Writing Villains

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.


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4 Responses to Writing Villains

  1. Wendy Reis says:

    And you do it well! Making these people real is one of your many strengths.

  2. Lo Cooper says:

    In my opinion this is a difficult thing to do is write an evil character. I never look at Hitler neither Idim, i ask myself how can i write an evil character? I learned a lot from taking Behavior Analysis. I draw from this and ask myself series of questions on making an evil character. Furthermore it depends on how bad do you want him or her to be is very important. For example one character that’s in one of my prefaces is a terrorist, not the idiot zealot we see on cnn but something thats pure such as seeing the world burn. He has no redeming qualities of his own but the code he follows and a teaching he lives by. Other that he’s a guy that thinks for little of the world. Honestly this is one of my strengths/ weakness at times. A book that might help is Lucifer effect by Phillip Z

  3. Jane Bettany says:

    Yvonne, I totally agree with you about the importance of giving even the evil characters some redeeming features. In my opinion, no-one is all good, or all bad (not even the heroes) and to get that across in fiction is very important. I like that you try to get your readers to understand what motivates the villain to do what he’s doing. I’m sure that must add a layer of complexity to the story, make your characters properly three dimensional, and get the reader’s emotions racing.

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