I’m going to make a bold claim regarding villains in fantasy fiction. They don’t have to be evil. In fact, they don’t have to be dark at all. They can be any number of things: curious, inept, or even just plain brash. The bottom line is that to be an effective villain in a fantasy novel, you have to be complex.
There’s no denying that villains are one of the most beloved types of characters in storytelling. Whether it’s the cold and corrupt businessman, the power-hungry politician, or the evil scientist, villains make for fascinating and complex characters. I’ll share a few of my own techniques for creating compelling villains in this post. Let’s begin with the first principle: villains must be three-dimensional.
Villains, especially the super-villain kind, are one of the most challenging yet rewarding things you can create in fiction. When writing villains, there is a lot you can do to make them memorable, especially if you want them to win. However, creating a great villain is never an easy task. You have to have compelling reasons to create a villain; the reasons have to have some weight and have to be realistic. If you are not patient enough to let your villain grow and develop, the character will become stale and boring.
Creating an intriguing and believable character for your readers is one of the most difficult things you can do. You also want to keep your villains from being too cliché and give them a unique personality.
Here are 3 steps to creating a great villain you’ll be proud to have on your books.
Create a Three-Dimensional.
You are likely to spend a lot of time thinking about your villains. Whether they be characters or people, it can be challenging to find the right villain or villainous character. Use your imagination to create a three-dimensional villain that has a much deeper personality than a typical one-dimensional antagonist. This is something the film industry has been doing for years, and it’s a big reason why the superhero genre is so popular.
Humanize the Villain.
Everyone has enemies, but for villains, you’d think that everyone would want to be their enemy, but that’s where you’ll find the most interesting villains. So, start by trying to find answers to questions like who would you be if you were the villain? Nobody’s perfect, but what does that mean for your villain’s life and personality?
Equip the Villain with Smarts.
We dream of becoming the hero of our own stories. It could be fighting against an evil empire, rescuing the damsel in distress, or bringing down a dangerous criminal. But there’s a difference between having a character who is willing to do the right thing and having a character who is capable of doing the right thing.
All villains need a great backstory, right? And if you want your villain to be more than just a one-dimensional guy or gal who wants to destroy the world, then you can also add in a backstory that makes them more interesting. For example, in my latest novel, The Villain’s Apprentice, I had the Marauder, a young and dangerous ghoul (like a vampire) who Batman trained, have a character flaw that drove his ambition. The flaw, in this case, was a severe case of self-doubt that got him into a lot of trouble. The thing is, even though this flaw was a bit of a stretch, it worked to make the character more interesting.
When creating compelling villains, it’s important to use a few tricks to make your villains memorable, especially if your story is all about redemption. After all, no one wants to read a story about a bad guy who is redeemed. In fact, you don’t need to break the world to be an awesome villain. There are plenty of ways to create a memorable and terrifying character in your story without relying too much on redemption.