Creating a Villain, Part II

Good morning, fellow imaginers, and welcome to another weekend edition here at YJBLiterary! Today, I will be continuing my discussion on creating a villain. Last week, we revealed who the main protagonist would be, going into the details of Metamorph 3’s General Derek Stone. Today, I would like to dive into what makes him such a powerful villain and the thought process that goes behind creating a memorable protagonist.

When creating a villain, I try to emphasize four key points in order to flesh out the character, each one equally important in making them uniquely capable of carrying such a burden. Here they are in detail:

Depth– When creating the protagonist, I want them to be their own unique person, not just some cookie-cutter villain we’ve seen countless of times before. I want their personalities to come about due to their past experiences and not simply be generically “bad” or “evil”. Thus, each villain must have a proper backstory. In fact, their story must be as thoroughly constructed as your main character, if you truly want them to resonate with the reader.

Where did they grow up? How were they raised? What was their family dynamic like growing up? What are their fears/favorite things to do?  

Ask these questions as you create your villain, and soon they will become more than just some creepy shadow in the background. They become an actual person whose motivations are driven forth by their life experiences. The more you understand your protagonist, the easier it will be to convey them to the reader and make them someone who they should care about, for good or bad.

Realistic Ambitions– Not everybody wants to rule the world. Not everyone wants all of the money and power. Not everyone wants to build a space colony on the moon and start an intergalactic war against Earth. Sometimes, our villains simply want something more attainable. Revenge. Order. Chaos. Attention. Look at the true motives behind your character’s actions and find out what drives them in their pursuit of their goals. The most memorable villains usually are those who want something the reader could understand, something that appears realistically attainable. Becoming the head of the Russian mafia is a lot easier than taking over the entirety of the continent with a handful of goons. It is something the reader can feasibly understand and rationalize, thus making the character a little more real. Not to say that your villain can’t dream big and reach for the stars. On the contrary, look at Thanos or Darth Vader. But if you’re going to go that route, make sure their power and resources line up accordingly.

Believable– You want your villain to be someone whom the reader can easily imagine. I’m not necessarily talking about physical descriptions here. If you want your villain to be a Martian wolf/zombie, than by all means do so. What I mean is how you convey the villain (its intent, its action, its ambitions) needs to be believable. I would find it hard to believe that a hard-working, blue-collar steel worker from the suburbs would up and leave his home and family to pursue his long held passion for world domination without so much as an explanation. Now tell me that he has just lost his job, is behind on his mortgage, his wife has threatened to leave him and take the kids…and now I’m beginning to see why he wants to take down this bank so badly. Make your villain someone that the reader can see as an actual threat. Which brings us to the last aspect…    

Relatable/Empathy– You need to make your readers feel for the villain. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but they need to almost care more about the antagonist than the antagonist. Generally, its easy for us to view the story through the eyes of the protagonist and see ourselves as the hero. But the same can be said for a well crafted villain. If done correctly, we can easily understand why it is the villain chose their path, and on some level, relate to them. Making the villain someone whom the reader can actually care about, even if we don’t want them to succeed, is a powerful tool and can drive your story to new heights. All of the great villains, from Magneto to Thanos, all have a strong level of relatability to them which makes them characters we can empathize with. And that, my friends, leads to a great and memorable villain.

I hope you enjoyed this breakdown on villains, and I look forward to seeing you next segment! Until next time, keep imagining!


Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

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