Disney villains are the best kind of villains. Go evil parrot!
Disney villains are the best kind of villains. Go evil parrot!

He’s an arrogant snob, whose only care is himself. His views on women are derogative and his favourite pastime seems to be manipulation.

And yet, chillingly, my villain is becoming the easiest character to write. There was a time when I despised everything he said and did, but now I’m having second thoughts. The cold face of evil is not heartless, but a reflection of love, loss and anger. These are humans we dictate the path of, and humans are malleable, broken shapes; they have felt love and loss so easily.

“Why are you so good at writing, Agatha Christie? You’ve loved, lost. You’ve had your heart broken.” (Doctor Who, the Unicorn and the Wasp)

Perhaps villains are the most multi-faceted of characters. Sure, heroes have their faults, and they go wrong at times, but heroes (as opposed to protagonists, some of whom are anti-heroes, of course) Even when they don’t follow the exact straight and narrow for the sake of their cause, they have an inner mind of goodness – something to conquer at the finale.

The villain has no such thing. I’ve experienced broken people, through real life and the fiction; these people go one of two ways: they lose hope and become catatonic – or they steal hope from others, by way of villainy.

Sometimes villainy is the only way out. That’s what makes a villain fascinating: they have nothing left to lose. And mine is just the same. Everything he has to lose is on the other side of my protagonists – and if he wins, he gains more than if he fails. At least, until the end of the novel.

Woo, Rob James Collier looking moody.
Woo, Rob James Collier looking moody.

I’ll add that there’s something more which keeps me watching my villain: his voice. (That is, writing tone, as opposed to literal vocal-chord resonation!) Because of his high society (I’m just gonna steal this phrase, thanks, Jae!), war-based opinions, he has three significant idioms:

1)      Never uses request tags, eg. ‘please’. To those younger or lesser than him, he often orders rather than requests.

2)      His use of the future tense is strictly ‘will’ even in first person; ‘shall’ is too soft a dictum.

3)      He uses no contractions, except ‘don’t’ when annoyed. It’s something that has struck the entire family. Naturally, really, if it passes from one generation to another.

As such, the voice and sentence structure of the villain is deeply controlled.

This is something I’m trying with all the characters. As voice is my weakest characterisation and writing tool, I don’t expect myself to craft a different style for each POV, but I hope that this use of tightness will aid my editing.

After all, as is often said: if a sentence works without a certain word, cut the word.


What do you like in a villain? Have they ever taken you by surprise and become evil in an ‘understandable’ way? Do you think the sadness in life is a good writing tool?

I’d also like to bring to attention the Good Sinful Alliance. I’m not sure who ‘runs’ it, but it’s caught my eye, mostly over at Musings From Neville’s Navel. They talk about the ‘goodness’ behind villains.

Happy writing 🙂


8 thoughts on “

  1. I don’t think I can divide my characters into heroes and villains. The person who most fits the classical “villain” profile is actually on the same side as my protagonist. The primary antagonist for this book is someone who is well-intentioned, but wrong. Most of my other characters are personally loyal to their friends, but amoral otherwise.

    1. Yes, I think that’s probably a better reflection of true humanity – there are rarely people who act evil for the sake of evil. I also find amoral characters almost more interesting than villains – plus it leads for better twists and readers left more ‘in the dark’ as to who might ‘win’.
      I think I’d like to write an amoral character one day; I had to make my antagonist more villainous for the sake of conflict and tension, but I’d like to go back to writing where circumstance and opinion are the greater demons.
      Thanks for commenting! It’s a good point to mention not-villainous antagonists, too.

    1. Hi, Nevillegirl *waves*
      Ah, I see. I should keep a better track of the GSA; it looks really interesting, especially now that I enjoyed composing the above post.
      Thanks for commenting! 😀

  2. i love writing villainy. I mean, they have the least boundaries, as characters go. Stuff good guys can’t do because of morality don’t affect villains. Thus, they’re easier to write for me, as I can be as creative and freespirited as I want. Of course, my villains are sadistic and cruel. I wonder what that says about me? 😉

    1. Hehe, that’s true. We can weasel in villains to where we ourselves cannot go.

      To be honest, I think you’ll find most writers are the same. We sacrifice our sense of morality to compose and act through evil characters. Well, maybe I do. I don’t know about those ‘other’ writers who never have to murder characters. 😛

      1. Yeah, screw those other guys. Murdering characters is fun. If nobody ever died, then there’d be no tension! I love the Game of Thrones books for that reason. You never know who’s going to die next.

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