1. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Evil character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cazann34, Oct 30, 2012.

    I have an evil character in my latest story but I'm having trouble creating him as a believable baddie - he just sounds 'off' How do I make him 'evil' without making him a caricature - cloak and wispy moustache type.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. steve119
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    steve119 Senior Member

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    my advice would be while developing the character forget about how they look think more about the characters intent as that is where the real evil is
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Evil's got nothing to do with looks. Take a look at serial killers and child molesters most of them look like the guy next door.
    And ugh, some of them are.
    Villains are all about behavior and thinking. They don't think like normal people, and most of the time they know it.
    Rhoda in the Bad Seed knew their was something different about her and tried to hide it by becoming a perfect child.
    She dressed well, and hesitated before she spoke to make sure she said all the right things.
    Take a look at Paul Bernardo and his wife Karla Holmolka - two serial killers who were not just
    ordinary looking, they were attractive.
    Steve says it best. Develope your character based on actions, talk, and thought and the looks
    will come naturally.
    Rapers don't necessarily look like mug shots - they could be smooth and well groomed. And a child molester
    could be harmlessly pudgey, with dimples and a cartoon tie.

    Evil's not a surface thing - it's a mind and heart thing. What's going on beneath the surface.
     
  4. steve119
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    steve119 Senior Member

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    exactly what I was trying to get at peachalulu you explained it a lot better than I did though lol
     
  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Even 'evil' characters need to be humanized. What is his/her weaknesses, interests, etc. Does he have a favorite food? Is there something that he obsesses about? Is there a reason for his actions? All this plays into making a believable villain needs to be a likable villain.

    My villain's Achilles heel is that he's sexually obsessed with my MC-and it clouds his judgement to where he makes major mistakes due to it. Is there something that effects the man's actions?
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, Skyfall's villain was creepy as hell and he didn't have a moustache lol.

    To make your villain believable is like to make any other character believable - why does your villain do what he does, think what he does, want what he does? Give him motives, like any human being, even the evillest person has his own twisted logic behind his actions, so give him a reason to be evil. He only becomes a caricature when he's evil for the sake of evil, especially the cackling type that you see often in anime :D
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    First of all, I wouldn't make him evil. Honestly, how many really evil people have you met in your life? I've met many people I don't like, and some who seem to have small souls and an insufficiency of empathy, but are they really evil? I doubt it. They mostly just have different agendas from my own (and most people's, come to think of it). They don't think of themselves as evil.

    So I'd just write the character as someone who is at cross purposes with your protagonist. That will make it possible for the readers to identify with him, and they may be chilled all the more by that, because they see aspects of themselves in your villain.
     
  8. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    A good villain has a reason for why he/she does what they do. It could be money trouble, like my antagonist has, or family issues. He or she could have a bone to pick with the world for something that's happened, or have a thirst for power because he/she was helpless to stop something when young. There's so many ways to make a believable villain that don't require over the top 'evil' nature.

    Why does he want to do what he does? I'm curious? Can you explain it?

    Don't forget a good subplot with your antagonist can help either. It could be a lover in the picture. All sorts of things will help.
     
  9. D-Doc
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    D-Doc Active Member

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    I wouldn't try to write an evil character unless you're going to write a demon or something like that into your story, like Randall Flagg from King's books. If you're writing a human villain, I wouldn't focus so much on evil. I'm not sure such a thing even exists. There are plenty of scoundrels and cutthroats and geniunely bad people out there, though. The way in which they behave badly and their reasons for doing so are plenty. I would try to base a character off of someone like that. Sometimes the best villains aren't even lousy people, it's all a matter of perspective. Like they say, one man's terrorist may be another man's freedom fighter.
     
  10. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    My character is not human but an hybrid (of sorts) he hates humans and wants to annihilate them from the planet (they're arrogant and destructive) and he will stop at nothing to achieve this. He's evil like Hitler.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If he wants to destroy humans because humans are arrogant and destructive, the intention is actually good - he wants to rid the earth of evil - and humans are evil as far as he's concerned.

    I thoroughly believe evil exists - you only have to read up on human-trafficking to know this is true, the number of parents who sell their daughters for a colour television or other gadgets (not always out of poverty), the number of police and judges who hide criminals and rather arrest trafficked victims or, worse still, drive the victims in their police cars right back to the pimp who kidnapped her and beat her senseless everyday, demanding that she allows herself to be raped by 20 men in a single day. Here in Prague, there's a brothel located immediately above the police station, and there's no telling how many women inside are inside willingly. Is that not evil? No it's not a matter of perspective. Things like this convince me that evil certainly exists, and WE are the problem.
     
  12. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    Another reason ive given up ever trying to write good guys.......plus its no fun to write them anyway.
     
  13. D-Doc
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    D-Doc Active Member

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    The term evil itself is subjective. I disagree with you Mckk-I believe it is both a matter of perspective and incentive. There are truly rotten people out there, and if my definition of a bad person and your definition of evil coincide, then this argument is irrelevent. Most people speak of evil as some kind of force that consumes people entirely. Some may commit heinous acts that others are incapable of, but I wouldn't consider these people evil. Maybe they're so profoundly greedy or selfish or commited to some hateful ideal that they drive themselves to commit these acts, or perhaps they were born with some kind of severe mental disorder. I'm certainly not defending people like that, or suggesting that they are redeemable or have many charming qualities. I believe in cause and effect, I believe in powerful incentives and emotions that spur humans into action, but I don't believe in pure evil.

    Parents who sell their daughters for simple consumer goods- are they incredibly greedy and lacking in the ability to form bonds with others, or are they evil?

    Your point about crooked law enforcement officers and officials- Nothing evil or even uncommon. They probably have considerable economic incentives spurring them to behave the way they do. They probably don't put much thought into what becomes of those they wrong, and if they do they may have their own defense mechanisms in place to justify their actions. Are they wrong? Sure, but who is to say they don't feel guilty from time to time?

    You mentioned a whore house being located above a police station in your city. To answer your question, no, I do not believe it is evil. We could devote an entire thread to the debate over the morality of prostitution, but I think it's far from evil. It may be a number of things, certainly less than pleasant things, but I wouldn't count evil among them. A women being kidnapped and forced into prostitution is one thing, and it certainly shows a strong sense of greed or sexual perversion in the kidnapper, but also perhaps a man's simple, unscrupulous way to make money by having others work for him. For all we know, the women inside the whorehouse you mentioned are in there willingly, and perhaps even content (more than likely not on the content part, but who knows?)

    Human behavior is not so black and white. I'm by no means an expert behavioral psychologist, and I'll admit I have much to learn. I just don't believe in a blanket term like evil, at least in reality. There are shitty people beyond redemption, and if most would consider them evil, I would saying we just use different terms. The term itself just seems a little false to me; a little fantastic. Rotten people may have a plethora of reasons for acting the way they do, and I try to rationalize their behavior by examining their incentives rather than just pinning them as evil.

    Two quick questions for you- If you read a newspaper article explaining how a single man crept into the home of a young mother and then killed her two children and proceeded to rape her, would you consider him evil?

    If you watched a documentary on the National Geographic channel that showed a young male lion infringe upon another lion's territory, find a lioness with two cubs, kill the cubs, and then proceed to rape the lioness, would you consider the lion evil?

    It's a matter of perspective, my friend. We aren't lions, and most of us aren't driven to the same extremes out of a necessity to survive, but we're animals just the same, regardless of how civilized we think ourselves. You've got to examine the incentives. They might not always be apparent.
     
  14. Three
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    Three Member

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    YES! I honestly beleive that while people may do evil things, they don't beleive themselves to be evil. Some villains might just be acting as an antagonist for very good reasons. Maybe he has to kill your protagonist so that he can steal her liver and save his dying daughter. (dumb example, but you know what I mean.)

    Other villains are a little more warped. Maybe they see your protagonist as having wronged them in some way, and feel it's only justice to exact revenge.

    But the best villains, the most interesting ones, tend to be sociopathic. They have literaly no sympathy. Other people aren't real. So of course they would dispatch with whoever was in their way. People don't matter to them. They're just objects, more or less. Goodness gracious, there's seven billion of them. We could certainly stand to loose a few.

    Of course, what you have to remember with these, the most extreme villains, is that they're still human. They have weaknesses, they have faults, insecurities, worries, things that keep them up at night... They might even fall in love, in a strange sociopathic way. Like having a favorite toy. Not particularly concerned with her needs, only when he must satisfy them to keep her around.

    It's never evil for the sake of evil. It's evil because there is some benifit to him if he acts this way. He inherits the fortune, he crushes the revolution, you get the idea. Or maybe he's just sadistic. This could work, but you have to be very careful about it. We have to know why, and it can be difficult to express this if your villain isn't the focus of your story.

    Of course, it's one big gradient. You can certainly have selective sociopathy. (ie People in the supermarket who push you over and call you names because you were blocking their path. People who treat waiters like they're less than dirt. It happens, man. People are nuts.) Or he might be another good guy who just happens to need the opposite of what your protagonist does.

    Long story short, by far the most important thing is WHY your villain acts the way he does. It has to make perfect sense to him.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that you need more motivation for your character. Why is "arrogant and destructive" enough of a reason? Are humans destroying things that he loves? Does he have a philosophy or religion that says that all arrogance must be destroyed? What makes him choose to destroy humans rather than change them, or leave them behind and become a hermit, or exploit them? What makes him want to destroy - how is it that he developed without any need to create? He could go off to that hermitage and cook or garden or raise Siamese cats - why isn't he doing that? Why is his whole life and existence devoted to something that he hates, instead of turning his back on that something and finding something that he loves?

    Yeah, there's a lot of redundancy in my questions. :) But I think that they're worth answering.
     
  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    D-Doc - with all due respect, humans are not animals and it is precisely that rationale that has allowed many otherwise good men and women to behave as if they truly were animals and act in shameful ways while remaining unashamed, and it speaks of falling standards and a fast disappearing sense of morality. This very same argument - that we're animals - is used to justify rapists: "A man has needs" - are they so animalistic that they cannot control themselves? I think not, they simply choose not to. A lion cannot compare - their nature is different, but humans are meant for greater things, yet we choose to indulge in things that should not be indulged in and in the process, forget what we're even on this earth for and reduce our purpose with that of a dog or a cow.

    However, let me clarify - are humans evil? I believe evil is in them, but whether humans are by nature evil, that I cannot say. I believe we're created in God's image and this makes us capable of good, even unconditional love - but I also believe we're all corrupt, and that makes us capable of great evil, and we cannot throw away our part in how the world has been ruined and excuse ourselves "because we're animals" or any other such excuses. Humans, unlike animals, have been given much greater gifts than the rest of nature has, in some respects - we've been given the ability to change the world for better or for worse, not something anything else in creation can lay claim to - and thus we have responsibilities that we cannot abandon. If one is more capable, then more is expected of one.

    But evil is in us - just think, how easy is it to stir up murder? How easy to bribe a policeman or judge or politician, how easy to hold on to past hurts and nurture our hatred to the point of seeking to take another's life. Now reverse that and think - how easy is it to ask someone to forgive? No, by this I conclude, we are far more prone to evil than we are to good. I do believe there is good in mankind, but I do not believe that humans are "ultimately good" - if I must choose, I will say that humans are ultimately evil. However, that is indeed a general statement and I do realise that humans are capable of great good and evil, rather than always just one or the other.

    Anyway I do not want to hijack the thread. If you wanna continue feel free to PM me :)
     
  17. Rose Hunt
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    My sentiments exactly. In ethics class I presented this and my instructor said "Intersting perspective". lol.
     
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  18. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Either you have not been exposed to true human behaviour or your definition of evil is way off the scale.... evil exists and it's far more common than most people would like to believe. And I just mean behavioural, motivational evil.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I have to weigh in with D-Doc. Evil is black and white thinking. Yes, there are severely damaged people whose motivations are shocking and not easily comprehended. But evil is a simplistic label for complex extremes of behavior.

    Selfless altruism is just as much an illusion.

    If you want characters to have depth and interest, you cannot indulge in black and white thinking.
     
  20. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Not in psychological circles. I like Dr Michael Stone's 22 levels of 'evil', which gives a great insight into the various types of behaviour and motivations that leads people to carry out horrific crimes.

    Besides, 'evil' is just a label, just as much as 'good' is. Call it a genre of intent, if you will.
     
  21. Snowmantheory
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    Snowmantheory Senior Member

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    I don't believe in evil. There are always strings pulling your puppet. Once te strings are developed, you would be surprised at how quickly the character comes together. Does he have a history of losing things? A lust for revenge? If you want the twirly mustache classic, you need to think classic reasons. Don't be afraid to be cliche.
     
  22. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Not really, your 'good guy' can be a morally conflicted person also. He or she, let's say, can be good at killing people-yet hate every minute of if. There are plenty of ways to write 'good guys' that aren't boring. Trust me, it can be done.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most psychologists do not recognize good and evil. They recognize behavioral patterns, motivations, stimuli and responses. As in any field, there will be outliers, however, and psychology is one field notable for fringe theories.
    I also pointed out that good is equally flawed.

    Evil and good are basically religious abstractions, not psychological constructs. They are moral absolutes, as are sin and virtue. If you want your stories to be aligned along the religious axes, that is a legitimate choice, but be aware that you are doing so. You will still have a wide audience, but a large potential audience will be left cold by it.
     
  24. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Perhaps they started as religious abstractions, but now most people use it to easily convey a person's character. Ask people on the street and most are not going to go on about the religeous relevance, but about the ACTIONS associated with the now generic understanding of the term. An evil person is someone who does very bad things, with intent and awareness, in the eyes of our society.

    People like to say Hitler was evil, even though he did many good things as well as the outrageously bad. We understand the use of evil there as a descriptive word.

    Words are not about strict definitive meaning, words are about understanding. Language evolves. When someone talks about an evil character, they are not pure death and hatred oozing black oil and spawned by the devil. They are talking about someone who does cruel and nasty things with awareness and intent, REGARDLESS of psychological explanations.

    As I said, it's a genre of intent.
     
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  25. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Thank you for your suggestions, you have given me a lot to work on. Of course my character isn't totally evil, no one is, he's many shades of grey.
     

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