The Importance of a "Good" Bad Guy
by Andy Peloquin
How important is the villain in fiction? I'd almost venture to say that he/she is more important than the hero!
Think about the movies and books that have "made it big" over the years:
- Harry Potter -- The only reason Harry Potter is important, is because he's going to defeat Voldermort. Without a Voldermort, he's just another kid learning to be a wizard.
- Star Wars -- Why does Luke Skywalker matter? He's a Jedi who defeats not only the ultimate evil (the Emperor), but he shuts out the temptations of his father (a great villain) to join the Dark Side.
- The Avengers -- Every Marvel movie has been about defeating a villain. Which movie was the most successful of all time? The one with the awesome villain: Loki.
- Game of Thrones -- The books/TV shows are riddled with characters that should/could be classified as "villains", and all the "heroes" die out early on.
These are just a few examples, but they showcase the importance of a good villain.
The thing that makes a hero more "heroic" is the amount of villainy he has to face and overcome.
Think about Harry Potter if the primary villain of the book was Draco Malfoy. All he'd have to do is defeat House Slytherin in the Quidditch Cup, and he would have his victory. One book, and it's done!
Look at Star Wars. The only reason that any of the movies happened was because of the Emperor pulling the strings behind the scenes. Without his incredibly complex schemes, things would have been at peace, the Jedi would have multiplied, and the galaxy would have been very different.
But what TYPE of villain are you writing? Are you writing the clichéd "evil"--maniacal, bloodthirsty, and cruel for the sake of being cruel? Literature has progressed to the point that few people enjoy reading about this unrealistic character.
Now, people are much more savvy about the underlying psychology of what makes a villain or hero do the things they do. You can't just throw "evil" on a page and expect people to read it. In fact, that's going to get you laughed out of the room faster than writing a "buxom heroine" or a "blond, blue-eyed hero".
The best villains are the ones who have a "good" reason for doing what they're doing. Perhaps they were slighted by the city or country that they are now seeking to burn to the ground. Or maybe the king they're trying to kill did something to harm their family in the past. Better yet, they may be trying to do something perceived as "evil" because, in the long run, they have "good" intentions at heart.
That is what makes a villain memorable, and that's what makes them worth reading. How many truly maniacal people do you know? Not many. How many people do you know that will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals? Probably A LOT.
When writing your villains, keep this in mind: "There is no evil; there is only desire, and what you will do to achieve it."
Write your villains as real people who have real thoughts and feelings. Give them a reason to do what they're doing, and give them something that will help the reader identify with them. The best villains are the ones you can't help but love (look at Loki in the Avengers), and they are the ones that you will remember for the rest of your life.
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When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?
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