Okay, now that I’ve gone over my conference experience in excruciating detail (see my last post), I’m going to shift gears and talk about the panels. One by one. For the next… four weeks.
So, without further ado, villains!! And why they’re the best, and possibly the most important feature of your novel.
Mainly, without the villain, you have a hero… sitting on his ass.
Sorry, but it’s true. It doesn’t matter how cool or badass or intelligent the hero is. Without a good, solid challenge–presented in the villainous form–she’ll just keep going on her normal, day-to-day life.
So, let’s get bad.
According to the panel, there are 7 types of villains:
- Tyrant. Wants power, and is something of a bully.
- Bastard. Wants what he can’t have. Very resentful.
- Devil. The voice on your shoulder, leading you astray.
- Traitor. Self-explanatory. Good… until he isn’t.
- Outcast. The outsider, wants to belong.
- Evil Genius. Smart, and wants everyone to know it. Flashy!
- Sadist. Cruel beyond reason.
- Terrorist. Believes he’s the hero, and his way is right.
Of course, these don’t include non-sentient villains, such as natural disasters. For that, you’ll disregard a lot of this information.
Whoever you choose, the biggest goal of your villain is to strike fear into the hearts of your heroes. If your hero isn’t scared of the villain, well, she’s no villain at all. And the more intimate their relationship, the more satisfying it is for the reader. So make it personal!
What does your villain want? Well, he wants exactly opposite of the hero. So if your hero is striving for global peace, well… you can draw your own conclusions. Of course, you can’t just say, “He wants another world war,” and leave it at that. No, no. Your villain’s motivation needs to be complex. WHY does he want a war? Figure this out, and your story should fall in line pretty easily.
It’s important to remember that a villain exists to ratchet up the tension of a story. Even when he’s not present, he should be driving most of the conversations as your characters fret about confronting him.
And remember, the villain will have one overarching Evil Scheme, while the hero only has pathetic little mini-plans. That’s because for the majority of the novel, the VILLAINS WIN. They’re awesome that way. They keep the hero crawling back to their Bat Caves, desperate to regroup and form another attack. Meanwhile, your badass villain kicks back a few martinis and pets his cat. Because he’s a winner, and your hero sucks.
Even in the end, the best literary device with villains is to keep them alive. Heroes should die. Villains never should. A hero can always be replaced, but a truly epic villain? They’re here for the long run. That’s why so many TV shows and movies have the same villains recurring throughout.
And now yours can be awesome too. Go forth and create fantastic mayhem.
(Also, mandatory disclaimer: All of this information is paraphrased from the wonderful presenters at DFWCON. I own none of it. I’m simply sharing the love for those of you who can’t afford a $730 conference. This panel in particular was presented by the amazing Russel C. Connor, owner of Dark Filament Books.)