What makes a great villain? Should he/she be evil through and through? Should we hate him/her and feel good about that hating?
In Back From Chaos I had to have the mandatory villain. I wanted him to be real and believable. So these were the questions I asked myself. I thought about human nature, the nature of how the decision to do evil comes about in the real world. My personal opinion, based on both observation and studying, have taught me that there are VERY few people who are truly evil. Even those we traditionally think of as evil, such as Hitler, Idi Amin and Bin Laden had their redeeming qualities before they committed the atrocities that led us to view them as evil. Each were idealistic, in their own way, and were loved as well as hated, at least in their private lives.
So I decided that my villain in “Back From Chaos” had to have a good reason for the decision that made him an antagonist in my story. I went even further and portrayed him in a way that made us actually sympathize with him, understand his dilemma.I wanted him to be real, three dimensional. Even in ” Back From Chaos” I have secondary characters for whom I did not see the necessity of explaining how they chose evil.
Since no real person is ‘all good’ or ‘all evil’ I try to write my primary characters that way, too. The ‘good guys’ have doubts, make mistakes, and the ‘bad guys’ have their good side side, too. I did make an exception in “Through Kestrel’s Eyes”. However, had this character played a more important part in the story I would have found a way to flesh him out as well.
Pure evil does have some fascination for us, and it can be well written, but as a reader I am drawn to characters that are more than two dimensional. And I usually want to understand what made them turn to the dark. So if the character is a major player in my story I will make the reader find some sympathy for him/her.