from Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell
Plants, animals, objects, places, and people all have names. Naming people and things in your story has a practical purpose because it appeals to the reader’s loic and memory. In fiction, we name characters to differentiate them, to suggest their age, social standing, and personality, to make them solid and distinctive, and to signal to readers that the person is worth noting. Generally, the more complicated your character is, the more distinct his or her name should be, keeping in mind that names evoke responses in readers and ignite their imaginations. All fiction writers should collect names in a notebook, starting with the standard method of gathering names by perusing phone books, obituaries, and baby name books.
Take care with creating your characters’ names, especially your villain’s name, and be careful not to choose a name that works against type. Generally, you wouldn’t choose a name for a villain that suggests a softie, nor would you give a good guy a name that has a dark connotation. The best names are suggestive, reflect the genre type, and reflect an era. In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Voldemort’s name is so feared that few people speak it out loud; they instead call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Your villain’s name should reflect menace, coldness, and strength. Use hard consonants and sounds to suggest menace or other frightening characteristics, like Stark, the villain in Stephen King’s The Dark Half. Conversely, good guys will have names that suggest goodness or strength, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin.
You are also wise to use names that are suggestive; for example, Romeo suggests romance, Holly Golightly suggests a light-hearted nature, and Scarlett O’Hara suggests a flamboyant beauty. In Dean Koontz’s Forever Odd, the villainess is named Datura, which reflects her kinkiness, coldness, and cruelty. However, Koontz cleverly has chosen a name with layers of meaning, something fiction writers are always striving for. Datura is a flowering plant that is also called devil’s trumpet and angel’s trumpet, and there are many myths associated with it in cultures worldwide.
HOW TO PLAY A GREAT VILLAIN
With all good roleplays, there is always that one character that has been deemed the villain. However, they may not try to take over the world or kill off a ton of people there is that one character that happens to antagonize the wellbeing of others and the plot itself. It is a role that is typically well thought out and presented by the admins, but most players are too nervous to try being the villain and they think that they won’t be as convincing as they wish.
This shall be one of various other approaches to achieve playing a believable villain.
001. HOW TO PLAY A REALLY CREEPY FUCKING GUY
So I’ve seen plenty of people making attempts at creeping out character and player alike with their characters, and it always falls flat. They lay on it far too much, or not at all, and it’s a very sad thing. I’m going to write this how-to with the assistance of my character Tomislav. Everyone say hello to Tomo. He very much likes talking about himself.
The conflict between absolute good and absolute evil is the oldest conflict in literary history. Humans have been writing about dual morality for thousands upon thousands of years. Recently, the battle of good vs. evil has migrated from religion into the fictional setting. The plot goes like this: the protagonist teams up with a group of like-minded people to do battle against the Others. The Others are evil. Every single Other person you meet will be evil. They are traitorous, cowardly, self-serving, and hateful. The protagonist and allies will be generous, brave, caring, and selfless. People introduced to the story are either with or against the protagonist. In the end, good triumphs over evil. The angels win; Satan goes back in the pit.
This plot may be time-tested, but it is BORING. It’s time for a change.
I really strongly disagree with that idea that the “Good vs. Evil” trope is boring, and I do not believe that recent or even classic examples of the “Good vs. Evil” trope deal in absolutes one hundred percent of the time. There may be ultimate good guys and bad guys, but there are plenty of layers in between in nearly every story I can think of that deals with this trope.
Nevertheless, this is a great article on conflict, the “Good vs. Evil” trope, and exploring the trope’s nuances. Have at it!
Wattpad brings you a guest post from Bethany Myers, on creating great villains in literature.
You can read her novel “The Busgirl Blues” free on Wattpad:
Sometimes the best matches are the ones you least expect.
What Every Villain Needs
The store of synonyms for villain is so well stocked that it seems, well, villainous to employ that relatively colorless word in favor of many worthy substitutes — especially in humorous contexts. Here’s a roster of appropriate alternatives.
A Study on Serial Killers
Or the detailed guide on the oddly intriguing topic of Serial Killers. This guide is not for the faint-hearted.
The guide above is a very useful primer for those wishing to learn how to accurately depict serial killers.
Just to tack on to what benedicthelps has put together here: below you will find a list of documentaries on various serial killers and a few interesting resources for further reading.
A List of Documentaries about Serial Killers
A Few Extra Resources on Writing Serial Killers
Set in a fractured world of living vampires, fallen angels and psychopathic faeries, this dark fantasy novel explores the depths of love and vengeance, and what happens when the villain gets the girl.
Face it. Nine times out of ten the villain steals the show. Whether it’s the witty one-liners, the charisma, suavity and charm or the tragic back-story that jolts you into feeling sympathetic or even empathising with them, it’s the villains that make a cracking story. After all, what would a story be without conflict? And how would the hero develop without a strong antagonist to push back?
My love of villains and all things… villainous … began as soon as I was introduced to Disney. What has Aurora got that Maleficent can’t beat? Seriously. That woman has class, style, an amazing hat, and turns herself into a dragon. When I discovered that Angelina Jolie will be playing her in her very own movie, aptly named Maleficent, (out 2014), I was beyond excited.
The evil fairy Maleficent is pretty much the epitome of a successful villain: she’s interesting, memorable, and has cheekbones you could cut your sandwiches with. She also has real emotions (it hurts to be the only one not invited to a party… how would you like it?) and without her, Sleeping Beauty would have been a bit of a snooze-fest. [See what I did there?!]
My novel, The Book of Fate, first in a planned quadrilogy, revolves around a very simple premise: what if the villain got the girl? … How many different ways could a classic hero story end if that was the case? The best thing about a premise like that is that you could write it a hundred different ways, and it would come out differently each time. Why on earth The Book of Fate ended up the way it did is anybody’s guess, but I blame my various twisted influences, of whom Alan Rickman was probably the strongest…!
Your antagonist (or villain) has one job in your story, and that is to mess things up for protagonist (hero). But, that doesn’t mean they don’t need a story of their own.
To write well, all of your characters need to be rounded, complex and believable. Whether they’re the hero, the villain, the love interest, or the hero’s landlady, they all need a past, a present, and a future.
Your plot, in its simplest terms, is your protagonist on their journey to achieving their goal. Your antagonist is there to stop them, as many times as they can, and in as many ways as they can. But they also need a goal of their own, a reason they do what they do:
- Either your protagonist and antagonist have the same goal: the same love interest, or the same object they’re searching for, or to win the same award.
- Or they have opposing goals: maybe the hero wants to stop a supermarket being built, but the villain wants to build it.
By giving your antagonist a subplot of their own, a backstory, a goal, and by showing their character developing and changing, just as the hero does, you will create someone who is believable and relateable to your reader.
Always remember that everyone has good and bad character traits, and your antagonist shouldn’t just be a stereotype villain with a white cat and a moustache he likes to stroke. In fact, they may not even be a bad person, it’s just that their goal is in opposition to your hero’s.
Anonymous asked: I think you can give a villain a motive and still have them be truly evil. Some good evil motives would be greed or thirst for power.
Yes. However, I think there is something doubly terrifying in villains who have no motive, who, like the Joker in The Dark Knight, just want to watch the world burn. We can’t understand them because we have reasons and excuses and rationalizations for our actions. We can give you a Because for every Why.
But to ask, “Why?” and have a villain look you in the eye and reply, “Why? There is no why!" —that is truly heinous, truly terrifying, and wholly unknowable.
Villains who know they’re evil and relish it are also frightening. They need no motive, or else their motive is simply to do and be evil and that is all. Take Aaron from Titus Andronicus for example, an exceptional villain worthy of the word and probably my favorite villain of all time.
Aaron has a few quotes that drive home the “I’m evil and I know it” character arc. Here are my favorites:
"…I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly;
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.” (x)
“If one good deed in all my life I did,
I do repent it from my very soul.” (x)
How can you confront a villainy like this? How can you reason with it? How can you sympathize with it?
Hopefully you cannot sympathize. And there is no reasoning with evil—not pure evil like that. You can only kill it, hang it and shoot it full of holes and bury it in the desert to die of thirst or be eaten by some hungry beast. Villains like Aaron are poison; they are remorseless, incapable of reason. Unknowable.
Villains who have no motive or whose only motive is evil are so jarring and scary because they are unfathomable. We cannot grasp their motives, maybe because they have none, maybe because their motives are a skosh beyond the understanding of sane human beings.
The unknown is a major root of fear. Nearly all of our nightmares, everything we point to as a source of fear in our lives, can be traced back to the unknown. As Albus Dumbledore so wisely puts it in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” He’s right. There is nothing scary about death and darkness; it is what comes after death, what we cannot see in the darkness—those are the things that truly scare us.
We cannot know the emptiness and loneliness of evil, the vacuum of it, the nothingness it champions. We cannot know the Why, and the Why is what sustains us. To see a villain thrive without the Why, even in disdain if the Why, is terrifying.
So yes, a villain can be very nasty and hateful and murderous and still have a motive—greed, pride, lust, etc.—but the really evil villains are the ones with no motive or the simple motive of evil, who know they’re evil and don’t care. The unknown and unknowable; the known but unfathomable. The Other taken to the furthest degree. The inhuman. Evil.
This type of villain isn’t easy. There is no shortcut here, and no justification like, “Well, he’s just evil,” will work when it comes to this villain. It takes an enormous amount of skill and effort to write villains without motives or with a motive of evil, and there is a real possibility that it will still come off as flat.
But if you succeed, if you write that type of villain well, and you’ll have written the horror and the nightmare at the core of every one of us. Those are the villains that stick with you, who haunt you, who let all of your Whys echo unanswered in the dark.