Villains

A lot of authors give the reader a glimpse of the villain’s viewpoint. It makes the story more interesting, gives the author an opportunity to torque the tension or intrigue. It’s also another hook to encourage the reader to keep going.

Many readers, myself included, find villains fascinating. Whether they’re somewhat sympathetic villains or outright bastards, people want to know what they’ve done, how they think, and what they’re going to do. We want to see how far over the line they’ll go – and how they fall.

This is especially true for me. Here’s a ‘for instance’ for you: I love true crime. It’s not the murders or a killer’s depravity that hook me into watching whatever true crime shows I can find.  It’s the fact that they did it, why they did it, how they think about what they’ve done, what they’re psychology is like, and how they were caught in the end. I always root for the good guys (because I’m not a sick bastard like some of these people and I like seeing ‘good’ triumphing over ‘evil’) but at the same time I study the bad guys. Serial killers, murderers, terrorists, and con artists are real world villains that showcase all the potential characteristics you can use to make your own fictional villains.

At this point, I’d like to interject something. People say that it takes a twisted mind to write fictional stories possessing sadistic or horrific aspects. This is not in the least true. Nothing can be as sick, twisted, perverse, and outrageous as real life. All I did was give those sick, twisted, perverse, and outrageous aspects of real people – whom I don’t know and don’t want to know – to a character in a fantasy story. That does not, in any way, mean that I am sadist who condones these kinds of acts. What it means is that I’m a resourceful writer who is building a villainous character who needs to be as believable as I can make him.

That character became Ba’tvian Delthanurk of my Descent Into Darkness series.

Originally, I wasn’t going to focus so much on Ba’tvian. I knew I needed to lay out his background, develop him more fully. I wrote a few scenes that were meant to capture Ba’tvian’s basic personality, things that I could go back to as a refresher whenever I wrote his character into a story. Those scenes took on a life of their own. That was great because it meant that Ba’tvian did as well.  In fact, he developed into one of the best villains I’ve ever created.

Today, I was listening to Writing Excuses Season 1 Episode 7, which happens to be on the topic of villains. (Yes, it’s an older podcast but I hadn’t listened to it before and the series is entertaining.) Howard Taylor said something that struck a chord with me: that to make a relatable and interesting villain, he makes the villain a hero in his own story.

When I wrote those scenes with Ba’tvian from his POV that is what I’d done. I’d made him a kind of hero.

He’s no one to emulate. He murders, rapes, corrupts, and desecrates as he moves through the world. Yet he possesses several qualities attributed to heroes. He’s achieving a dream. He’s fighting against the odds. He’s gaining supporters – only a few, granted, but they are still supporters. Ba’tvian is an underdog struggling to take his rightful place in the world. Yet he is, and always will be, evil. That, and how he goes about achieving his goals, is what makes him a villain.

I love truly evil villains. They have no compunctions about being ruthless, expedient, or coldly logical – whether it concerns their people, families, allies, or enemies doesn’t matter. The truly evil villain is willing to sacrifice everything accept himself. They are the ones who can do as they please, be who they are, and not have to worry about pretenses except when it suits them.

They also don’t mind my using them to slay fictional representations of real world irritants. That, to my mind, is one of the perks being a villain’s writer.  (Everyone needs an outlet, right?)

A while back, there was a trend in entertaining media where creators revealed their villains to be sympathetic characters. They explored how they came to be villains, why they did what they did. Some had regrets, others didn’t. Regardless, they maintained their villainy because of curses, pride, revenge, or the innate ability to keep making the wrong choices, etc. In some cases, villains were virtually stripped of their villainy.

While the back story and origins were intriguing, as a reader, I always felt as if the villain had been reduced somehow. I understood him now, I felt sorry for that rough patch he went through as a kid. It could even seem as if society was bent on making him fit into the villain’s mold, paring away at any redeeming or likable qualities his character might have possessed until what he became was all that was left of him. It didn’t excuse his later actions, but it did undermine his impact on me.

I was determined that this would not be the case with my villains.

Descent Into Darkness: His Own happened accidentally. Those scenes I mentioned a bit ago evolved on me. I found myself writing more, fleshing them out into a full-fledged story. I tried hard to make Ba’tvian into a villain the reader could relate to, yet see him for what he was. I battled sympathy and understanding with arrogance and hatred. I made him victimize others, corrupt others, and did my best to show the reader his horrific/sadistic tendencies. I strived to make it clear that he understood the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, and that he chose wrong/evil willingly.  I did this because this is one character I want my readers to love to hate.

Ba’tvian Delthanurk is a man who despises weakness in himself and will use the weakness in others to reach his goals. He is selfish, hard, rotten, determined. He willingly embraced the path he’s on, knowing what it meant. There is no one else he cares for. All others are means to an end, toys or tools for his pleasure, or just meat.

How much more evil can a villain get?

And yet I love this guy. I love that he’s evil, that I get to build him up, that I can watch his destiny unfold. His fate – well, you’ll have to stick with me and my series to find that out. I will say this though: he will be much deserving of it when his time comes.

The higher they rise, the harder they fall.

One Response to Villains

  • Roxy Barga says:

    I’d should test with you here. Which is not something I normally do! I enjoy studying a post that may make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to remark!

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