13 March 2012

Writing a Well-Rounded Villain

You guys know I'm a nerd, so my writing a post about Mr. Freeze won't strike any of you as odd.

I've been thinking a lot about writing in general, and writing villains in particular. A lot of the time, villains end up as \pure eeeeeeevilllllll, and sometimes that works, and sometimes...well... Sometimes I find I want more from my villains.

I love knowing what makes people tick. What drives them to make the choices they make--including the choice to be a total and absolute bastard. I guess it's the psychology of villainy that really gets to me, most notably the idea of a sympathetic villain.

There are tons of versions of Mr. Freeze; that's how the comic book world tends to work for the most part. The version of Mr. Freeze I'm thinking about is the one trying to find a cure for his terminally-ill wife, Nora, whom he has cryogenically frozen until he's successful. Long story short, a stupid rich guy thwarts his plans by demanding an end to Freeze's experiments, and Nora is trapped in a state of suspended animation. An accident leaves Freeze...well, Freeze, and his life of crime begins, all in an effort to find a cure for Nora and get back at the jerkwad who ruined his plans.

Most often, people aren't born evil *unless we're going on a demonic thing here, in which case, yeah, they can be*. A LOT of factors play into crafting a well-rounded villain. Motivation, psyche, past experiences, all of these play into the reasons why your antagonist thwarts your hero at every turn. Instead of sticking a character in your novel to be The Guy who Messes with My Good Guy, try giving him or her a well-rounded backstory and think about the reasons why he's gone down this path. Why is it so important for him to keep the hero from reaching his goals?

Who are your favorite villains? Are they pure eeeeeeevil, or is there something else about them that strikes you?


Landra said...

My favorite villians are the ones you just love to hate.

It's difficult for me to come up with a book villian at the moment, but a person that comes to mind is Snape from the Harry Potter series.

Also Spike from Buffy, who ultimately turns good. I've read about some really wicked parents as well. What fascinates me is the lengths they are willing to travel to accomplish their goals, and the twisted sense they tend to possess.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

If only it were as easy as putting my villians in tights and sending them on a quest for world domination, this writing thing would be much easier...although giving them a zombie virus might work...

lexcade said...

Zombie viruses FTW!!!!

I'm a fan of the villains with unclear motivations. The ones who sometimes cross the line into anti-hero (like Mr Freeze here) and just confuse the hero even more ;)