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So You Want To / Write a Villainous Breakdown

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It's a world known fact that Villains tend to be more vital to a story's success than the hero himself - a hero is a hero, but everyone loves a good villain. But just as people love seeing a hero fall, there is something people love about seeing the villain break.

What made them break?

This is the first stage of any breakdown: What made them so furious or shocked?
  • The first thing that should come to mind is failure - taking over the world, building the unstoppable death ray, raising an army - these kind of things tend to make them furious, or miserable. This is easier to write, but fairly simple, as the villain failing is usually expected.
  • The second thing that can invoke the reaction is realization. What have they realized? How about the classic Heel Realization? This requires a little more thought, but has a wider range of outcomes. They might try to deny it. They might accept it. They might going into a temper, or into a misery, or just have a Villainous B.S.O.D..
  • The third thing that can cause this is something of a mix of the first two - mistake. Perhaps they did something that ruined their plans (overlapping with option one), and now it's their fault that they're doomed to fail, or they've accidentally done something that's caused someone they cared about to be killed, and they realize what they’re capable of.

Breakdown Type:

There’s a few ways that a villain can break down, and it’s usually related to the type of villain. Here are the breakdown types. The higher the "breakdown level", the later the breakdown should be used:
  • Laughing Mad: This is a high-level Breakdown. Laughter isn’t always a good thing. When someone’s doing a laugh that sounds the opposite of happy, you know something's seriously wrong. As this makes your character look really crazy, maximum effect is achieved by having this used on a villain who really appears sane and adjusted. This is quite similar to Villainous B.S.O.D., but there is one major difference - this doesn't have to stop the villain. Even if the effects are somewhat permanent, it can be used as a form of characterization, turning your villain into a madman, but not necessarily a weak madman.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: This is a simple but high-level Breakdown. Running is a very basic thing to do, but it's also always the last thing a villain does. It means there's no fixing his mistake. There's no going back to ruling. His only choice is to run. This has the highest levels of effect when used by not the strongest villains, which usually results in an Anti-Climax, but on the bravest. One of the advantages of this is that it's essentially an invoked version of Put on a Bus. Who to say this villain won't be Back for the Finale?
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: This is a low-level Breakdown, and is usually more of a pre-breakdown. Spontaneous shouting is a nice way to slowly show that something is going wrong in this villain's head. This is best followed up by a different sort of breakdown, but it can also be exaggerated as time continues. This is best used with a villain that is normally very soft-spoken and in control.
  • Unstoppable Rage: This is a high-level Breakdown, and a very versatile one too. This can be used whether they've lost, are losing, or just stubbed their toe, this can be a weakness or a strength, and it can be played for drama or played for laughs. If it's comedic, it usually ends quickly, with their disadvantage being their anger, but if it's played for drama, this is a great time to have one final kill, a rise in fighting skill, and an abandon for any sense of morality or manners they might have had. This works really well with almost any villain, but the best ones are usually Affably Evil or Faux Affably Evil.
  • Villainous B.S.O.D.: This is a nice simple mid-level Breakdown. No more desire to kill. No more anger. Just plain simple losing the will to fight, or even live.