1. MrWisp
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    MrWisp Member

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    Presence of a villain

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MrWisp, Mar 13, 2013.

    Just wondering people's thoughts on this. As a reader, what kind of villain do you typically prefer: the one who is a constant presence or the one who lurks in the background? I first gave this some thought when I read the Harry Potter series. I realized that for as much as we're supposed to hate Voldemort, the majority of his evil deeds throughout the series are spoken about rather than witnessed. This may be sacrilege, but I actually much prefer someone like Dolores Umbridge as a villainous character. She's a great character to begin with, but I feel that part of her strength lies in the fact that we get to see so many of her underhanded actions so consistently.

    Does a strong physical presence in the story add greater satisfaction the the villain's eventual comeuppance, or is the threat of a looming Big Bad more riveting for you as a reader?
     
  2. Snowmantheory
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    Snowmantheory Senior Member

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    I find that a villain who lurks and causes great trouble without being known holds great power. I have a personal preference to the jester that takes the crown, so to speak. It gives the final confrontation whole new meaning when the protagonist realizes that they have been toyed with.
     
  3. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    content removed by author
     
  4. GazingAbyss
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    GazingAbyss Member

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    It depends entirely on the type of villain. Sometimes you have a villain like Voldemort who's sense of menace comes entirely from the idea that they can influence everything, even if they're not present. Sometimes you have a villain like Umbridge, where every time she shows up you brace yourself for whatever horrible thing she's gonna do next.

    I'd also argue that it has to do with the type of story. In a mystery you obviously want your villain to be secretive until the end, so you surprise the reader, but in something like a thriller, you want every character to be more active.
     
  5. murasaki_sama
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    murasaki_sama Senior Member

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    I like both kinds of villains, actually. Of course, my protagonists tend to amoral little b@st@rds, so my antagonists either have to be worse or be the actual "good" guys. I think a good story mixes it up, has a few present villains/antagonists/obstacles, and then has a few hidden villains/antagonists/obstacles. The big problem is suspense - would following the villain reduce suspense, or increase it? Should the villain appear frequently, with his evil plans growing more and more diabolical (magical girl, anime and most comics follow this format)? Or should he just be an oppressive figure in the hero's life, someone who it seems impossible to defeat, who is everywhere all the time...So many wonderful possibilities.
     
  6. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    So far, I prefer my villains to be up front and in your face, but with a chilling history e.g. current smuggling and human trafficking by a former Nazi.

    But then there's the 'villain' in a James Herbert novel - the even blacker shadow that moved across the top of the stairs... :eek:
     
  7. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    My favorite kind of villains are the ones that are villains to the bone. Being evil not for some grand purpose, but just to see the world burn. If you look up Kefka from Final Fantasy, he is exactly my kind of villain. And villains and antagonists aren't always the same.
     
  8. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    I think the villain that has freaked me out the most in a book I have read, in my opinion, is William Hamleigh in Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Not only was he the most, evil, disgusting character I have ever read (at one point I put the book down because he was so terrible to read - but then I picked it back up again because I had to read it) you got both perspectives. Firstly, he was a POV character, and he is obsessed with the female love interest. You got all this his really violently sexual thoughts from him, then you got a scene where he raped her from his perspective. You also get this really interesting stuff about him being terrified of hell (the book is set in twelfth century England). But at the same time, you had all the others characters going on about all the evil stuff he was doing so you had both a really personalised view of him, and this perceived omnipotence from other characters. But, because of this fear of hell thing, he is also slightly sympathetic. This villain was so effective in my eyes that William used to be one of my favourite boys names, and now I cannot stand it.

    But then again, another character that comes across as quite terrifying is Ramsay Snow in A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. He is not a POV character, and you get most of your view of him from Theon, a character who Ramsay spends nearly three books torturing. While you get the sense that Ramsay is a bit of an idiot, by seeing it through Theon's eyes Ramsay has this regime in the castle that no one can step out of line with for fear of being flayed alive. The fact that Ramsay has nothing redeeming about him makes him absolutely terrifying because you just think this guy is absolutely insane.

    So, you can take different approaches with it, but there are many different ways to make a villain threatening, intimidating or even down right scary, and you don't even have to "see" them do every villainous deed you want them to.
     
  9. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I like my villains to have a presence that can change the mood of the moment
     
  10. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    Given that your villain is a person, he will have both good and bad qualities. Nobody is purely good or purely evil. What is important for how you feel about somebody is their actions and their reputation. Just think of a rock star. On the inside they are just people with fears and doubts like the rest of us, but when they are up on that stage, they look like gods, and people view them as such. Where I am going with this is that you should keep the human aspect of your villain in mind when writing him.

    If your protagonist just hear about your villain from others, he will probably be presented as a bloodthirsty maniac who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, while if you view him up closer, more human qualities might show. It all depends where you want to go with your story. The looming threat does seem to add a bit more tension at times, as the danger seem larger and the villain more unpredictable.
     
  11. Beloved of Assur
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    Beloved of Assur Member

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    I like both types of villains but I think that those with constant presence often, at least in my mind, gets to be built and known better and therefor have a more meaningful defeat or general existance for me as a reader. Villains who are a distant and unknown presence are often more impersonal to me.
     
  12. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like a villain to be my favourite character - maybe I'm dark but I want him to pop up now and again and do something evil like break a baby's arm just because he can.

    Annie Wilkes from Misery was great too, A seriously screwed up deviless who saw nothing wrong in her actions and meted out punishment without a care in the world.
     
  13. MrWisp
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    MrWisp Member

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    Annie Wilkes is a great one. I also tend to enjoy villains more than heroes, at least on average. I find that the evolution of a villain can be just as enthralling as the hero's journey. I like to think that I have a good mix of nasty characters in my story, and as the writer, I'm actually a lot sadder to see them go if/when their times come. :(
     
  14. nanobelle
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    nanobelle New Member

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    Good question

    In my opinion the villain founds the plot as much as the antagonist, it doesn't matter if he is seen or even present. Consider the first Mrs. DeWinter in Rebecca. She is dead yet her machinations live on having made an instrument of destruction in her housekeeper. Even more clever, the first Mrs. DeWinter remains nameless despite the fact she is the narrator! Often the character stirring the plot is unknown in a good mystery- how about HAL 9000? We don't find out that he is a murderer until Frank Poole dies. Sometimes a sympathetic character we love turns out to be the bad guy, check out Emergence by David L. Palmer.
    Personally, in my developing novel my villain is an outright clinical psychopath. He's fun to write but very unpredictable. He always surprises me with his depravity and then I remember I'm the inventor of his malevolence. Quite a contrast to my peace-nick self.
     

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