Villains I’ll admit is not my strong suit, but if there is one thing I know about it’s conflict.
Isn’t that what the villain is for? To create conflict?
While I would love to just ramble on about conflict, that is not what this post about. This post is about Villains… and the conflict they represent.
Villains are a convenient way to put trouble onto your hero’s lap. Stories normally go like this. Villain wants something, hero doesn’t want villain to have something and they end up fighting.
But aside from that obvious conflict there are the internal conflicts that the villain offers as well.
I want to use Harry Potter as an example here because Voldemort offers both external and internal conflict for Harry.-
External because they have to fight him and solve riddles and do all the heroic things that we love them for.
Internal because Harry sees a part of Voldemort in himself, Harry is forced to ask just how good his intentions are and just how much he and Voldemort is alike.
He is given tough choices that involve people’s lives and he’s given the blame for many people’s deaths. These are the kind of conflict that messes with the hero’s head. The sorts of things that make them doubt themselves. This is internal conflict.
So now that you know the roles a good villain plays I think it’s time to go look at the different kinds of villains.
• Unemotional human villain.
• Emotional human villain.
• Unemotional concept villain.
• Emotional concept villain.
Unemotional human villains.
These are some of the greatest villains of all time. Their sole purpose for being a villain can come from emotion but most of the time they are cold and calculating.
When you anger them they stay calm and create a good plan to get back at you.
Often these villains are labelled as psychopaths but they don’t always have to be.
If you plan on creating this kind of villain I suggest you do research on personality types so you can get an idea of the characteristics you want your villain to have.
Emotional human villains.
Despite the fact that these characters are a lot less twisted they can still be great villains and are often very much loved by the internet.
The difference between these and the unemotional is that they act on their emotions a lot like you probably do.
They are also more focused on their emotional needs.
If you tell an unemotional villain that they are a good for nothing they probably won’t care much. Not because they are confidant or anything but just because they don’t care.
But when you tell an emotional villain that they are a good for nothing chances are they will take it to hart and act out on how they feel about it.
Unemotional concept Villain.
A concept villain is not a person but a thing.
It’s not really a single one villain. It’s not always something with a name even it’s just something that your main character or hero has to defeat.
A good example of an unemotional concept villain is an army. The individual men in the army don’t matter much and it’s more about defeating all of them at once.
Why it’s a good example of unemotional is because it isn’t based of emotion. Or at least it isn’t coming over as emotional.
Other good examples of an unemotional villain are a disease or money problems.
Emotional concept villain.
This is also not a person but a thing instead. Where it differs with the unemotional concept villain is that it is based of emotion.
An example would be a mob.
Where soldiers are normally seen as a wall of steel a mob is seen as an angry fire.
So an emotional concept villain is one big group of people or circumstances that is based of emotion.
Other good examples are racism or depression.
How to create a human Villain.
“Every villain is a hero in his own mind.”
Who hasn’t heard that quote before?
This is something that is said so much that it has begun to lose all meaning. Sometimes it reminds you that you need to give your Villain motivation but I want to take it one step further.
Who is your villain?
I’m not asking you what their evil plan is or why they are doing what they are doing. I’m asking you what are the characteristics of your Villain.
Knowing your villain is nearly as important as knowing your main character so ask yourself these questions.
• What was your villains past like?
• What is your Villains present like?
• What does your villain want and why?
• Is there anyone your Villain cares for whether it’s a lover, family or friend.
• Does your Villain have any secrets?
• What does your Villain do for fun?
• Describe how your Villain walks.
I know that last one is a little odd but how people walk says a lot about them and that moment that you see a character simply being himself is when he becomes real to you.
Now you know a bit more about your villain’s personal life, but there is even more you need to put into your villain.
The inability to make friends with your MC.
Your villain and your MC shouldn’t be able to be friends in another life. They should dislike each other and test each other.
Now it’s time to put them next to each other and see how they react.
More questions to ask
• What does your Villain stand for vs. What does your MC stand for?
• What angers your Villain vs. What angers your MC?
• How does your Villain react to anger vs. How does your MC react to anger
• What is your Villains sense of humour vs. What is you MC’s sense of humour.
Draw four boxes and label them fears, flaws quirks and strengths.
Now fill these in with details of your villain.
Preferably give each box about three of each but if you think of more give more as long as you don’t leave any box empty.
This exercise helps you see the villain as someone with their own characteristics instead of just someone who is in the book to oppose your MC.
Turning this character into a Villain.
After answering the questions what was your villain’s past like and what does your villain want you should have some idea of what this villain is going to do and why they are going to do it.
If you don’t, take a few moments to figure that out.
What your MC wants and what your villain wants should always be conflicting.
Now that you know what your Villain wants you need to decide how they are going to try to achieve this.
I talked last week about character goals and just as I said there a goal is not a goal if your character is not doing something to achieve it.
The same goes for your Villain’s plans. Give the plan steps and details.
Brainstorm a couple of things you think your Villain will be doing along the way in the story.
Will the villain kill a side character? Burn down a town? Have a verbal battle with the MC?
Getting some concrete details and steps for your Villain is important because he needs to provide a challenge to your MC which isn’t going to happen if everything he does is half baked and without a plan.
Taking your human Villain from semi evil to EVIL.
While I have no doubt that your villain is scary and would have me quaking in my boots, sometimes you just need that little extra and other times you want to make sure your villain is redeemable.
The unforgivable sins.
People don’t like it when someone is being deliberately cruel but can forgive nearly anything if they think the situation justifies it.
If your reader can see themselves doing the same thing in your villain’s case then there might be a chance of forgiveness.
Now that this has been said the only things most people can’t see themselves doing no matter the circumstance are these two unforgivable sins.
2. Child abuse.
The question that remains is how far is your villain willing to go for what they want?
Where does your Villain draw the line?
What would it take to make them cross it and what would happen if they do?
How to create a concept villain.
A concept villain as I already said isn’t a character but instead something your MC is facing and that stands in their way.
It cannot count as an antagonist since it is not a person.
Do not think these are any less dangerous though, it just takes a little more creativity to get right.
The best way to normally handle a concept villain is to create a human villain to symbolize it.
These are normally distant figures that hardly even know your Hero exists. Some king on top of a throne that symbolizes the suffering of a nation.
Some rebel leader that shows how harsh the world can be.
It can even just be a negative person in your MC’s life that symbolizes the MC’s battle with depression.
These Villains are distant because while they are called the villain they aren’t the thing your MC is really fighting. They are just the end goal.
If they are overthrown then your MC will have won. Not because he has beaten some person but because he has finally brought an end to the problem.
Questions for concept Villains.
• What is your concept?
• Who will be portraying it?
• Why does this person portray the concept?
• How could this concept be beaten?
How does this fit in with my post series?
Last week I covered character goals but as I already said what you MC wants should clash with what your villain wants because that is how you create conflict.
Once you know what your character wants and what is standing in their way you are already halfway there.
Now that I have officially written nearly six A4 pages on villains I really do hope that I helped you in some manner.
Who are some of your favourite villains and why are they your favourite?
Have you ever written any amazing Villains yourself?