Writing Excellent Villains Round-Up

Photo credit: Annoying Noises on Flickr
So Halloween is next week, and so is NaNoWriMo, which means now is the perfect time to talk about villains. Right? Right. 

But first, story time. 

Once upon a time, baby writer Ava thought that in order for villains to be truly villainous, they had to be super 666% evil with metaphorical twirling mustaches and maniacal laughing fits that they practiced in their (evil) mirrors. She was convinced that the best bad guys were just that—super dripping-with-evil bad. 

She was wrong. By a lot, really. 

As it turns out, I’ve found that some of the most interesting characters, whether antagonist or protagonists, aren’t completely good or completely evil—they’re gray characters. And so I wrote a post on writing gray characters

It’s also important, when developing and writing your characters, especially if you want them to feel “real,” is to figure out what they want and what their motivation is—something, I think, that’s especially important for protagonists and antagonists. It also helps to know what your characters are afraid of, because yes, even your villain has fears, too. (Or at least they should). 

Finally, I’ve learned along the way that if you don’t love your villain, chances are your readers won’t love him (or even remotely like him), either. 

Also, for fun, here are my top five favorite villains.

Now go forth and write excellent villains! 

What tips do you have for writing great villains? 

Twitter-sized bites:
In preparation for #NaNoWriMo & Halloween, @Ava_Jae shares helpful links for getting your villains right. (Click to tweet)  
Brainstorming your antagonist for an upcoming WIP? Writer @Ava_Jae shares helpful links on writing villains. (Click to tweet)


Robin Red said...

Heroes react to villains, so making mirrors and contrasts between the hero and villain is key, in my opinion. Makes me think of Jeanine from Divergent, how she shares similarities to Tris, but her goals involve killing Tris and people she cares about. It's like looking into a mirror and seeing a twisted reflection.

I like that you used LEGO baddies in both of your villain posts :)

Bolo Yeung said...

Kind of like the joker in the dark knight - he's creepy, you don't want to have anything to do with him and keep at least a 100 miles away from him (which is probably not enough); but you can still admire how well he manoeuvers batman's moves

Kelly Blackwell said...

I am a lover of a good villain or (in my sons gaming lingo) a great chaotic neutral. Great post!

Ava Jae said...

Jeanine is a great example—she's an excellent villain with great motivation you can kind of sort of understand without her being 100% maniacal laughter evil.

And the LEGO thing was a sort of accident (sort of, in the sense that I nearly picked another picture, but this was just shot SO well), but it worked out nicely. :)

Ava Jae said...

Another great example! I've actually yet to watch The Dark Knight (I know, I know, but Joker freaks me out, okay?) but I can definitely see that. Though I wonder if he'd be more pure evil than I'd usually point to as an example...hmm...

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Kelly! I haven't heard the term "great chaotic neutral" but I kind of like it.

Bolo Yeung said...

The Dark Knight shows him as a complete loony, but what the joker says when he talks about people's behavior, e.g. how people's abandon their set of rules/honor/principle when things don't go the way they should, is quite interesting and has some meaning to it - I guess that makes him completely evil but he knows a great deal about humanity which makes him fascinating to listen to....the film's great because it shows the joker's not as a stereotypical evil "I-like-blowing-people-up" guy but someone who wants to challenge batman's views and prove to batman that people can be easily corrupted and become evil

Ava Jae said...

Huh. So that's another interesting villain option—one who IS totally evil, but has super fascinating reasons for being evil (rather than just wanting to watch the world burn because EVIL EVILNESS).

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