Writing Villains for a Story

I’m writing my first COG story, and I’m trying to make the villain more than just a one sided “take over the world,” character.

I thought I’d post a topic on here asking how you like writing villains for your stories, or if you prefer having a larger power the protagonist must fight against, and how you came about writing that?

(Alternatively for people who don’t write much, what Villain tropes you you like to see in a COG story, or which ones make the story unreadable for you?)

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Villains with a real motive besides the clique Destroy The World. Make them genuinely believe what they are doing is right. Everything else should be ok

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It depends on what qualities you want your villain to have,
For example you may have a charismatic and intelligent villain, that even being cruel, you think he’s cool (Hans Landa), a completely insane and goal-driven individual, and who will do everything to achieve that goal, even if it’s just cause chaos (Joker).

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I think the best way to create a villain, is to create a reason to hate him, He may be the most incredible person in the world, but if he intentionally harmed the MC and does not regret it, he is automatically considered a villain.

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One thing I’d like to see is that the villain is someone you trust, that person betrays you and you pay a heavy price for it, and now you’re going to take revenge

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You can check @Samuel_H_Young story latest WiP, where your MC is literally a murderer whilst being part of the city guard. He’s literally made the MC such that I really want something bad to my MC.

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Just my thoughts but it boils down to the execution.

The Joker, Shao Khan, Chaos, Majiin Buu, Nightmare, Lavos, Bowser, Gannondorf,…memorable villains aren’t necessarily characters that you sympathize with as some would tell you. They don’t need a story about how their childhood wasn’t the best or their one true love dumped them. Some can just be flat out evil and if done well, audiences love them solely BECAUSE they’re so evil.

Now, the questions are to ask would be is what sets this one apart from all the other ones out there? Do they still have their own code of ethics even if it’s warped? Are they particularly cunning? Maybe, they are just really, really, hard to get rid of for good.

I guess an easier way to look at it is to think about what villains do you remember and why you feel like they stick out more from generic doomsday villains. Bowser is an interesting thought to me, because, yes, he’s out trying to take over the kingdom from time to time, but they also invite him to every sport tournament and party they throw, and more often then not, when he’s playing in them, he doesn’t even try to cheat.

But yeah. It might help to just think about villains you already like and see what aspects about them that you liked or found the scariest.

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I think the key to creating a good villain is basically the same as any other character, and that’s finding a good motivation.

Greed is a good one. Well a really believable one anyway. (It’s the one most common to our real life villains)

The villains who have been hurt somehow, and are trying to get revenge, or correct something they see as an injustice. That can make for a powerful moment when you learn that the villain was a victim first. Especially if the villain’s origin and the hero’s are thematically related somehow.

“They both lost everything, but one turned to crime while the other dedicated themselves to helping those…blah blah”

That can get a little simplistic, and maybe a touch over used, but still pretty good.

My personal favorite though are the villains who kind of have a point. The villains with lofty, even laudable goals who just cross lines in pursuit of something that actually might be good.

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  • Dig into the whys. Dig deeper than “their whole family was murdered and now they want revenge” or whatever. Follow the chain of logic: why has this person chosen to deal with their loss by poisoning the world’s water supply?

  • The difference between a villain and an antagonist is that the former is categorically wrong in some way, whether even their harmless actions are driven by an evil motive, whether they’re doing evil things for an understandable or even admirable reason, or whether they’re just being horrible for the sake of being horrible. Know whether you’re writing a villain or just a person who’s at odds with the protag.

  • A really good villain makes the reader angry: how can they be so bigoted? How can they be such a hypocrite? Why don’t they care at all about innocent victims? Why don’t they use their powers for good? You can answer these questions - in fact you should - but the answers should not be emotionally satisfying, i.e. make the reader think “oh, well that’s all right then”. Villains can be understood, they can be redeemed, but they can’t be exonerated or excused. If they can you’ve not got a villain, you’ve got a different kind of antagonist. Which may be what you want, but again, recognize the distinction.

Descending to the specific, things I’d like to see more of:

  • Lady villains who aren’t motivated by gender. A man did her wrong and now she hates all men, she’s going to fix sexism by eradicating men, the hero won’t return her love so she’s going to destroy him, she’s jealous of the heroine’s looks/popularity/lover so she’s going to destroy her. Boring.

  • Villains in general whose actions aren’t just ridiculously escalated retaliation for real wrongs. “Yes, what X did was wrong, but you’ve gone TOO FAR!” That’s lazy stereotyping and usually backfires.

  • Villains who genuinely don’t understand that they’re villains, whose worldview is so warped that they really can’t understand why people are mad at them, who may even think that they’re helping the protag (and not in a stereotypical “I will use your moral qualms to manipulate you” way, but honestly).

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I’m in agreement with @Camille622. Don’t treat a villain as a separate species…even if they’re a separate species.

Every good character in an understandable narrative will have a motivation, something that drives them to do the things they do, and be willing to go the lengths that they will in the story. You need to give them as much fuel as the protagonist because the clash–presumably–will be the major force behind the story.

Work on the antagonist the way you do the protagonist, and hopefully things will look more clear.

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what make a vilain , well…a vilain ? is it their actions ? are actions alone enough though ? one can be considered guilty for murder…even if he never did the deed but manipulated others to do it for him .

I don’t like vilain that are big . You know , Tall gorgeous…big ! In some games , the final boss has always to be HUGE! Oh look SCary! more like boring .

I don’t like vilain that are greedy , all about tha money . Thats a thief , burglar …rogue . Too obvious…and what should I care ? let the cop handle it .

But the worst of the worst is the Vilain…who kill…slaughter ALOT of peoples…who doesn’t want redemption…but…plot hole…he get redemption in the end…cose…reasons . Urgh!!!

Oh and vilain…that in the end…after along ass chase…get killed by someone else! OMG! thats my kill ! Give it back !

Also…one annoying kind of vilains…is the vilains who is inside his own head all day long . Everytime you meet him and give him the ‘I’m gonna stop you’ …he is all ‘Lalalalala…not listening’ …make you wonder…why do I have to stop him ? why is he even in the story ?

So that out of the way …

The 1st story I wrote , the vilains…were many vilains that lead to the Big vilain . And the big vilain get his due in the end .

The 2nd story , the vilain…was a dead specie so to speak . Suffice to say , you can’t kill something already dead . But you still have to deal with the consequences of what they did .

In my 3rd story . Now that one was long . So in my 1st volume…the vilains were 2 brothers . Both guilty for different reasons . Then later I added 2 more vilains . One got redemption of a sort…and the others didn’t .

I like vilains that are smart , cunning and who can outwit the MC or hero . I also love hating the vilains . When its really well done…I’m raging mid way and can’t wait to get my hand on them and strangle them . That…is a good vilain to me . A vilain should bring out raw emotions , he should make you wanna chase them , piss you off…enrage you .

And a vilain doesn’t have to blow a whole city to do that .

There are vilains that are scary due to their reputations , you see those coming from miles away . (Like frieza in DBZ , whole arc was building the fear and tensions around the character . And he was my favorite because…sociopath vilain are a thrill to take down . Orochimaru from Naruto come second ) .

You have vilains that start good and turn bad . Madara is an exemple from Naruto .

You have vilains that were good but had the potentiel to be bad and end up bad and due to outside interference by idiots…stay bad . Irenicus is an exemple of that . (from BG2) .

The main charm of writing a vilain…is the many ways you can do it . He could be a rival at the beginning . They could be a nobody that grow mad at the world or the mc . They could be a nobody that circumstence turned them bad . They could be a mirror of the MC , just bad .

the vilains in my stories were mostly just a driving force . Meaning , they weren’t the main topic or reasons . The actions and interaction were more important then catch the vilain in the end . I wrote them more like…shit happen and now you gotta deal with them .

that can backfire . In Naruto for exemple , Madara the vilain character , was so powerful many peoples assumed that the author couldn’t figure out a way to kill him . So he found a cop-out way which just pissed the fans . I think there are times where such a thing can happen .

anyway , best of luck in your story :slight_smile:

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I like the idea of a cold and blood thirsty villain with some form of weakness like a loved one.

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What genre is this in, no matter what I’d like villains who are smart enough to just go kill the mc early instead of sending weak minions and strong enough to succeed despite outside interferences

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Wow, that sounds like a riveting read.

The only problem with this is finding a way to give the protagonist time to either grow strong enough to defeat the boss or somehow depower the boss or maybe have them unable to fight them head on and instead trick the boss into temporarily weakening themself forcing them into hiding until they regain their power (book 2-3) and properly kill the first mc

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A slow decent into madness is always great lol.

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Also, other thoughts. Some would say that big bads need to be a foil of the MC, which isn’t really something you always need to do, but if you are going to do it…

Avoid having them do another “We’re not so different” speech at all costs. Readers and players will notice the similarities on their own.They don’t need them explained to them as it happens.

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Make sure they have a clear motivation and your audience understands what that is.

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THIS. (I mean, you can, but it’s more likely to make me roll my eyes than think “gee, they have a point”.)

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I often don’t write “taking over the world villains” or even a “single villain”. I usually focus on several different antagonists that the protagonist has to overcome in a particular branch of a story.

I tend to use the term antagonist rather than “villain” because a lot of times those who might be villains in one branch could very well be on your side in another. In fact the protagonist might be a “villain” so the ones opposing might be considered “heroes.”

Most of the time I use antagonists that see the protagonist as someone who is directly in their way for one reason or another which puts them at odds. These can range for the more traditional “power” reasons (Though not necessarily for “world domination”) or for something really petty that the protagonist didn’t even know that they did.

Generally speaking whatever the case is, I try to give the antagonists good reasons for their motives. Sometimes it might not even be learned all of it in one branch and there might extra stuff in different paths, but typically I flesh out the characters as much as I need to.

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