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blog Mythic Guide to Heroes & Villains — Intelligent and Immoral Villains

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Black Dragon, Jul 25, 2020.

  1. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    Black Dragon submitted a new blog post:

    Mythic Guide to Heroes & Villains — Intelligent and Immoral Villains
    by Antonio del Drago


    This is Part 9 of the Mythic Guide to Heroes & Villains.


    Can you think of a few stupid villains that are well known? What names come to mind?

    If you’re writing for young children or an outright satire, then your villain has an excuse to be stupid. Beyond these exceptions, you will want your villain to be very intelligent.

    You want your villain to be very well learned and cunning. While most heroes come from humble beginnings, the majority of villains are written as being well-seasoned in their trade from the moment we are first introduced to them.

    They can easily outsmart the hero from the beginning, because they have done it all before. An evil tyrant didn’t climb to the top being unopposed, and he has certainly not retained his throne without a challenger surfacing now and again.

    Even if your villain is not written with a genius level of intellect, you must resist the urge of writing him or her as being stupid. The story is much easier to write if the villain is stupid; the villain makes some tremendous mistake that the hero exploits, and the story ends. But easy writing is not the same as good writing.

    While the villain is sometimes defeated through his own error — or by the hero outsmarting him — it is typically some tiny detail that he cannot be faulted for...
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  2. S J Lee

    S J Lee Troubadour

    But these days writers will be called out for "villain is mentally ill" as being non-PC.... "mentally ill people suffer far more violence than they inflict".....

  3. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    I think that most of the attacks on the Joker film were unwarranted. It is true that the vast majority of mentally ill people are not dangerous, and that they are more likely to be victims. At the same time, there are sometimes real life villains who suffer from mental health issues.

    While I think that the trope of "mentally ill killer" is overdone, I don't think that it should be forbidden, either.
    skip.knox likes this.
  4. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Not so sure about villains needing to be intelligent to be dangerous. (for example only, witness the current political situation in the US). A much more relevant example is that of the 'Limper' in Glen Cook's 'Black Company' series - a wizard who was so powerful, so monumentally arrogant, he didn't need to think - he simply brought overwhelming power against all obstacles.
    Black Dragon and FifthView like this.
  5. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Yep, I think overwhelming power is a great substitute for intelligence in a villain. In fact, it may be the better choice.

    I often have a very difficult time believing that an utterly immoral, or even downright evil, person is all too intelligent. There's something very deficient in such a character. I can understand ambivalence or equivocation, but absolute immorality expressed through the most heinous acts? Doesn't it betray a sort of lack of intelligence, the kind that arises through narrow tunnel vision? In other words, the villain focuses down one path but simply can't see multiple paths.

    But then again, there are different kinds of intelligence. The sort able to see 10 steps into the future, as when playing chess, doesn't require being able to see outside the tunnel of one's own immorality. The sort of intelligence able to read people, see and exploit their weaknesses, may itself be a form of tunnel vision, insofar as the sociopath focuses his attention on other people in order to deceive them but simply cannot see himself through the same lens: the tunnel is focused outward and never bends back toward the observer.
    Nighty_Knight and Black Dragon like this.

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