have a demon that is half demon/half angel. I know I've read about one of them somewhere, but can't for the life of me remember where. A good example in my opinion is in the movie Little Nicky (think that's the actual name of the movie) . The main character, Little Nicky is the son of the devil and the son of an angel. While he is sometimes evil from being raised by the devil, he's constantly at war with himself, because of the angel side which he doesn't know. When he finds out, he works even harder to redeem himself and rid himself of his "evilness".

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I love this part and I'll tell you why.

My other character I would give is Pharzuph from Trust me...

 

She is an evil character; who has developed alot. Enough that I wrote one of my anthologies about her. I think she is brilliant. A mad creature who has always loved but never had that love reciprocated and it made her cold. A bittersweet villain in my eyes...

 

To me, this shows that part about most villains don't start "evil". There is something that happens that changes them. In this instance, it is never having her love returned. Thank you so much for sharing this Johnathan!

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I'm not fond of (or even good at) of writing villains. I don't like writing about people who are doing mean things! But one of my favorite villains is Rajar from the NTS trilogy. He doesn't really come into play until the last book, but he was interesting because he did some horrible horrible things to people that the readers loved, but the readers also got to see why he did what he did, and by the time the series ended, some of the readers felt he was as much a victim of Keith and Elizabeth as Jordan and Brandon were. I loved the feedback I got from him. Readers would tell me that they thought he was cool, then they absolutely HATED him, and then they started to like him again. I personally think that the consequences surrounding him were so ambiguous that I almost hesitate to call him a villain. But I think he suits the mode of thwarting the hero...he almost destroyed the main character Brandon. I would like to create more villain similar to this one, that have more sides than just being an evil person :)

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Well I recently was told that I was sadistic and my story was as well. This was Bonds Unbroken, which admittedly, is rather dark in places. I mean... one guy plans to eat another guy and does take a bite out of him. That is pretty messed up, even if they are partially animals. It was my mind that came up with my insane villian in that story and I meant for him to be considered absolutely reprehensible and sadistic- so in a way, the flame was actually a compliment, lol. I made sure he had no redeeming qualities so that another main character would be able to have this absolute need to kill him in reaction to his misdeeds. Fear is strong, but hate can be stronger.

 

Anyway, that worked because the story was short. If more of the story had featured the villian other than the single scene he actually appeared in, I don't think it would have worked that way. Length of the story, and how much 'face time' your villian gets definitely impacts the portrayal you have to make of them. The more we see them in the story, the more we need to see OF them, ie. their personality, motivations, goals. . .

 

Also, you don't have to have an absolute 'villian' in your story. The technical term is antagonist. You don't even have to have just one. If you think about it, the antagonist is the character that allows your main character (protagonist) to struggle, oppose, or work around them. Without some sort of issue, problem, or conflict, most stories would fall relatively flat. You can play with that to some extent and the antagonist can run the gamut from a bully that your MC wins over at the end to a murdering jaguar who takes a bite of you so he can tell you how tasty you are and how he plans to eat you up one bite at a time (and not in a sexy voice).

 

One way I've explored this, other than being a sadist, :P was to go a completely opposite route. I had a story with 2 main characters and one of their best friends. There was no villian but there was a struggle. In the story, the protagonists were the antagonists. They both had to face the roadblocks and misconceptions they put in their own heads as to why the other character wouldn't be interested in them before they could come together. It was relatively simple and obviously a very short story, but it was just another way of playing with the 'rules' of plot and character building.

 

Exploring how you write different characters and plots will help you grow as an author. Stretch the imagination and come up with different antagonists in the same story of different levels of 'villian-ness', write a story without a villian and still give it a conflict, try creating a villian we love to hate and one we hate to hate but have to because of their actions anyway. The great thing about writing fiction is that its all imagination. The only limits are to what you can make up and make others believe!

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Most of my works don't include a villain per say. There are situations that people work for where you might dislike them but they are working from their societies norms, which aren't ours. However then there are the villains in my fairy tales. Face it, if you are rewriting Snow White or Sleeping Beauty you need your villain. The main thing is I can't just the Evil Queen or the Wicked Fairy, I have to give the reader some reason to understand them. In Snow White it vanity that is her down fall. You see her working with creams and powders trying to hold off the march of time. In Sleeping Beauty Surprise it isn't so much that the fairy wasn't invited to the christening as much as it was she felt she had been passed over by King Lou who she had an unrequited love for. I think you have to show the flaws in cracks in the armor for a villain as much as you do the hero. The villain might be better at hiding their soft spots but they still have them.

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