[Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

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[Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

Postby Terumi » Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:00 am

My friend wants to create a great villain for a fantasy story. YOU help her :D
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Re: [Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

Postby Arcana » Sat Jun 18, 2011 11:23 am

Well, for my perspective the most important ingredient of a villain is their objective or motive. People don't generally do evil things just because they can (well, OK, Batman's Joker might be something like an exception. But then he's batshit insane).

The villain generally either has a genuine beef with the protagonist or some third party, or they have something to gain from being evil, or they have something they're want and they're prepared to get it by less-than-legal/moral means. Or they just profoundly hate something that badly.

Take Wilbur Smith's books. They're all very much cookie-cutter. You've read one, you've read them all (with the exception of his trilogy set in Ancient Egypt). They all have something very specific they want, they're all usually powerful individuals, and in pretty much every story the villain is usually at least slightly deranged. Very rarely are they of sound mind. In fact, they're pretty much card-carrying villains who you can identify the very first time they're introduced into the story. They're the antagonist because they either want the same thing the protagonist does, or the protagonist is in some way obstructing them from having it. And they very quickly become unnecessarily murderous.

On the other hand, David Weber's Honorverse series is a lot subtler. You tend to find you like most of the antagonists. You can count on one hand the real antagonists who are actually bastards (as opposed to the characters who just happen to be on the wrong side of the war, from the perspective of the story), and you can even find those particularly likeable. One particular guy (Rob Pierre) is introduced as basically an all-round decent guy trying to do something good for the people of Haven, but he ends up trapped by his position and his circumstances and is actually backed into a corner causing him to commit evil acts and tighten his grip because he has no other option.

You don't even have to see the true villain. Take The Lord of the Rings. The book mentions a great eye wreathed in flame, and it's drawn on orc shields, but it's actually just a metaphor of his will and all-pervasive presence looming. This is only seen by Frodo in the Mirror of Galadriel. It is never otherwise actually seen by any character throughout the books - the movie has that great CG effect for the purposes of looking cool and showing how evil he is. In fact, Sauron is never seen or described by Tolkien whenever he appears in any of his stories. The big armoured guy in the movies was just made up by the moviemakers because movies are a visual medium.

Though if you actively want the reader to dislike the villain, you have to take the time to make them. They need to have a villain-card. Gaunt and pale people read as though they are more sinister. Fat people read as though they are corrupt. Malformed or misshapen people are just plain unnerving or horrifying. And this also has to show through in their behaviour: Evil unlikeable villains sneer, snort or talk down to people a lot, treat their underlings as inferior, perhaps be racist or otherwise just downright nasty. Corrupt fat people eat all the time and embezzle money. Yknow, the sort of stuff that makes you dislike someone.

Without more information as to the story's premise, or what the villain wants, you can't say what'd make them great, or what villain archetype might best fit.

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Archetypes
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Re: [Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

Postby Arcana » Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:14 am

For those who might still be interested in this thread, I have an addendum, and a cool way to keep it alive - post great villains from various media!

Obadiah Hakeswill from the Sharpe series, is just a special kind of evil. He can't die, Mother! Says so in the scriptures, Sir.

Even Bernard Cornwell stated he regretted killing Hakeswill off in the end, because he couldn't engineer a villain as sinister as he was.

In the (actually very good - don't judge me) TV series, he's played by Pete Postlethwaite. Who just has a way with crazy people.
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Re: [Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

Postby Sumanuel » Sun Apr 14, 2013 3:32 pm

Sometimes a Villain isn't really a Villain, just a person that is chasing his/her dreams BUT those dreams involve screwing something :lol:
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Re: [Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

Postby Mewant » Wed May 08, 2013 3:13 am

lol i always prefer villains the type of these 3
Sephiroth from FFVII
Liquid Snake from MGS
Creed Diskence from Anime Black Cat
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Re: [Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

Postby EveBrea » Wed May 08, 2013 4:26 pm

I kind of prefer tragic villains, and in some way agree with Samuel, especially when the villain starts as a positive character with a dream to benefit everyone, until life throws something at them that either demolishes their dreams completely, therefore giving them no purpose to life, or then somehow twist their dreams to a negative and dangerous purpose.

It's much more dramatic when somehow the character becomes a villain due to fate and just can't change it, which kind of makes me sympathise with Melissa Pearce 's character. Of course, I like powerful villains that the protagonist has difficulties against. :lol:
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Re: [Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

Postby Chai » Thu May 09, 2013 2:07 am

I agree. I prefer instead villains, even heroes, an antihero. It's more complex and more human; nobody is totally good or totally bad
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Re: [Randomness] What does it take to be a great villain?

Postby Sumanuel » Sun May 12, 2013 7:43 pm

Exactly! Kind of 'Villains' of games like Legacy of Kain/Blood Omen series. Both series correspond to the same plot, but the first talk about one guy, and the other about his brother. Each of them has his own ideal and way to do stuff... And they don't get along well...

Tefa can explain more about this. I Just played Legacy of kain one time... In a marathon! And that were some info I learned about it.
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