great article on writing a villain charecter
source – nownovel com
A villain who is too evil or not evil enough, a villain who is one-dimensional or a villain lacking clear motivation are some of the problems you might run into while trying to develop a character who will oppose your protagonist. A great villain can sometimes be the difference between a novel that is good and a novel that is great. Here are some questions you can ask yourself in creating that great villain:
- How evil is your villain? Knowing how far this character is willing to go is crucial. Will your villain stab your protagonist in the back through vicious gossip and manipulation, or is your villain willing to literally go around stabbing people in the back? It is important to establish these limits early on so that you can set reader expectations. For example, if a sibling rivalry is going to turn deadly later in your book, you need to establish early on that the murderous sibling is capable of such an act. How far your villain is willing to go also needs to be consistent with the type of book you are writing. For example, a grisly torture scene does not belong in a cosy mystery novel.
- What does your villain want? This is a question you should always ask of your protagonist, but you should ask it about your villain as well. You should also know what your villain is most afraid of. Understanding your villain’s most important desire and deepest fear will give you both the character’s motivation and major weakness.
- Is your villain well-matched with your protagonist? The reader should get a sense that the villain is very difficult but not impossible to defeat. A villain that is too weak in comparison to the protagonist will rob the story of suspense. A villain that is too strong will stretch the limits of credulity. Another thing you may want to consider is the relationship between the protagonist and the villain. The conflict between the two may be strengthened if there is a strong connection between the two such as family, former friends or something similar.
- How does your villain see himself or herself? Keep in mind that even the worst people rarely see themselves as the villains of any particular story. Instead, they will tend to go to a great deal of trouble to justify and excuse their actions and to paint themselves as the hero of the story or at least as misunderstood. Think about your villain’s point of view and keep in mind that while it doesn’t have to be a point of view that makes sense to you, it does need to make sense to the villain.
- Has your villain always been a villain? A character who once fought on the side of good but who has turned to the other side due to disillusionment, trauma, temptation by things the other side has to offer or for other compelling reasons can be particularly interesting.
- When is your villain not a villain? Just as villains rarely think of themselves as evil, few villains lack any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Does your villain love his mother or find herself unable to pass a stray animal without offering it something to eat? Perhaps your villain never does anything nice for a single living thing, but you should still consider how you might make that villain more unexpectedly human such as giving the character a weakness for ice cream cones, a certain type of sentimental music or another unexpected quirk.
- How transparent is your villain to others? Do the other characters know this person is evil and working against their best interests, or are they being deceived?
- Is your villain a well-rounded character? All the work you do to develop other characters needs to be done to develop your villain as well. In addition to knowing your character’s fears and desires, what is your villain’s background? Where did the character grow up and in what kind of environment? What is the villain’s speech like? Is there anything important in your character’s past? You may not need to share all of this information with your readers, but you’ll want to keep these points in mind for your own purposes.
- Is the villain overshadowing the protagonist? If you have done a great job of developing your villain, there is one more pitfall to watch out for: is your villain more interesting than your protagonist? Sometimes, even the most evil of villains can bring out a kind of glee in audiences while the protagonist begins to seem ever more dour and devoid of fun. How attractive or unattractive you want your villain to be will depend on the story that you are telling, but make sure your villain is not the most compelling character in the book.
As you develop your villain, you may want to read a few books that exemplify great villains within your chosen genre. For example, in the crime genre, Hannibal Lecter is a memorable villain who still does not overshadow the protagonist of Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling. But your villain need not be a serial killer; it can be a romantic rival, someone who opposes your main character’s career plans or an undermining so-called friend. Consider unconventional approaches to villains as well. In Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel Rebecca, the first wife of the protagonist’s new husband is arguably the villain despite being dead before the novel even begins. Does your book call for a more unconventional approach to a villain such as this?