Villains need just as much love as heroes — from an author’s point of view at any rate.
To understand the stakes and the obstacles our heroes and heroines have to face we need to understand the villain.
What is it that makes them tick? Just to say they are evil incarnate is not enough.
Our cultural touchstone for the concepts of good and evil is Judeo-Christianity. Even the devil — the very embodiment of evil — is depicted in the Bible as motivated by hatred and jealousy of both God and humanity.
So what fuels the rivalry, the hatred, the jealousy, the bitterness?
That’s the thing which authors need to explore and readers to understand. In it, we are shown their powerful motivating force, their arsenal of mayhem and crucially, the means of their destruction.
There is a seductive power in knowing what motivates our villains – a ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’ perspective.
We may not be fooled by the villain, but there are plenty of other characters willing to be seduced — perhaps even one of the good guys who through betrayal, will provide the set back that causes our heroes and heroines to reassess their actions and tactics.
The most villainous villains know how to turn on the charm — they’re beautiful (the fairest of them all), they say all the right things (when they want something), they know human nature well and know how to manipulate it.
Even the devil is described as an angel of light – see, that sounds nice doesn’t it, why should anyone be afraid of an angel of light?…
To create an compelling villain his motivation has to be clear and unwavering right from the outside. It is his single-minded determination which helps make him formidable.
The full extent of his plans should be meted out during the course of the story. Don’t reveal everything up front, keep us in suspense as the hero and heroine are being kept in suspense. Every James Bond story has 007 following a bread crumb trail of clues until the final showdown with the villain.
Our villain has to know our hero and heroine’s weakness and be prepared to exploit it.
Our heroes, having been torn from their perfectly well-ordered lives will need to learn the villains weakness during the course of the story.
Charming, determined, intelligent — those attributes might apply equally to hero as to villain and that’s why we love to read them.
The fact that the good guy (and gal) wins is just icing on the cake.
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