Creating an Entertaining Villian:

Total posts: [13]
So a couple of my villians happen to be geniunely bad people/the occasional Complete Monster. I don't want them to be very sympatheic (it kind of destroys their point) but I want them to be entertaining to the audience. Exactly how would one go about with this?
  • I know there's the obvious 'make them witty or make them Genre Savvy or a Magnificent Bastard' but are there any other tips for doing this?
    • I also understand that making an interesting villian makes Misaimed Fandom and leather pants-ing ever more possible, but I could care less at this point
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I think you can make an Antagonist sympathetic without it destroying their point. Like a hero that just took things a step too far.... then another step... then another step.

All Heroes die. Some just more than others. http://dimanagul.wordpress.com
I understand that some sympathy is needed for the villian to seem human, but are there some other ways to keep a villan 'entertaining'?

4 fillerdude27th Mar 2013 08:06:26 AM , Relationship Status: Maxing my social links
Well, how do you make entertaining characters in general? Just do that, with a dose of EEEVIL.
Make them fun (rather than funny). Alex from a Clockwork Orange is a good example. He really enjoys doing all the terrible things he does and his insane glee is kind of fun to watch as a result, even if you don't sympathize with him (some people do though). A lot of villains in Tarantino movies are pretty entertaining as well, usually by being really cool and charismatic.
It helps when a villain has a dose of sublety, unless of course your going for the over the top card carrying type. Otherwise, make them intelligent. Make their dialogue entertaining to hear, make their reasoning sound. Consider making it that, should you step directly into a scene without any other exposition on the story, you would have trouble identifying the bad guy as what he is.

Quite a few rules for making a hero count for the villain as well. In fact, it's not a bad idea to go about creating them in around the same manner. Give him or her [I]flaws[I]. Give him character ticks, hobbies, if you want, a history. Avoid both too much melodrama and perfection in what he/she does.

Think very, very carefully about the role your villain should take. Read up on different types, find not just what your going for, but if they fit within he story. You might absolutely love Randall Flagg as the manipulative dark messiah that he is, but is he really the best bad guy to put into your sugar bowl slashfic?
7 SalmonPunch28th May 2013 07:45:46 AM from Connecticutt, USA
I never asked for this
I'd advise making any human being a complete-monster style villain. Genghis Khan loved his family and his own nation (And hated everyone else with a burning passion). Hitler loved dogs. Stalin had a soft spot for theater. Even history and (well written) literature's cruelest bastards had at least some redeeming quality, even if it had nothing to do with their motives. This all goes out the window if your villain isn't human (and doesn't think like one) but applies so long as he can be described as having a "human" mindset.

But if you really must make a complete-monster-card-carrying villain, give him a good sense of humor that Crosses the Line Twice.
"You like Castlevania, don't you?"
8 Lunacorva29th May 2013 03:33:43 AM , Relationship Status: THIS CONCEPT OF 'WUV' CONFUSES AND INFURIATES US!
[up] I would dispute the whole "Complete Monsters are unbelievable" thing, The Sociopath IS a Real Life personality disorder after all.
9 SalmonPunch29th May 2013 12:46:31 PM from Connecticutt, USA
I never asked for this
[up] Depends on what form of sociopath, as there are many many sub-classifications. Its less that the Complete Monster trope can't occur in real life (it actually can), then it is about how difficult it is to write one that is still believable. Even most experienced authors fail at it.

an actual complete monster would fall under the Antisocial Personality disorder subgroup "malevolent." or less often "nomadic" (as defined by Theodore Millon). All the other subgroups actually do have some sort of semi constructive motive, even if the motive is self serving (IE: Covetous: build a powerful and prosperous nation, so I can be its sole ruler and no one will threaten my rule). Its almost never cruelty for the sake of cruelty unless they fall under "malevolent"

Its really hard to portray nomadic and malevolent as big time villains, as they often have little ambition or reason to attain positions of power, unlike covetous, or go out of their way to do things like risk taker.

As smaller villains, they work fine though.

edited 29th May '13 1:25:13 PM by SalmonPunch

"You like Castlevania, don't you?"
10 JHM29th May 2013 03:17:14 PM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up][up] But that is not a true Complete Monster by our formal definitions, either. Such a character is defined by their actions, their response to them and their portrayal rather than by their base mental state. Now, if you mean a truly heartless bastard, then yes, there are disorders that can make people like that. But most such people are marginal and lack planning skills.

[up] While the malevolent subclass of ASPD is no longer acknowledged in most classifications, there are many other similar mental problems that come to the same results: The amoral, psychopathic and sociopathic subtypes of dissocial personality as described in the ICD-10; classical malignant narcissism, particularly as co-morbid with antisocial traits; and certain forms of pathological sexual sadism.

Nomadic antisocial behaviour tends not to be violent in the first place; if anything, such individuals tend to avoid conflict entirely, only lashing out under stress.
[up][up][up][up]Genghis Khan was not a bad guy, yes expansionist and imperial, but so were the Romans, the British, the Greeks, napoleon etc. but they aren't considered 'bad' guys. Genghis allowed religious freedom, gender equality and kept the cultures he invaded alive, more than the supposedly modern-ish societies of ancient Rome and Greece. he banned torture while people were still being tortured for witchcraft in Europe, he, contrary to popular belief, banned rape in his empire, and set up an advanced postal system later imitated by the pony express. yes, he did kill an awful lot of people, but that's hugely exaggerated; someone apparently added up all of the deaths attributed to him and it was more than existed in Asia at the time. Genghis didn't 'hate everything else', he just owned everything else.

edited 30th May '13 3:40:54 AM by vincentquill

12 JHM30th May 2013 04:50:23 AM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up] I was actually going to bring that up. While Genghis Khan was not someone to tarry with and would destroy entire cities without hesitation if they went to war with him, those that joined his empire enjoyed far greater freedom and prosperity than many under similar regimes in the West. He was certainly frightening, but "evil" is a highly questionable designation.
13 SalmonPunch30th May 2013 07:17:28 AM from Connecticutt, USA
I never asked for this
@ JHM Ah, my knowledge of psychology is mostly peripheral (I only look into it to help with characterization) so I do thank you for the correction.

@ vincentquill (and JHM again) Exactly. While he was in no way good or even morally neutral (the Iranian Plateau Genocide denies him those adjectives) he wasn't a complete monster like many people invoke him as. I also never said evil, just that he was a cruel bastard (Which he kind of was, read his tactics when dealing with prisoners)

Back on topic, the most important way to keep a villain entertaining is to keep them relatively unpredictable (don't take it too far, however). You don't have to crank it up to Magnificent Bastard levels, so long as the antagonist occasionally has the thought "But that's what they EXPECT me to do next!" and changes plans accordingly then it should work fine. If the reader doesn't always know how the villain will act next, it makes it all the more terrifying/dramatic when they do know how the villain will act next (IE: killing a character for intervening) because the situation will hold more weight (they'll be wondering what drove him to act that way, as the answer "because he is the antagonist" will have been taken away from them by his previous behavior.).

And remember with antagonists strength is not always = to entertainment value. He doesn't have to be stronger than everyone in the world, he just has to be as strong if not stronger than the protagonist (or group of protagonists).

Kafka On the Shore managed to make something as mundane as a animal abuser one of the scariest villains I've ever encountered in literature, simply because the one protagonist who has to face him (the book has two protagonists) is a nearly powerless weak old man.

edited 30th May '13 7:22:38 AM by SalmonPunch

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Total posts: 13