We’re talking about villains this week and we’re going to looking at super villains next week. After that we’re just going to take a look at foils and the different types of characters you can find in literature. So just when you thought you’d be done with characters they’re going to keep going. Let’s dive into villains first though.
Here’s our definition of a villain:
Villain: is the character that is working actively against the protagonist. They’re usually a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.
This character is the jerk of the story. He or she is going to be the ones we wish would die or get eliminated. They’re more intense than our antagonist is. They’re smarter, more cunning, and really want to take over the world or kill our hero.
As with most characters there are different archetypes that they follow. Here are the ones for the villains:
- The Mustache Curler: He or she is completely over-the-top, my name tag says villain + it’s my middle name, I am a villain. You know they’re the villain. They are always taunting and challenging the hero. He or she is a flat. simple character with not to no background. Their plots always come undone in the end and they never win. You see this type of character a lot in children’s stories.
- The Ancient Evil: This villain is released by someone doing something they knew they shouldn’t have done. Or they did unknowingly on some sort of sacred ground. This villain just wants to destroy everything and nothing and no one can reason with it. You’re going to need someone do amazing feats to beat this character. You’ll find this a lot in epic fantasy (though it has fallen out of favor in modern literature) and you’ll see it in comic books.
- The Bully: You’ll find this character in a lot of children and YA fiction. They challenge the main character by making their lives miserable. They won’t necessarily threaten the life of the main character. They can be a sub-villain or the main one. The main use for this villain is to show growth in the main character’s life. Think Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter.
- The Mastermind: He/She’s always one step ahead of our clever hero. This villain doesn’t need to get their hands dirty, but they will do so if it benefits their plan. They want to match their wits against a worthy adversary – it’s a huge thrill for them. However, this is the only thing that starts the downfall of this villain. They find someone who can out think them every once in a while – or when it comes down to the wire. This villain is pretty widespread through literature, but you need a hero that is more than willing to pit their wits against the villains. Think Loki, Professor Moriarty or Megamind.
- The Dark Lord: This is a classic case of good versus evil, but not like the ancient evil. This villain is a contemporary of the hero or a generation older. This villain has his/her own organization that they head – so they’ll have henchmen and the like to do their dirty work. His henchmen will usually be used to “soften up” or harass the hero. (Think Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes or Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter.)
- The Mirror: This villain is exactly like your hero in everything (even looks to a degree), but ideals. In the final battle of wills the hero and villain will bring their ideals into the fight. With this villain it is the heroism that sets them apart. Professor Moriarty is a great example of this.
- Someone Else’s Hero: They’re not really fighting against the hero directly. They’re fighting for a cause that’s opposing the hero’s cause. The villains cause followers are going to hate the hero as well. You could even switch the roles of the villain and hero and be able to argue for both points of view. Magneto from X-Men is a great example of this.
There are also some basic villain types here:
- The Traitor: He/she betrays the ones who trusted him or her or their country. They turn their backs on their beliefs.
- The Matriarch/Patriarch: They see themselves as the head of the family or group.
- The Tyrant: This villain doesn’t take crap from anyone – you do as you’re told or pay the price. They do not have any qualms about killing someone.
- The Outcast: Shunned and exiled from the community, they’re getting their revenge.
- The Devil: True evil at its worst, the devil villain has no good side. Or you can take this literally and the villain is the devil himself.
- The Evil Genius: Highly intelligent, this villain sees him/herself as superior to all others. They’re also going to have a bit of that genius backing them up. They’re going to be smart and they may even come up with their own crazy inventions and plots.
- The Schemer: This villain loves making diabolical plans and carrying them out. Whether they work or not is another story….
- The Lunatic: Just plain crazy, this villain may not have any real motivation, but the crazy conspiracies he or she “sees.” Their beliefs could also just be warped due to some industrial accident. (Basically think about The Joker here.)
- The Fanatic: This villain takes strong beliefs to the max, truly believing that he or she is doing what’s best for all. A really good example of this would be to think about the Criminal Minds episodes where they have a religious fanatic holding people hostage for their sins or killing them for their sins.
Putting all of this together, what makes a good villain? Here are my suggestions:
- You don’t have to follow an archetype or villain stereotype – try something new. I’m not a huge fan of cliches. So mix it up and make it interesting. Or put a new spin on a tried and true archetype. Or combine villain types and make them an even more daunting foe.
- He’s convinced he’s the good guy. He’s going to need to be dedicated to his cause- whatever that cause may be. It’s going to give him the motivation to act and challenge your hero into fighting against him. This also what’s going to make him stop at nothing to get what he wants.
- He/she has likable qualities. He’s not going to be entirely evil. Loki, for example, is really funny and it endears him to the audience. Loki also has traits, such as feeling inferior to his brother, Thor; that allow us to sympathize with him to a degree. In fact, your villain can even display acts of kindness for genuine reasons. Loki, in the second Thor movie, even teams up with his brother to save his brother’s love interest, but also to help save Asgard.
- Your audience should like him/her. This seems a little counter intuitive, but hear me out. I hate Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter, but I also loved it when she was in a scene. She was just a great character to hate. The reason I loved to hate her so much is she is that person that I’ve known before in may actual life. She’s that person you want to see get there’s in the end because they have abused their power.
- He/she is merciless — even to the innocent. They don’t care who they are going to hurt in their quest to get what they want or for their vision to come true. Voldemort never cared that he was killing muggles or mud bloods – they didn’t fit into his perceptions of what the world should be like.
- They need to be a great match for your hero. They’ve got to be as fast, smart, strong, etc., if not more so, than your hero. If they don’t challenge them at all then what’s the point of having them in the story – your hero or your villain. He has to have some begrudging respect from both your characters and your readers. Your villain is also a foil, essentially, for your hero — so they may have a lot in common, but your villain’s compass isn’t going to point to a moral north.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Let me know if I’ve missed anything on this list or who you think the ultimate villain is.
Until next week!