Villains – A to Z: V
V is for Villains. Isn’t it curious how sometimes the “bad guy” is more memorable in a story than the “good guy”? Or how the villain can sometimes steal the show from the hero? A well-written villain can save an otherwise relatively boring story. Giving the audience someone they can “love to hate”, or someone whose struggle to be good they can identify with might just give your story that extra oomph to set it apart from the others.
As an aside, have you noticed how supervillains in movies are quite often people with British accents? My theory is that it’s because people commonly associate good Oxford English with being well-educated. As Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory says:
The Dr Doom to my Mr Fantastic. The Doctor Octopus to my Spiderman. The Doctor Sivana to my Captain Marvel. […] It’s amazing how many supervillains have advanced degrees. Graduate school should probably do a better job of screening those people out.
I thought I’d have a go at answering the question, Which Supervillain are you? Here are my results:
There are some great supervillains most people would recognise without even naming them. For instance, if someone hissed, “Why so seriousss?” it would immediately get a point across. (R.I.P. Heath, who grew up in the city I live in.) Or even just hooking your little finger to the corner of your mouth (or stroking a cat while sitting) conjures up associations we know and love. Turning the presumed villain into the hero of the story wouldn’t work in every genre, but it was great in Despicable Me or in Hotel Transylvania.
To a lesser extent (these were rather extreme examples), the same thing can work in a more traditional story. I really enjoyed reading The Wheel of Time, for instance (check back in tomorrow!), and of course I loved Lord of the Rings, but usually I prefer it when the villain isn’t all bad, when he has his own backstory that explains why he is as callous/mean/brutal/sadistic/[insert your adjective here] as he is. Even if the reader isn’t expected to agree with his methods, he should be able to at least recognise the motivation behind the villainous actions.
Some of my favourites that fit that category, from a variety of media and genres, are Kennit (from the Liveship Traders), Judas (as portrayed in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar), Captain Hook (from Peter Pan), Hannibal Lecter (from The Silence of the Lambs), and Captain Barbossa (from the Pirates of the Carribean).
Who are some of your favourite villains? Which supervillain are you according to the quiz linked above? What do you think makes or breaks believability when it comes to villains in a story? Let me know in the comments.