1. para_noir
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    para_noir Member

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    Villains - Totally evil?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by para_noir, May 7, 2008.

    Hello.

    Questions on creating a believable villain.

    1) Is there a specific age range that I have to put him/her into? For example, I want my villain to be 26. Is that too young?

    2) Does he/she have to be completely evil? Or should I put in a streak of good into his/her character? Maybe some unusual qualities? If so, could you gimme some examples?

    3) What type of personality should I give? Loner or Maniac? Which is more....believable/hate-able?

    4) And finally, the naming. I can't think of a good name that is not too suggestive of his 'evilness' and not too angelic. I need something in the middle. I was thinking of Marcus Hyde. But that sounds evil in itself. And I don't want the name to be obvious of his nature. And suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Kraven.

    (Anyone who helps me here, and with any other questions I ask will get a free copy of my book..........when it gets published.........................if it gets published :p;))
     
  2. UnknowingWriter
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    UnknowingWriter Member

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    Well, I think that even the greatest of villians can't be completely evil, or they would have no trace of human left in them. Even the greatest of villians, like Darth Vader, were at one point an innocent kid who didn't have a care in the world.

    Age normally doesnt matter, as long as you can explain what happened. Normally, Maniacs are considered more..

    Name well, you want it to have evil in it, but be subtle. Marcus is a good name, but Hyde just inspires evil into the eyes of the reader.

    'evil'

    than the rest of the loners. Actually, many 'Loners' are good guys.
     
  3. Mr Sci Fi
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    Mr Sci Fi Senior Member

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    If you look at Shakespeare's villains you'll find that they're more human than anyone, and the reader often pities them before hating them. Villains don't have to be cardboard at all. Just ask yourself your villain's motivation. Revenge? Greed? Hatred? Your answer will help you define your character and give him depth.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The best villain is one you identify with, someone who does what he or she believes is the right thing, but has made poor choices at every step. The best villain is one you're never quite sure whether you hate or pity.

    So a good villain can be anyone. As young as Damien Thorne in The Omen (really a flat, boring villain, though), or a bitter old man whom life has kicked in the teeth for decades.

    And in that line of thought, I'd give a villain a name no one would think twice about.

    Tom Riddle was a good villain; rejected by his family, desperately seeking people to look up to him, but lacking in empathy. Damaged, but tragic.

    The Smallville version of Lex Luthor is a great villain. He always tried to do the right thing, to take care of the people and world around him, but the harder he tried, the more he alienated those he cared about.

    Also, consider making your villain a distorted mirror image of your hero. That is true of both the villains above - Harry Potter also was orphaned and grew up in a loveless household, but his choices, along with the friends he associated with, made him take a different path than Tom Riddle. Clark Kent, every bit as much an outsider as Alexander Luthor, and as unyieldingly stubborn in his judgments, became the hero instead of the villain. Luke Skywalker, unlike his father Anakin, resisted the temptation to yield to hatred, so escaped becoming another Dark Lord.
     
  5. para_noir
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    para_noir Member

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    Thanks! I guess I'll have a hard time describing him tho...to show the readers that hes doing what he thinks is right...but is actually wrong...and to get the readers to actually pity him sometimes...

    I still can't think of a name tho..
     
  6. (Mark)
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    What do you want this villain to do?
     
  7. FinalConflict
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    FinalConflict Member

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    1. The age really doesn't matter, and no 26 isn't too young.

    2. He/she can be however you want, although I like it when a story has a good array of villains, like a few that're completely dark and evil, then a few that're more serious, less evil, a couple that're silly and carefree, heck in my book I've had two villains that weren't evil at all and ended up helping the good guys.

    3. Hate-able...I'd say a mixture of loner and maniac. Believable....too numerous to list....

    4. The name, isn't that important, it doesn't necessarily have to be evil, but I use a name generator to create last names, minor character names, and villain names, so that might help.
     
  8. para_noir
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    para_noir Member

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    Thanks FinalConflict. Who'd have thought making a villain would be this hard eh? :(

    I want the villain to kill if he finds it necessary, and he wants the protagonist alive, not dead. Long story. but thats his main intention.
     
  9. FinalConflict
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    FinalConflict Member

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    No problem :)
    Yeah, villains are pretty hard to do, I normally don't give them much background other than their name and such, and focus more on their strengths and personality, that makes it a bit easier.
     
  10. Kaij
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    Kaij Senior Member

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    1) Is there a specific age range that I have to put him/her into? For example, I want my villain to be 26. Is that too young?
    There is no specific age that a villain has to be. It can be an elder, it could be a middle-aged man, they could even be a child. The villain doesn't always have to know what they're doing, to be one, so that's why I added the child in there.​

    2) Does he/she have to be completely evil? Or should I put in a streak of good into his/her character? Maybe some unusual qualities? If so, could you gimme some examples?
    Nobody is completely evil. There are "bad genes" as mentioned in a book series I'm reading, but even those people have a bit of good in them--at least at some point. It also depends on what genre you're putting this story into. If it's fantasy, it honestly doesn't matter. They could be created to be evil and know no different, but if it's reality, everyone has a good side to them, even if it's blocked up.

    Unusual qualities? This would have to be your choice, we can't give you unusual qualities until we know more about the story. In the series I'm reading, Diogenes Pendergast (the villain) has one blue eye and one hazel. There's a reason for this though. If your villain does have an unusual quality, there needs to be some reason behind it. When people become such villains, it's usually from a certain moment in their past that they will never let go until their motive is fulfilled.

    In the series I'm reading (Diogenes Trilogy by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston), here's the bio: Aloysius Pendergast faces off against Diogenes in an attempt to stop his diabolical brother before he can complete the perfect crime. All of Pendergast's old compatriots find themselves in danger and old friends band together in the race to prevent an almost certain disaster.

    To name a few of the creepy people in the family line, and what makes them the villainous type, here you go:

    Diogenes Dagrepont Bernoulli Pendergast — Pendergast's younger brother (born circa 1962). As intelligent as Aloysius, if not more so, but a criminal mastermind. Although he was always a unique child, Diogenes was pushed over the edge during a certain Event which occurred in his early years, causing his heterochromia iridis (two colored eyes; he's colorblind).
    Cornelia Delamere Pendergast — Pendergast's great-aunt. Poisoned her husband, brother and children and watched them die. Currently resides at the Mount Mercy Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
    Ambergris Pendergast — Cornelia's brother, whom she poisoned. Pendergast's great-uncle.
    Antoine Leng Pendergast (Enoch Leng) — Pendergast's great-grand uncle. Traveled north to New York after being expelled from the Pendergast mansion. Taxonomist and chemist as well as a member of the New York Lyceum in the late 19th century. Exposed as a serial killer in The Cabinet of Curiosities who killed many people in the pursuit of a substance that would prolong his life. He succeeded and survived until his home on Riverside Drive was invaded and he was tortured to death.
    Hezekiah Pendergast — (Pendergast's great-great grandfather) Antoine's father. Was a traveling salesman who contributed greatly to the family fortune by selling a quack medicine known as Hezekiah's Compound Elixir and Gladular Restorative. The tonic was eventually exposed as a lethal blend of cocaine, acetanilid, and alkaloid botanicals. It was the cause of uncounted addictions and deaths, including that of Hezekiah's wife and Antoine's mother, Constance Leng Pendergast.
    Comstock Pendergast — Pendergast's great-grand uncle. Famed mesmerist, magician and mentor to Harry Houdini. Eventually murdered his business partner and his family. He then committed suicide by cutting his throat twice. (Diogenes at one point says he must not have done it right the first time.)​

    3) What type of personality should I give? Loner or Maniac? Which is more....believable/hate-able?
    This would be up to you. Going back to Diogenes, he isn't a loner. He's a master of disguises--even better than his brother. By fully changing his identity and making a fake past, he can fool anyone, and can actually be very likeable in these states. It's when he changes back to Diogenes and says he's going to kill you that's bad.

    I wouldn't be able to know which one was more believable and hateable off the bat. I'd have to learn more about the character.​

    4) And finally, the naming. I can't think of a good name that is not too suggestive of his 'evilness' and not too angelic. I need something in the middle. I was thinking of Marcus Hyde. But that sounds evil in itself. And I don't want the name to be obvious of his nature. And suggestions?
    Ah, sorry, no suggestions here. As you can see with the Pendergast family line, their weren't too many quirky names. They were normal to a point, but the person themselves were a bit screwy​

    Hope this helped~​
     
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  11. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    It depends. If your villians is totally evil, maybe a supernatural event may be related, for example being possesed by a demon or an evil entity. Villians tend to be older because of the process of becoming evil. You don't turn evil after a day. It takes, for example, years of suffering or something like that. Also, if your villian will be an elder and related with the arcane, an equally ancient and arcane sounding name will be required.
     
  12. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    It could also help if the villain had some kind of personality "flaw." For example, he could act evil and laugh in ecstasy as he lopped people's heads off, but completely soften at the sight of a puppy or rush to the aid of a wailing infant. This is another one of those things that depends upon the content of the story, though, so it may not do to just pick something at random.
     
  13. Mr Sci Fi
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    Mr Sci Fi Senior Member

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    Not necessarily. Iago became evil after he was passed over for a promotion, and he was rather young. He became evil for revenge, and in the process, became so consumed by it, that he continued for fun.

    Likewise, Michael Meyers became evil for no apparent reason whatsoever. He had a good home, no trauma or whatever other cliche you can name. He just grabbed a knife one night and stabbed his sister. At 8 years old.

    There's no definiable trait of a villain. Your talent as a storyteller will determine your villain in the end.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Is Michael Myers a villain, though, or is he a metaphor for the irrational fears in our subconscious?

    He never really seemed like a character to me, so much as a symbol.

    Still, it's a valid point. Not all villains are really characters anyway. Sauron is only obliquely referred to in character terms, and then only to expose vulnerabilities to exploit.
     
  15. ChimmyBear
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    Human villains are often created by horrible experiences and negative choices. The heart might not be evil, but instead, flawed. This can carry sympathy with the audience.

    Possibly good not so evil names...
    ~Devon
    ~Braeden...(various spellings)
    ~Seth

    All The Best~
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Evil names? Why doesn't anyone named Melvin or Casper or Byron go over to evil? Wouldn't bearing up under years of taunting drive someone to the darker side? Might they not become obsessed with being taken seriously?
     
  17. Gone Wishing
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    I agree with much of the responses given already - a truly believable villain is subject to all of the same personality traits as everyone else (whether the character is human or not). One dimensional villains, driven only by inexplicable hate, thirst for revenge or desire for power get boring very quickly.

    Believable characters, whether villain or hero, need to be given aspects that resonate on a personal level with the reader - my favourite villains have had senses of humour, romantic or chivalrous sides, and above all understandable reasons for the choices that they have made.

    Remember, also, that the bad guys don't often recognise that they actually are the villains of the piece. They are dedicated to their pursuits because they believe that they are right and/or justified in their actions - and it's always interesting to me when I find parts of myself agreeing with them. (That's not a rule of course, some villains just get a kick out of causing chaos).
     
  18. Tragic Author
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    well, as far as names go, i usually just go for regular names. for example, in one of my stories, there's a vampire/demon 12 year old girl named olivia. of course, her appearance is anything but innocent.

    age, as mentioned before, really isn't a big factor. i've even read some things where a two year old was evil. [granted they were a horrible writer and the story had no plot whatsoever]

    personalities: personally, i like to go for the innocent at first, goes through a lifetime of abuse/pain/emotional and/or mental beating and ends up in a violent way of life. it's always good not to overdo the evil in the character unless they have an overwhelmingly good reason, such as voldemort. for another harry potter related reference, another kind of evil would be a snape character. you'd get people to hate him at first, then even more, then he'd be a pretty good guy. in the end, he might turn out to be an angel, or a total creep who turns around and kills everyone and everything he lived for. [and possibly himself though that would defeat the purpose of a villan] as most people know, he was picked on as a kid and earned a cold voice and heart.

    sorry if i'm not too good at giving advice or it's a little sketchy, but i tried. :-D hope it helped.
     
  19. para_noir
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    Thanks alot to everyone who helped!! Seriously, now I've got a pretty good idea of my villain.

    I would love to write parts when the villain feels vulnerable! And to see how he would react!

    Thanks again! And "tragic author", your advice was actually helpful! The thing about snape you talked about gave me an idea for my book. at then end of the book, i want readers to actually ask themselves who the real protagonist was, the apparent good guy or the villain. ;) That would be an awesome twist don't you think? :D

    Thanks again to everyone!
    Everyone gets free copies of my book! (when it gets published.............................if it gets published..............................................ever)
     
  20. NaCl
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    HAL...the "villian" in 2001 - A Space Odyssey...was a misguided computer. Quite effective as the story's antagonist! One of its most compelling characteristics was the complete lack of emotion as it killed, or attempted to kill, the humnan crew members. This illustrates that your villian, or antagonist, can take just about any form or personality traits. Its up to you as a writer to employ those features in such a fashion as to generate conflict and build suspense.

    .....NaCl
     
  21. Cheeno
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    If you read newspaper reports of people convicted of crimes, all have 'normal' names. I go for such 'normality' in my own writing, but it might not suit in si-fi where normality is heightened, lowered or sidelined to suit the particular world.
    I think vulnerability is an essential trait if there's to be any redemptive possibilities. It goes a long way to developing character and helps create empathy with the reader. Also, having commonalities between the protagonist and antagonist is a good way of building the 'mirror' aspect alluded to before.
    Workshop your character. Place him/her into situations where they'll have to act or react, thereby exposing traits you might not have considered. Keep the pieces short and then combine the results to contribute to the whole.
     
  22. Sayuri
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    I love Lex Luthor on Smallville. So. Much. He is incredibly nuanced.

    So, yeah, echoing people here, villains need just as much work as protagonists. Good villains have their own ethos. They are hard to write. I spend as much time learning about them as possible because of this fact, and I also love them. I can rhapsodize about them all day.

    These are my favorite kinds of villains:

    1) The magnificent bastard. This is a villain that, rather than actively pursuing his own goals, manipulates those around him into accomplishing his goals for him, and with so much style and panache that you cannot help but gaze on him in wonder. Examples: Lionel Luthor in Smallville, Emperor Palpatine, Iago in Othello, Desire in Sandman. These villains are kind of one-dimensional, but a lot of fun, and have high intellects and charisma and low scruples.

    2) The villain-that's-almost-an-anti-hero. The only thing that separates this guy from being an anti-hero is that he's not the protagonist, though he exhibits every trait of anti-herodom; but he very easily could be the protagonist if the story were just written from another POV. This villain is often somehow "forced" into using his dark methods, and rather than being "badass" (like an anti-hero such as the Punisher) he's kind of scary, and sad. He's often a tragic hero (per Shakespearean definition) as well. He becomes corrupted by his choices, but there is often no way for him to tell that his choices were the wrong ones. Example: Lex Luthor on Smallville. Highly multi-dimensional, and runs the risk of the villain being more well-liked than the hero.

    3) The anti-villain. He is the exact opposite of the anti-hero; he uses honorable means to accomplish dastardly ends. Because he has a strict code of honor, he elicits empathy. That code of honor doesn't necessarily have to be all bunnies and light, though; he may just stop at killing, or at torture; or he may draw the line at killing "honorable" men (and women), that he respects because of their ethos. These are truly rare, but truly awesome to behold. Example: Russell Crowe's character in 3:10 to Yuma--though he doesn't start out that way; he starts out as a magnificent bastard. He also develops a good motivation in addition to his dastardly one. Not only do you run the risk of this villain being more popular than the hero, but that's usually the point. The only way to combat this, IMO, is to have an anti-hero and an anti-villain at the same time. I can't think of a single story that has pitted an anti-hero against an anti-villain, but if there were and it were pulled off well, it would be epic.

    Most of the examples I mention here have shades of all three types at one point or another in their evolution. And there are other kinds of villains, too, like Voldemort and Sauron, I just don't dig those. They are appropriate for stories that are morally straightforward, though, and I do enjoy those books. I just like morally gray stories better.
     
  23. Vertz
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    Sayuri's points are great, and I agree with a lot of what has been said.

    Age doesn't really seem to matter a great deal. As long as the character has a reason for being the way they are, you're good to go. Although if you're going for an eight year old who wants to take over the world, you should have a great reason.

    I find that villains must be human -- thoroughly evil characters, whose only purpose is to be evil, can get boring after a while. They need a reason, just like the hero. Hitler (I hope most of us can agree that he was a villain) believed that he was right and good. Even though he killed millions of people, he never stopped seeing himself as right. How he got to that point is even more important. What made him believe in a "master race"? We should be able to see why the villain is the way he/she is and what they are fighting for. Hopefully, the character will feel deeper and more human than a completely evil character.

    As for names -- unless the character is an evil god or something, he/she should have a "normal" name. Unless they changed their name for effect, the villain started out like everyone else. The road they traveled makes them the villain, but that may not involve a name seen as evil.
     
  24. Kratos
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    There's a lot of good points mentioned, so I hope I'm not just reiterating them.

    About the name, it depends on who your villian is. If he's an everyday average person, give him an everyday average name. But he's a noble, give him a fancier sounding name.
     
  25. Smithy
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    Has anyone ever found that their villain has actually become less evil as the book progresses, and that consequently when you go back to the beginning he seems very OOC? I started out trying to write a panto villain with a melodramatic flair, by the ending he has become a very tragic figure who actually does more emoting at the climax than the 'heroic' protagonists. Who then kill him in a very underhand by shooting him in the back after he sort of surrenders (it makes a lot more sense in context.)
     

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