1. skulbaka
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    skulbaka New Member

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    True Evil?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by skulbaka, Jun 3, 2012.

    When I reflect on some of the evil characters in stories (including my own) I think that a sort of hardcore genre of evil has been lost. Villains and antagonists just don't seem as evil as they used to be. What would traits would make up a good villain?
     
  2. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    If you're looking for a truly evil villain, I'd tell you to look at Sauron or Voldemort. Neither of them had remorse for anything they did, they'd kill their "friends" if need be. Heck, they both put their soul into objects which needed to be taken out to truly defeat them (the ring, and the horcruxes). Truly evil figures often believe their own mythology (Voldemort believing pure-bloods were superior to half-bloods and mudbloods), will manipulate anyone, everyone and everything (Sauron manipulated powerful figures across Middle-earth to conform to his side; Ringwraiths and the Witch King), and have little to no morale compass.
     
  3. mVd
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    mVd Member

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    When looking for traits for a evil character, i suggest you do some research.
    A good starting point would be watching "The most evil men in history" series by Discovery to get an abridged version of what your ideas could be.
    Secondly you could look in recent history aswell. Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot for the most known. Look at their actions and you could find something to use for your writing.

    But in the general sense, for me an evil character would be: cruel, unforgiving, powerful, smart. I put smart in there, because if a character is only brutal it can be defeated more easily, then a character who is intelligent and can look out for traps, plots against it etc.

    Hope that helped.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Are you looking for a great villain, or a purely evil one?

    Pure evil is a flat concept. If you want a great villain, choose one who makes the worst possible choices based on a sincere belief he or she is acting for the greater good. Make the reader believe in the villains misguided sincerity, perhaps even feel some sympathy for his or her plight.

    Voldemort is as much a tragic character as an evil one. His desperation for immortality drove him to shred his soul into ragged pieces. We are shown that the biggest difference between him and Harry was that Harry was loved, and chose a better path.

    Sauron is not a villain as much as a plot device. He is very shallowly defined, and the closet thing we see to an emotion is fear and doubt of being overthrown. Sauron is a faceless evil.
     
  5. Show
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    I've created some pretty evil characters. I think we may see villains being less evil because our modern world has turned everything into gray, for better or worse.

    I agree that quality is what you should aim for in a villain over evilness. However, I don't see why a character can't be perfectly evil and still be a good villain.
     
  6. Afion
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    Afion Senior Member

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    I agree with Cogito, true evil isn't very interesting. A villan with reasons for what he/she does is a lot more belivable
     
  7. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I agree that for the most part you need to give your villains some complexity, but that doesn't mean they can't be pure evil at the same time. Voldemort's fear of death is a valid, interesting motive that gives his character a bit more depth, but he's still pure evil.

    However, in some circumstances having a purely evil villain who does evil because they're a psychopath rather than because of any particular motive can actually work well, especially for secondary villains who perhaps don't need as much development as the big bad. These villains are absolutely terrifying because there's no reasoning with them and no telling what they'll do. One of the best examples from literature is Ramsay Snow from A Song of Ice and Fire. He has no motives for his evilness whatsoever but that is part of why he's so frightening.

    So for your main villain, give them a motive but also put the darker side of your imagination to work and have them do some truly horrific things.
     
  8. skulbaka
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    skulbaka New Member

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    I already know what I'm going to do for my villain, I just thought this would be a good discussion to have and see what people's replies are. I think a faceless villain can be good like Sauron because a faceless evil leaves it up to the imagination of the reader but it is your job as the writer to make a good villain instead of leaving it up to the readers. What I'm going towards is the destruction of all things pure and innocent, a person who doesn't kill children but corrupts them to be killers and to hurt others so they in turn corrupt other children, etc. I am glad I made this thread though I you guys are making think about things I haven't before that are really important to the villain.
     
  9. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    where the mind is without fear...
    A spinster aunt who can't bear to see others happy around her, so she gossips, she meddle and do whatever is in her narrow mind to create hell for her nephew, niece and their mother. This is from a story I read recently and while reading it I developed a deep hatred for the aunt and felt like there couldn't be any person more evil than her, which of course is not true if you consider all the evil characters or real evil persons in history. My point is how evil an antagonist is depends very much on how much the readers care about the person the evil antagonist is harming. A larger than life villain who kills without remorse may not seem so evil if the readers don't care much about who he is harming. This is just another perspective to ponder upon.
     
  10. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    I agree with that. I do have a character who is manipulative and a liar and yet she is not deemed as "bad" -- hell, she even got labeled as Mary Sue -- because she persuades another character that is being a little unreasonable. Killing killers is not deemed as bad as killing innocent people.
     
  11. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Personally, I don't believe that people can be evil - only their actions. All people are morally grey, by definition.
     
  12. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    This is true, but from a literary perspective, there's nothing wrong with having "good" and "evil" characters. Not every story can be filled with moral ambiguity.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But one's actions come out of inner motives, inner desires - that is, the heart. If you can do evil actions, then your heart must also be, in some way, corrupted. To separate one's heart from one's action is to almost say the person didn't mean to do anything that they ever do - which, while sometimes true, is often NOT the case.
     
  14. Lumipon
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    Lumipon Member

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    But evil actions do come out of good intentions. Then the "heart" is "good" but the action is perceived as "evil".

    And that is the gist of it. Being evil only means that the popular opinion is different from yours.

    And as already stated, no real man can be classified with terms like "good" or "evil". That is why those kinds of fictional characters come across as unreal or downright silly. Proper villains explore the dark side of human nature that we all share. The possibility that someone could go against everything we perceive as "normal" or "right". But even so, they are human beings like us, and have as much potential to do "good" as anyone else. That is why villains fascinate us.
     
  15. Mr.
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    "Choose one who makes the worst possible choices based on a sincere belief he or she is acting for the greater good. Make the reader believe in the villains misguided sincerity, perhaps even feel some sympathy for his or her plight."

    Blegh. Since I've watched it recently: Soul Eater's Medusa is a solid example of just the opposite. She has no redeeming qualities. You actively hope for her death, which gives all the more reason to back the protags. On top of all that, it works. Sometimes I don't want to feel sorry for the villain; I want to HATE them. The misguided good-guy you're describing might drive bamboo under somebody's fingernails for what he thinks is a noble purpose, but he's still just a misguided good-guy. Sometimes people abuse children and drown bunnies because causing suffering makes them laugh. Now that's evil.

    There are plenty more ways to handle ethics in a character's actions:
    The misguided goodie. Thinks what he's doing is right. "Ends justify means" type.
    The sociopath. Does what he does with no sense of right or wrong. Essentially a non-thinking animal or horror-movie monster.
    The sadist. Knows he's doing evil and does it anyway. Abuses children and drowns bunnies because it makes him laugh.

    There are plenty more and they all have their place depending on the nature of the story you want to tell.
     
  16. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    The more believable an evil character is, the scarier they become. You can easily just try way too hard to convinve your audience that your character is an evil, evil man, and then he ends up being just an annoying part of the book.
     
  17. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    While I did recently make a post saying that villains who do things "for the evuls" can work, I don't think that the big bad should be such a villain (usually.). This just leaves the story without depth. Most good villains have a motive, these typical evil overlords destroying the world for no reason are getting boring. Now this motive doesn't mean the villain is sympathetic but it makes them more interesting. But then sometimes the stereotypical dark lord can work, with a cast of interesting, dynamic secondary villains. So I guess it all depends on the situation, but in most cases you want a villain with a motive.
     
  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure about this. Is that really evil, or is it just crazy? I wonder, for example, about the Joker in The Dark Knight. He's evil, but it's not like he's pure evil - sane evil, if you will. The guy is a psycho. Same with Hannibal Lecter - he's smart enough to know he does terrible things, but he's utterly unhinged and when someone gets close enough, he can't help eating their face off. True evil, or irrevocably insane?
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Even insanity follows some find of logic.
     
  20. Mr.
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    Mr. Member

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    If not that, what is?

    I mainly just brought it up to say filling such a role isn't inherently a bad decision. Cliches exist because they work. They're useful. They've gotten a bad rep because new writers often use them as shortcuts. Going out of our way to avoid something just because it could be called cliche is equally wrongheaded.
     
  21. Show
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    Maybe it's just that I am not a big fantasy fan, but I honestly don't care WHY some villain wants to take over the world. The entire concept of "taking over the world" is just getting boring, even if the villain has a motive for it. How about villains whose goals are a little less cartoonish? I'd much rather read about a psycho who hurts people because he enjoys hurting people than I would hearing some crybaby "my daddy didn't love me and my peers thought i was a wimp so now I'll make them all pay" motive for taking over the world. But that's just me.
     
  22. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I see it the opposite way round (perhaps because I'm a massive fantasy fan :p ). If you want to set the stakes really really high, a threat to the world (or universe) at large is going to have the most impact, but because it's such a used trope, you need to make the story as unique as possible, and that includes giving the villain a good motivation.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Evil is an absolute, dimensionless concept, which is why it's not the best choice to bas a character upon, if you want the character to be interesting.

    If, on the other hand, the character exists only allegorically, then there may be value in the choice. But the character still won't be interesting. Dimensionless and interesting go together like anchovies and warm vanilla pudding -- no, even that has the potential of at least being interesting.
     
  24. Show
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    IDK, if the stakes are the entire world, the suspense seems to already be lessoned. How many authors have the stones to destroy the world, after all? Maybe it's a fantasy-exclusive thing. IDK. I just prefer my villains to have less cliche goals than taking over the world.
     
  25. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Yes, far better to set their sights lower but have them actually succeed in wreaking havoc on occasion. Or you could go for a downer shocking thing and actually destroy the world - or at least maim it. So many stories fail to notice that, logically, the foiled apocalypse would still have caused a great deal of destruction. (For example, a blown-up asteroid would rain shrapnel all over the world.)
     

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