How to Create a Complex Villain

villainAll novels need a villain – and a complex villain at that. No cardboard, one-dimensional Darth Maul need apply. The only type of villain I enjoy is one who is so bad and with so many layers that he’s gooooood!

Disclaimer – for the sake of ease of reading, I’m using the pronoun ‘he’ but everything applies to ‘she’ too.

Villains, especially complex villains are fun to create. You get to use all the flaws, imperfections, negative traits and disgusting quirks that you’ve compiled over the years in the lovely little notebook that every writer carries wherever he or she goes – no, your phone doesn’t count! As far as I’m concerned, little ratty notebooks are the only ones that matter. The notebook that’s been stuck in your purse so long that it has lipstick and blush marks on it, pieces of gum stuck on and its pages are dog-eared. That notebook has undoubtedly captured the essence of whatever you have observed and need to note down.

Add Some Shoe-Shine to Your Baddiedownload

It’s simple. A complex villain is never simple. He doesn’t just want power or money just to be rich or powerful.That’s boring. Give your villain motivation. Perhaps his daughter or his favorite dog was killed by vicious drug lords or mad scientists and he’s out for revenge. Nothing will stop him.

Give Him a Past (and a horrible one at that)

Maybe he drowned rats as a kid or burned ants with a magnifying glass. It’s the type of thing that can lead to ever more repugnant deeds. You need to decide how deranged, vile or immoral he should be.

Are Villains Born or Made?

It’s nurture versus nature. Was your villain born or created because of something horrific happening in his past? All the psychological thrillers on television seem to have psychopaths who have become that way because their mothers fed them gruel or forgot to pack their lunch. Yes, I’m making light of this, but do your homework and either have something vile happen to your villain as a little boy or else have him born that way. Look around your child’s playground. There is always one kid who is bullying and tormenting the others. You can’t tell me that toddlers have learned that behavior – chances are they were born that way.

Give Him a Soft Spotwith cat

Stroking a fluffy cat while pondering evil deeds is always a classic – James Bond villain in You Only Live Twice does this with aplomb as does Dr. Evil in Austin Powers. But try something fresh. Whether it’s a love for a hairy tarantula or a guinea pig, give him something to soften his evilness. It doesn’t even have to be a pet. Perhaps your villain enjoys the sweet scent of jasmine or is a master gardener.

What kind of villains do you enjoy creating?


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Creative Writing 101 – Tuesday afternoons Aug.2 – Sept. 13 (no class Aug. 9)

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