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Do you create Villains differently?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Darkfantasy, Dec 20, 2019.

  1. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    This is the first time I've ever developed a true villain and I have two in my book and I just wanted to ask: Do you develop them any differently to “heroic” characters? I tend to follow a character work sheet because I'm really a beginner. I use this one:

    Character and characterisation in novels: techniques, examples and exercises | Jericho Writers (are there any better ones?)

    I'm happy to share more information about my villains if needed

    Any help would be appreciated.
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Couldn't see the sheet without signing up. Passed on that.

    I try to develop all main characters the same way, not treating a villain any different from heroes. Each, as the saying goes, is the hero of their own story. So it's a matter of discovering what that story is. I have two in my WIP, as well. One has been easy, the other is proving difficult.
    Malik likes this.
  3. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    I probably -should- make mine differently. Currently I have an unfortunate habit of falling in love with my villains. It makes it hard for me to have them lose.
  4. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    I generally don't plan out characters beyond their purpose in the story. A scene requires a hotdog vendor? Sure, I'll write her however she comes to mind, her personality, appearance and past can be pantsed and edited along the way until she has become a coherent whole. I believe this process allows me to have dynamic characters who can be used throughout the work and extend beyond their scene. On the downside the process is slow and requires a love for editing. I do this with any character, villain, civilian or hero.
    Insolent Lad likes this.
  5. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    Couldn't see the sheet without signing up. Passed on that.

    Weird, I didn't sign up to anything but can still see it. Sorry about that and thanks everyone for the comments so far.
  6. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

    Do I create villains differently? Yes, totally! Where the heroes should gain the reader's sympathy, the villain should fill him with utter disgust. Whenever the villain appears, the reader should go "Oh no, please don't let him kill a kitten ... again."

    Everyone is a hero in his own story. This can work nicely in fiction. In real life, though, people mostly do bad stuff because they think they can get away with it, and their justification is something like "If she didn't want it to happen, she shouldn't be walking around alone at night."

    I think giving the villain some positive traits can work, as a rebuttal to the obvious accusation that the villain is simply a series of negative traits.

    Here are a few tricks to make the villain more heinous still:
    If he is rich, powerful, well-spoken, popular with the ladies ... you hate him already. Envy works wonder!
    Let him be vastly more resourceful than the hero (political influence, money, skills, social network)
    Let the hero fail to see that he's the bad guy. (or, isn't this getting old?)
    Expose his heinousness in his very first scene.
    Let him be totally incomprehensible, like Hannibal Lector.
    Let him give the hero or another likable character a crushing defeat.
    Let him be artificial and fake.
    Let him perform minor acts of cruelty. Casual racism. Passive-aggressive comments. Kicking a puppy.
    Try to make the reader think that you, the author, is siding with the villain. Try giving him some compelling arguments. Or let the hero behave like the bad one.
  7. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    To me good villains typically fall into one of four categories:
    1) Those who do not care at all what they do to others to achieve what they want. (Ex. Darth Vader, Doctor Doom, Agent Smith, White Witch)
    2) Those who provide sympathetic reasons for what they want, but they are going about it a wrong way. (Ex. Magneto, Poison Ivy)
    3) It could be a case of power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    4) Those who are psychopaths/simply crazy. (Ex. The Joker, Buffalo Bill)

    Villains are often the ones who drive a story. They appeal to people because they get to do the things we sometimes wish we could do. They push our sensibilities of what is acceptable to do in various situations.
  8. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    Villains interest me more than anything because I don't understand what causes them to behave the way the do - even in real life. Ted Bundy blamed his porn addiction for killing women. But how many men and women watch porn, even become addicted and don't go on killing sprees. Another blamed his abusive childhood, but many adults can claim that one and don't go killing others. It doesn't seem to be the events that happen to them, but how they are wired to handle them. It seems to be all in the head.
  9. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

    Depends on the villain actually. An embodiment of evil is going to written, and even conceived, much differently than a human being, no matter how vile. The former, I treat more like a plot device. The latter is absolutely a well developed character given the same richness as my protagonists. Not all of their development may make it on the page, depending on their role, but I hope it shows anyway.
  10. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    For me, the MC, plot kicker and villain tend to be born in the same instant.

    They're all facets of the story - and equally important.
  11. Momonkiir

    Momonkiir Acolyte

    Not sure if this will help, but I tend to create my characters by using things like the seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues as roots. The reason I do this is because you can usually categorize real people's actions into one or more of these 14 sections. so if you want to create a murderer, what sin or virtue can you boil down their motive to? Do they think themselves a god? then they fall into pride. Do they kill to collect organs for dying children? then they fall into charity. while the motive can be complex, if you cant boil it down to a simple concept like the sins or virtues, it might be hard to understand.
  12. Malik

    Malik Auror

    This right here.

    In my current series, my hero was originally my villain and vice versa when I started drafting and concepting--and even for a handful of novels set in my series world that never made it through publisher slushpiles.

    Writing entire books and plotting an entire series from the villain's perspective and framing him as the Good Guy gave me a really fun set of perspectives and viewpoints to play with. He's never actually a Bad Guy; he never kicks puppies or kills people for the hell of it or laughs evilly. He just has a set of goals that are diametrically opposed from the main character, who turned out to be far more fun to write. It would be simple to flip the two characters again, and I'm pretty sure that if I did, all the "bad" things that the Big Bad does could be framed as stand-up-and-cheer moments.

    My next series, however, is contemporary speculative fiction with epic fantasy elements. While there are actual opposing characters standing against the MC--again, more like obstacles/foils than evil characters per se--the true antagonist is a looming apocalypse, and it's coming after all of them unless they figure something out, either individually or together. So, again, touching back on what skip.knox said, above: I've sketched out all of the "villain" characters as heroes from their own perspectives, and their actions aren't evil so much as ruthlessly self-interested. Because that's how people get when it's all about to hit the fan.
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I guess my answer would be “no” because I don’t have a method for creating characters that I can define. For me, I keep character sheets to gaming, heh heh. They’re a bit like outlining, i tried to use them way back when but just never found them useful.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  14. This. A force of pure evil is a force of nature, an obstacle, and while humanoid, it isn't a true character. I treat it almost like I do a magic system.

    Whereas, an actual human villain I create the same way I do a regular character. What do they want, what is their background, and why do they want what they want. After that, the details kind of come together.
  15. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    Great! Thanks for all the help I think I'm ok now. I understand it a little better and also I think I'll create the villain and main character at the same time. There is no good and bad character in my book, just lesser degrees of evil. My main character is an anti-hero, her adopted mother is a villain to her but a hero to her sister. The witch is a hero for my main character then becomes a villain to her later on, but she is a "saint" in the eyes of her own kind. She is considered the defender/savior of her kind so feels compelled to do what she is doing because so many like her are relying on her to come through for them.
  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think the biggest question for me with how I want to build a villain is whether or not the character is a POV character. A POV villain can and should be far more subtle than one who isn't.

    In the real world, Person A meets a Thug on the street. The thug steals money and runs off. Person A will probably never know anything about the villain just encountered. That's life. In Literature, we need to give the villain a reason to explain what they're doing and why they're doing it. Add in the desire for a big conflict, and we get villains who lean on the big and boisterous side. And there's nothing wrong with that.

    If you give the villain a POV, you can take more time to develop their internal monologue and aren't limited to your small interactions with the MC. Hypothetically, your Hero need never really understand what the villain is even up to. It can be more complex and nuanced than otherwise.

    As for "the hero of their own story" thing, that's, honestly, not that true in real life. Many people know they're doing crappy things. And not everyone thinks of themselves as a "good" person. It's better to accept that anything which can be true is true for somebody, even if that leads to uncomfortable and horrifying visions of a person's life.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  17. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    Real life crappy people don't have stories written about them.

    Big stories can often have people / entities diametrically opposed and both believing in the righteousness of their mission.
  18. Alex Reiden

    Alex Reiden Minstrel

    Helter Skelter
  19. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Maester

    Human villians are hard to write and "relate to" I would say. Those who we consider "real life villians" such as serial killers, terroists, murderers, ect. are/were probably just to some degree very disturbed individuals who either weren't sane or had very strange and abnormal patterns of thought. Everyone in their right mind wants to be the 'hero' and so we tend to avoid appearing unheroic or at the very minimum they don't wanna be "evil".

    It helps I find if your villian isnt human, something that is pure evil in nature like say a demon is much easier to write as a villian because it is unrelatable. Demons could have totally different methods of thought from us, they could easily have a nature that doesn't care about humans (they arent one and they lack empathy so why would they), that derives enjoyment of somekind out of inflicting pain and suffering (hellspawn), and that generally seeks to devour and destroy everything light and good and generally against it simply because of it natural instincts to do so.

    Now, When humans do something "evil" It is out of selfish gain which is part of why one of the strongest heroic attributes is selflessness. A human would from a mental view point have to be completely devoid of empathy for starters to match most villian traits, they would have to not identify with other humans cause to a degree even socio-psychopaths can be a form of empathetic simply because they are able to comprehend that the person is also human like them causing a species bonding of sorts, then they would also need the required power to be able to fight back against hordes of humans rising up to stop this new menace, not to mention they would need some additional 'evil' attributes such as cat and mouse sadistic behavior, unbridled aggression, no self control things like that. Like what Momonkiir said using biblical things is a good idea to draw from for evil/good traits. Personally, I flip the fruits of the spirit so you get this list; hate, bitterness, war-lust, restlessness, malice, evil, recklessness, disloyalty, and a lack of self control.
  20. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    I do wonder if giving the villain a capacity to pro-tag (or antag- as the case may be) pushes the "hero of their own story" aspect closer to reality. Not our reality, necessarily, heh, but the reality of the story. The ability to act toward a goal presupposes a belief that the goal is the best of all other possibilities. And who is the villain to say it is the best? Why, he's a special sort of person. How can he not think this is true of himself, given all the opposition to that goal? Why not give in to the true heroes, give up, forget about it? Why not see them as being "right" and himself as "wrong?"

    Sure, there can be villains who know they are wretches. But there are heroes who believe themselves to be wretches, also.

    This reminds me of the old argument I always had running in my head when I was a teenager. Some loudmouthed jerk enters the room, full of himself, and a bystander says, "He's so arrogant!" Why, yes, perhaps he is. But that bystander is putting himself upon a pedestal, claiming a special ability or right to evaluate that jerk. That is, the bystander is being arrogant. (Yeah, I was that jerk sometimes. I was actually pained by the fact that no one taking such a stance toward me could see the irony/hypocrisy; but I usually never bothered to point it out.)

    This is all eye-of-the-beholder. The villain who sees himself as the hero of his own story may not be seeing himself as some kind of pure, angelic soul or as working toward a goal that large numbers of people will find worthwhile and necessary. But often enough he is striving against antagonisms, beset on many sides, and will believe that his vision of the ideal life—his ideal life—is worth making a reality if at all possible. But as I said above, even the heroes of these tales don't necessarily see themselves as pure, angelic souls, heh, or else as "heroes."

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