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What makes an interesting villian?


I wondering which makes villians interesting to you? (personality, appearance, how they act or talk, etc.)

What makes a villian interesting to me is mostly there personality. My favorite kind of villian is one that is not particularly evil but will steal or do things based on whims and will have insidious luck, like one moment he steals a fortune and the next he gets it stolen from him by someone else.


Intelligence. Stupid villains are boring.

Insanity's always nice, too–but only if the writer knows what he's talking about. Unfortunately, too many seem to equate "insane" with "acts like one of the Three Stooges." (And even more RPGers do.… :p )
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Even if it is some sort of twisted version, a villain who thinks he asks in the name of righteousness is more scary sometimes.

If its honest morality (to a degree), then we sympathize with the villain.

Dante Sawyer


Even if it is some sort of twisted version, a villain who thinks he asks in the name of righteousness is more scary sometimes.

If its honest morality (to a degree), then we sympathize with the villain.
I agree completely. A villain who does something knowingly evil is cliche and boring. A villain who thinks he/she/it is doing something for the good of all, or even himself/herself/itself, provides for a much more realistic character.


A cool car.

Actually I agree with morality and intelligence. If they get some rather witty dialogue. That's usually what makes me root for the villain.


The best villains don't think they're the bad guy. Whether or not they stick to any moral code (most people aren't consistent enough to do this, anyway), they don't act in a way they think is evil without very good reason.

Interesting motives are also a plus.
I like my villains to be smart, misguided and ruthless, never falling into the supervillain traps. Sometimes it is easier if they are an over zealous subordinate going above the call of duty rather than the one in charge.


The best villains don't think they're the bad guy.

My bad guy doesn't think she's the bad guy - in fact in her view, her sister (my reluctant heroine) is the one who's spoiling everything, while she's just trying to make people's lives better.

She's a little bit unhinged though, which helps explain her skewed view of what 'helping' should consist of.
Here is a question for you:
Assuming that you are going to let the audience know what your villain is planning/thinking. Do you like to make your villain the POV character, or do you make someone close to the villain the POV?


I find villains the most difficult characters to write. I think it's hard sometimes not to make them cliche. I agree with the previous posters that a villain does need morality and it makes a story much more interesting when an antagonist thinks what they are doing is right. I think that a villain has to have some redeeming characteristics also and have other emotions apart from hate and anger, for example.
What makes a good villain to me? Well, that depends on what the story requires for opposition. Different stories require different villains, so it all depends. I guess it all boils down to - what is the villain's motivation within the story?

Right now, I'm in love with and totally frustrated with a character I'm writing who was an evil murderer and then reincarnated as a woman who grew up with a normal family in a normal life. So, she turns out to be her own villain. However, I have to have a secondary villain as the corrupt government official who hunted the murderer down. And then a 3rd antagonist from the just as corrupt revolution. It's a rather complicated story...

Matty Lee

For me, the key thing about a villain is that his villainy must have meaning. Allow me to explain.

Anyone can craft a cruel sociopath who violates babies and impales pregnant women. This is easy to write, I could do it in five minutes, and have all sorts of little nuances to accentuate just how horrible a person we are dealing with. The acts described above ARE evil, as we would all probably agree, but what do they MEAN to you? What do they tell you about Evil, about what goes on in the REAL world? Fantasy has always been about created worlds, but it has always said something, either transient or eternal, about ours. Good and Evil are a part of this.

For a villain to mean something, he must embody evil to a degree. Perhaps (if you want to do a boring cliche) he's some sort of racist bigot who wears tight black leather, enjoys whipping minority females when he's not riling up the white/pure/privileged masses. His individual acts of evil are part of a greater whole, demonstrating the inherit badness within his ideology, or within the type of person he is (charismatic leader of a fascist movement).

To be more interesting, perhaps he is a military leader hardened by war, shattered by the experience of seeing and dealing so much death, who feels compelled to protect his nation from all of it's enemies, except it has none. He spends massive resources targeting phantom threats, killing lots of people, willingly lying to those around him because he feels that he has to. He is a sad broken man, a rabid dog who the hero(s) must put down for the safety and security of the world.

Both of these hypothetical characters MEAN something, the first isn't so much a person as a stereotype who could serve as political allegory, and the second is a recurring character dealing with a historically reoccurring problem, what happens to men of war when the war is over? How does society deal with them? What happens when society neglects men with the capacity to do great violence, and the burden of having to have done it?