Who doesn’t want to write (or read) about one?
I remember reading Wuthering Heights in high school, and I hated Heathcliff so much that I WISHED I was a character in the book just so I could walk into that kitchen and slap him across the face. Damn that Heathcliff.
Often as writers, we tend to focus on our main character who’s the hero/heroine, and may get adventurous and draw up an anti-hero–but what about our villains? I admit, I’ve written drafts (which probably won’t see the light of day) where my villains were only defined by their opposition to the hero (antagonist). But that’s not very fun, is it?
Villains have complexities too. They have hopes, dreams, and in some cases they may even believe that they’re the hero–or just doing what needs to be done. Yes, we love to hate villains, but we want more than just the mustache-twirling “Mwhaaahaaa!” type.
In “The Tower’s Alchemist,” the treacherous Russian spy–Nikon Praskovya–has her own motivations and reasons for her actions. Some are apparent, and some are yet to be revealed. She likes money and she likes being on the winning side–who couldn’t relate to that? However when these define her decisions (like who to ally herself with), we see the consequences play out in interesting ways.
With that said, another thing I’ve learned is that while a villain can lose or fail at something when going toe-to-toe with the hero, it doesn’t mean the villain has to be an incompetent fool (although apparently there’s a Facebook page dedicated to them. Ha!). The hero may win a round, the villain another…heck, the villain may even be a step ahead. It should be a constant game of chess with lives, futures, and whatever else that’s important at stake.
What makes a good villain? And who do you think is the best villain ever?