1. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    How to build a Villain

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by fantasy girl, Jan 3, 2010.

    There is one thing I struggle most with when I write. The Villain. I can never seem to make them believable. Does anyone have any tips to making a good and believable Villain?

    Fantasy Girl xx
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't think of her as a villain. Think of her as a character who is taking actions you cannot condone, even though you understand why she is doing it.

    By labelling her a villain, you cease to view her as a person.
     
  3. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess you have to know what you want in this antagonist. There are different villains for different situations.
     
  4. Sophronia
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    Sophronia Member

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    Villains think that what they're doing is right and is for their own benefit, even when everyone else thinks it's wrong and the villain will only end up hurting themself. When writing from the villain's point of view, coming from what Cogito said, they wouldn't label themselves as a villain.
     
  5. deltaquid
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    deltaquid Member

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    Don't give him some cheap excuse to make him evil. "My daddy was mean to me" will never, ever justify some one's actions.

    Make him have long-term goals other than simply 'world domination' or whatever it is he wants. Have him have some sort of sense of morality at the very least. Remember, even evil has standards.

    Most importantly, don't have them acknowledge it's wrong what they're doing. If you must, make the villain believe the ends justify the means or something along that line.
     
  6. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a theater major in college I learned that, to convincingly play the 'bad guy', the actor must find the positives in the character. That is, those things you like, and even admire, about the character in spite of his negative traits. If you don't like your villain, you will never be able to embrace him/her and 'portray' him/her convincingly on the page.

    Have you embodied your 'villain' in whatever makes him or her the villain without discovering what makes him or her a three dimensional. 98.6 human being? There is a lot of backstory that never reaches the pages of a book. That is, all the skinned knees of the 'hero' from the time he started walking to the time he stopped stumbling and skinning his knees. You can probably recite chapter and verse the protagonist's love life from his sweetheart from afar the little girl who lived across the street, to his last broken heart. But, can you provide such a well-rounded life cycle for his alter-ego?

    Just because he is the antagonist in the story doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a full and well-rounded life. And don't short-change your villain. In creating that full, well-rounded life for him, you might discover things about him you never knew that will help you understand him better.

    Learn to like the guy before you condemn him. After all, Little Attila had a mother who loved him, too!
     
  7. Tessadragon
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    Tessadragon Member

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    I see my evil guys for their reasons and motivations, and their ambition and for their hates. I know them as well as I know my good guys.
     
  8. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    My advance placement english teacher once told the class that there is no true "villian" there is only a persona who has gone astray from the path many believe is right, to justify means that the villian- lack of a better word here- believes must be forfilled.

    Basically, the villian is the guy that believes he/she is doing the right thing while everyone else sees them as doing to wrong thing. Either way the villian is still a person, its still a character in a book and if you come to hate them, so will your audiance that you are trying to share the book with.
     
  9. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    Well first you need some limbs, a torso, a head, and most importantly a head, obviously the amount /look of wither of these is down to you and the story you are writing, and presumably lots of sticky back plastic, seriously though as people have already pointed out don’t set out to create a villain, create a character, after all what defines them as a villain? It may be simply that they have an imposing view to your mc, (they might not necessarily be the ones in the wrong, maybe your mc is the villainous one, a thief for instance on the run from the police) And remember the villain will not see themselves as one, what they are doing is to them right. It is their actions and the way they conduct things which will mark them out as villainous
     
  10. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Villains are perhaps the greatest characters in any novel. Without them the hero is nothing more than a normal person who is strangely assertive or somehow distinct. Still, he's just a normal person in comparison. The villain draws that heroism out of him - it forces him to excel. That being said, the villain is only the villain because the main character is deemed to be the hero. Try looking at it from the villains perspective. To him the hero is truly the evil one.

    I would suggest reading "I am Legend". Not only did I love the novel, it taught me a lot about perception and how sometimes the hero is only heroic in his own mind. Best of luck.
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    While agreeing with most being said here, I don't think the antagonist has to think he's doing the right thing. Have you never felt so angry that you did something wrong on purpose? It doesn't stop at anger - maybe he's just selfish. Maybe he makes up "official" excuses for his actions while deep down he knows he's just a selfish git. I like villains with conscious morality issues. They know what's "right", but you know...stuff didn't work out too well and now they're doing things differently. One of my favourite villains is constantly struggling with his own bad guilt.
     
  12. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    Like was said, villians don't always think what they're doing is totally innocent, but sometimes they think that they should "punish" people, or do "justice", or that they're actually doing a person a favor even if that favor is at the point of a gun. Sometimes villians enjoy giving people suffering, generally people they think deserve it.

    I think what seperates a villian from a hero is that the hero thinks of people's welfare when the villian generally thinks of himself or a very select few. Villian's often don't think about whether the object of their hatred is human or has rights of their own--villian's dehumanize people so that when they have to do their terrible deeds, to them, it's little more than unplugging a non-working TV or hacking weeds out of a lawn.

    To me like good guys, villians have many different types. You might be surprised to learn that villians can enjoy making people suffer or that they can act like the stereotype. The thing is many do but many don't. You have to decide what type of villian you're dealing with, so as to make your story as effective as possible. Whatever you do though don't make your villian either too irredeemably bad or too close to the line of goodness, since neither defines a villian very well.
     
  13. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Start out by using the term "Opponent" instead of "Villain." Then, give them a heroic motivation that may or may not run directly counter to the main character's motivation. Mix in a few normal character flaws that would work equally well for a hero. Then, most importantly, boost their willingness to do things that other people would think of as unsightly or immoral in the pursuit of said motivation.

    My novel's opponent simply wants to survive in our world, which is fundamentally against his physical form's nature. He does so by stealing power from others and using that power to fuel his own survival. He is willing to kill- willing to deliberately murder- to get what he wants. This makes him a villain in the eyes of the world. Moreover, there is bad blood between him and the main character, an old grudge that he fears and she wants to finish- and he is willing to sic his allies on her or her far-more-vulnerable friends to extend his own life. He doesn't want to face her directly because he knows she's right. He's a coward and he refuses to admit it.
     
  14. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    i haven't read all the replies but i do agree w/ the banality of evil concept. the antagonist in the project i'm working on currently was one of the mc's best friend's until building tension and differing loyalties culminate in their adversary. vague, i know, but basically i think it's best to be introduced to the current or future villain around the same time as the mc, & to become more familiar with both simultaneously. and humanize them obviously

    my 2 cents
     
  15. MagicEvmeister
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    MagicEvmeister New Member

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    I agree also that you should dispense the term "villain" and set about creating a "character". What type of character you create really needs to come from the story you are planning to write.

    Several people here have suggested that the villain could be a likeable character with a good moral conscience who has he veered of the beaten track through the trials and tribulations of life.

    Another alternative could be that the villain could be in direct competition with your hero and trying to achieve the same goal. To make him your villain in this case he would need to be inherently dislikeable. Perhaps the hero and the villain are both trying to win the same prize (Karate Kid springs to mind).

    In a round about way, I am trying to say you need to consider the story you plan to write, and what would make a character in that story a hero, and what you would change about that character to make them the villain instead. This will give you an excellent foundation to start building more specific details about them.
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to prefer the type of villain that slowly becomes apparent to the reader. At first he/she may even seem like the protagonist's best buddy, but then the reader starts to wonder if there is something evil about them e.g. in 'My Cousin Rachel' by Daphne DuMaurier, the reader AND the MC (narrator) aren't sure if Rachel is a murderess or not...
     
  17. ronmatt
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    ronmatt Member

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    As you stumble through life..you happen across many people you 'just don't like',Think about what it is you don't like about them..take the worse of the lot an incorporate them into your 'personal' villain.
     
  18. Trezzy_Sometimes
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    Trezzy_Sometimes Member

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    I agree with Ronmatt. We meet a lot of people throughout our lives, and sometimes there are people you simply "don't like" for whatever reason. Think of certain characteristics or tendencies that one may have, that the vast majority of people you know wouldn't like. And then make your villian do that. But more importantly, give your villain some damned good motivation. Rather than having them be bad simply for the sake of being bad, give your villain something underneath his superficial jerk attitude that really traumatized him and is still messing with his psyche to this day. Something like that. Hope I helped, good luck :D
     
  19. Mr What
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    Mr What Member

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    It's simple. Flesh them out as a character apart from their actions. Forget your characters. Forget their role in the plot. What is their motivation? Why are they the way they are? How do they talk?

    If you create them entirely through the lense of being a capital V villain you'll inevitably wind up with something either cartoonish or hamfisted. At least in the plotting stages, treat them just like you would any other character.
     
  20. Jaybrownuk
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    Jaybrownuk Member

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    You could also research real criminals that have made the news with crimes related to your "villan" and their crimes if possible. Maybe you could get a clearer picture of how their mind works.
     
  21. somacore
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    somacore New Member

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    Think about this:

    Me (the hero, obviously) is going after some goal (the awesome diamond that's huge, too - TADTHT).

    Bob, the VILLAIN! Is exactly like me, he's after TADTHT too!

    Which one will get there first?

    So, in closing, your villain can be more like the main character than you realize. They don't have to be diametrically opposed or anything, just have slightly different methods than your MC.
     
  22. Norm
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    Norm Contributing Member

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    The best "Villains" are the ones that aren't really evil or corrupt to the core. Think of it like this: When you present one hero and one villain to the reader, there should be enough there for the reader to be able to choose which one he roots for.

    For example, maybe the villain is a really nice guy, and when he first meets the hero says something like, "Hey man, I really don't want you to get involved in this," but the hero doesn't listen and ends up having to fight the villain later in the book. Or the villain must take increasingly severe actions such as torching the hero's village, stealing the hero's girlfriend, as a threat to get the hero to just go away, but DAMN the hero just won't give up. Maybe the reader really likes the hero and understands why he must keep being persistent, but then there are readers who will like the villain more and appreciate the way he acts / his morals / other stuff about him.
     
  23. Celexia
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    Celexia New Member

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    I definitely agree with this. In my opinion, the best villains are the ones that you come to hate, but you have respect for. As someone mentioned above, villains with morals are very cool. Perhaps if you had a villain that everyone hated, but right at the end or something they did or said something honorable that totally threw the responders out
     
  24. Willard
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    Willard New Member

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    I got into a discussion over the movie Titanic's main villain, played by Billy Zane. He was so unbelievable to the point it became hard to watch because he was just too twisted... Unless you're writing about a psychopath or some specific character nature, I would certainly agree with what the poster said above me. A villain has to be thinking that what they're doing is right, even if it's certainly wrong in the eyes of the villain's counterpart.
     
  25. Delphinus
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    Delphinus Senior Member

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    A villain is just an anti-hero who happens to be on the opposite side to the actual hero.
     

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