It’s the final showdown. The hero confronts the villain one last time, and he demands to know why the villain has created so much chaos and destruction. The villain, in a voice dripping with rage and malice, tells the hero exactly why.
Any good story, writers know, requires a source of opposition against the hero or heroine. The antagonist, or villain, is the one who makes the hero’s life miserable as he tries to complete his quest or just live his life. The villain is the character who tries to keep the hero from winning, and the one readers want to see defeated and put in his place. Without a villain in a story, the hero goes through his life and completes his quest without any problems. He just breezes through the quest without ever facing opposition. This makes for a rather boring story. Readers want conflict. They want the suspense and tension that goes along with a good plot. Villains are as crucial to a story as the hero is.
In order to make a good villain, he ought to have a motive for why he does what he does. This can be any number of things. Power, fortune, fame, an intense rivalry with the hero for the girl they both like. But the villain motives behind his diabolical deeds don’t have be an equally sinister plot. The villain’s desire to come out on top can stem from good or even admirable goals. But it’s his methods that make the villain a villain. The actions he takes to achieve his goals are where the evil should come from.
While the villain’s goals are admirable, his evil actions should counteract them and makes him the bad guy. His actions should be evil and what the hero opposes, and what makes the readers cheer for the hero’s victory and not the villain’s. For example, in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, the “villains” are all of the teens from the Districts. They’re the opposition the heroine Katniss must face. These teens are portrayed as the villains, but they each have as worthy a goal as Katniss: survive. They all want to survive and get out of the Games. But their actions are what Collins uses to turn them into the villains. Going even more specific, Cato from District 2 is especially villainous. He seems to have no qualms about killing to survive, which makes him one of the biggest threats to Katniss. He is fierce and cruel, making him twisted and evil in the eyes of the readers. But his goal is to survive. It’s a very good goal, but because his actions are so twisted and cruel, they shadow the goodness of it and make it bad.
Making a villain who has very good intentions but villainous methods can also make readers sympathize with the villain, and understand where the villain is coming from. They understand why the villain behaves the way he does. They could also agree with the villain, to an extent. This could provide a sort of tension on its own. The reader wants the hero to win, but in the back of their minds they are rooting for the villain. However, the darkness in the villain’s deeds makes sure the readers back the hero, even though they may feel for the villain.
Loki from the Marvel film “Thor” is an excellent example. Loki’s desire was only to be Thor’s equal, and to make his adoptive father proud of him. Not a bad goal at all. It’s completely understandable for Loki to want this, but his methods for achieving them are what make this character evil. Loki attempts to destroy the entire race of Frost Giants to please his father, perhaps to become just as worthy and mighty as Thor. Loki let the Frost Giant chief slip in to kill Odin, all to kill the chief himself and “save” his father. Loki’s motives were understandable, but the paths he took to achieve them darken the desire and portray him as the villain. His goal is understandable to viewers, and they sympathize with him in his struggles to obtain his desire of equality with Thor.
Another example can be found in a villain from my current work-in-progress. He believes the world in which he lives isn’t being ruled and governed properly. He asserts himself as king and eventually emperor so he can fix the problems others have created and make sure his people are not kept in the dark about important issues. However, the methods he uses to achieve this is wrong. He is restrictive, and perceived as a tyrant among rebels. He believes this to be necessary. If someone crosses him, he will remove the opposition by force. If war and a bit of bloodshed is necessary, so be it. With his mindset, I feel more inclined to sympathize with him. He only wants to fix the world. What’s so wrong with that? His actions are what make him the villain. His actions are evil and cruel. While his goals are admirable, his deeds are not.
While readers feel bad and sympathetic for these villains, being able to relate to them on occasion is important too. When readers can relate to a villain’s intentions, it might make them pause and ask if they reflect the villain’s actions in their own lives.
Loki actor Tom Hiddleston commented how “every villain is a hero in his own mind.” Having a villain who believes himself to be a good man will make the story and conflict more believable and gripping. When both hero and villain have something they deem worth fighting for, the tension will be high. The reader will root for the hero, but they understand and sympathize with the villain, creating a believable character who might want more than just ultimate power to dominate the world. It’s important to remember, however, to make the villain’s actions evil, asserting his position as the villain and opposing force of good in the story.
Olivia is a 21-year-old homeschool graduate in her senior year of college via independent study with online college courses. She has been writing since she was a kid, and enjoys the activity. She enjoys writing fantasy in particular, creating and wandering new worlds populated by strange beings. She is currently working on a book of high fantasy while managing her blog Inkspots, where she displays random pieces of writing, and also writes the dystopian serial story Fence Jumpers. When not writing, Olivia can usually be found doing school, riding dragons, or chasing down her characters when they give her sass.