Peggy Bechko: The Villain Of The Piece

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by Peggy Bechko

Let’s talk about villains. Seriously. There are a variety of villains, some of which you want nothing to do with in your writing. Others can be fixed and still others are right on!

So what do I mean there are different kinds of villains? Well there are lots, actually, but I’ll just discuss a couple of them here.

There’s the Self-Absorbed and too Careless to live villain. This can lend a lot of comedy to your story if that’s the direction you want to take since this kind of villain is above hard work and dealing with complicated decisions. He might be a pretty boy or a mob boss type, but the most important thing in life is his own comforts and the way others fear and/or look up to him. He pretty much delegates everything to underlings and expects his every desire to be served up to him like he’s a king.

Hey, I actually know people like that, don’t you? He could pass for a cartoon, in fact he has. Think about Gru in the animated Despicable Me. But, hey, at least Gru has some substance, we learn his mother was responsible for his villainous personality and he loves three little girls. Oh, and he has minions.

So by that measure, Gru actually has more substance than some of the villains in books and on screen who fill the self-absorbed bill. If your villain is no more than a shallow puppet, predictable and unappealing, a spoiled brat by any measure then you need to retrace your steps, go back and give your villain some substance – like Gru! He was held back, yet driven by his mother. The Little girls fill a hole in his life and he goes through quite the transformation/evolution. Give your villain some substance too.

Another one of my favorites is the “ugly” villain as if because he limps, smells bad, has black and missing teeth, sports great pustules on his face, scars and a massively broken nose, then he’s plainly ‘evil’.

Oh, come on, really!?

The writer either on printed page or aimed at the screen shows us this villain who’s plagued with all kinds of physical afflictions and he’s taken to be the evil one before he hugs his puppy and goes off to slaughter a family in their sleep. It’s like the writer has tattooed across his forehead “Villain” and the audience or reader is now set up to just watch and see what evil this guy comes up with.

That’s not to say your villain can’t have some outward scars. But you, as the writer, can’t depend on those to convey the message of nastiness. Tolkien may have gotten away with it with Orcs, but YOU still have to create that character, give him substance and let him strut his stuff through actions he takes.

Do some web surfing on psychology if you need to. Dig down and give your villain some behaviors, thoughts and deeds that show up his dark personality. Let us see how warped his is on the inside, what motivates him, what kind of thoughts sift through his disturbed brain and their origins. We know his morals are out of whack, let us see that, and why. Then maybe you’ll give us a Godfather or Wolf Of Wall Street.

There are certainly many more villainous types out there, but we’ll tackle them another day. The message here is you must create real, breathing, living ‘evil’ ones for your audience to hate and maybe empathize with on the terrible things that have brought him to this state in his life, not a cardboard cut-out.

Now go out there and create a real villain with substance.