Sympathy for the Devil: How to Write Killer Villains


I’m a sucker for a good villain. Just thinking about Szass Tam from The Haunted Lands makes my heart flutter a little bit. Darth Vader takes my breath away. Fascinating and devastating in their sharp suits, with their killer smiles, and their eyes that will eat you alive, they’re strong, smart, and motivated. They have that lean and hungry look. They stand alone. And say what you like about villains, but they know what they want. And that confidence is sexy. Especially to those of us tired of listening to the heroes whine about how tough life is and how they don’t know what to do or how to love or whether they did the right thing or not--again. Villain

I mean, heroes have some tough choices, to be sure, but so do villains. And villains don’t often have so many outs as the hero. Yet you don’t see villains going all emo. Villains get ‘er done--without the support from the hordes of friends or natural talents with which heroes are almost always blessed. Artemis Entreri is Drizzt without friends to teach him what family is. Gaara (as the antagonist) is Naruto without friends to stand beside him.

Without the villain, there is no story. Without the villain, the hero isn’t heroic. And without the villain, things are a lot less interesting. Villains make--or break--stories. What is Star Wars without Darth Vader? Who is Harry Potter without Voldemort?

I Wanna Be Evil, I Wanna Be Bad…

Every villain needs a good story. What was the moment when your villain went darkside? Was he just born that way? A sociopath-sadist with a history of violence? Or was it more gradual, the result of being a little different in a zero-tolerance society. Or perhaps it was simply an awakening--a primal flaw that calls to darker, baser instincts.

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