I feel that the villain is the most important character in a story, because without them, the hero/heroine has absolutely nothing to do. There has to be a fight, a battle of some kind going on. If you think about it, our lives are a series of battles and decisions, from the time we wake up (“Must…get…out…of…bed.”) to the time we go to sleep (“Wait, it’s 2am already?! Damn you, YouTube!”). And like our characters, we face various villains. Sometimes it’s the weather causing accidents that make us late for work; other times he or she is more tangible, like that supervisor or co-worker we’d like to just tell off. Whatever the case, we have obstacles, and our characters need obstacles.
Keeping with the trend, I am going to list some of the most common types of villains I’ve seen both in my writing and others. They are have their advantages and disadvantages, but the main common thread is that their goals are in direct opposition to the hero/heroine.
The Evil One: Many of us believe that evil exists. It threatens our existence, corrupts our souls, and gets blamed for damn near everything. Naturally, it makes for a great villain. The Evil One comes in many forms (Satan, a demon, that little kid that enjoys killing people), but it usually has no motive other than the fact that it is evil and likes to do evil things. You cannot reason with it, and if you’re smart you won’t make a deal with it. The only option is to destroy it.
The Revenge Seeker: These villains didn’t start out as villains. Most of the time, they start pretty normal. Then, someone (sometimes a Power Tripper, see below) comes in and does something horrible to this person/being. It can be intentional or an accident, but the budding villain has been wronged badly, and someone must pay. The spiral starts, and the villain becomes obssessed with getting back at everyone who hurt them. Every now and then, you get a Kill Bill type of setup, where the Revenge Seeker is the hero/heroine.
The Misunderstood: Some classical monsters fall into this one. They are not evil, and they honestly aren’t looking to kill anyone. It you try to shoot or burn them, they will naturally defend themselves, but that’s expected. People fear what they don’t understand, and that statement can lead our hero/heroine into some interesting run-ins with a Misunderstood. This villain usually leaves three choices for the hero: protect Misunderstood, join the mob against Misunderstood, or put Misunderstood out of their misery.
Power Tripper: We have probably all met this one. This is the person who is in a higher position of power and likes nothing more than to flaunt it. It isn’t always someone at a job, either. It can be a family member, friend, or significant other. They have strong influence, and it corrupts them. When a subordinate does this, it is nothing more than a mild annoyance at best. For most stories, this villain is nearly always at least on the same level, but usually higher.
Like the other character types, these can overlap and there are many subsets of villains. These are the ones I see often. Next week, I’ll look at the supporting characters, also known as Sidekicks.