How To Etch A Villain
We live in an era where the popularity of heroes is overshadowed by our love for good-looking but truly messed-up villains. We millennials really swoon over the cool anti-heroes that have deep, tragic backstories, touching upon a traumatic childhood. Everyone is secretly rooting for the sassy antagonist instead of the good-natured protagonist. But are you tired of reading about character depth and redemption and justified motivation for revenge? Do you want a villain who’s pure evil just for the sake of it? You can write one yourself! Break free from the usual tropes and explore a unique take on villains!
Here’s how you can write a villain, a little differently:-
Absurd Origin Story
Create a massive build up and hype regarding your villain’s origin and when you come right down to it, make it an absurd origin story. Why did your villain become one? And your villain cheekily answers, “Well, to be honest stand-up comedy doesn’t pay the bills. Goofy antics in the daylight and stealing antiques come night! That’s how I brushed against organized crime in my prime. And here we are now.”
People always associate certain colors like red, green and black with evil. Well, who said villains need to be always dressed from head to toe in black and constantly brooding? The whole menacing look gets tiring after a while. Evil needs to be cute and fashionable too. Give your villain a sunny disposition and some pastel clothes! Break the association of villains with dark colors and make your character a yellow yellow, dirty fellow! Make your villain so cheerful that it should seem incredulous when their truth is revealed. No one’s honestly going to suspect that the cute old Grandma in pastel pink flower apron, handing out delicious cookies, was a serial killer all along!
What’s In a Name?
To add to the menace factor, give your villain a name that is as dark as their soul. Go ahead and wreak havoc by making it a long, ridiculous sounding, purposefully hard to pronounce name. Even the audience should be perplexed as to how to read/ say their name. It should make them think, “With a name like that, it’s no wonder you turned out to be the villain!”
Evil Top Dog
Fed up of character motivation and tragic backstories of villains? There’s no turning point here though! Make this villain vile and sociopathic just for the heck of it! Let him embrace his true evil caricature. Don’t write a resentful underdog who grows up to be the villain. No, your villain is a Top Dog who makes evil triumph over good. Now, this may seem like a vicious cycle, with evil winning and no proper closure but at least you’ll have enough material left to squeeze out a sequel then.
Curse your villain with ironic superpowers. Your villain has powers that can be used only and only for bad! So here, we have a well-intentioned villain who loathes himself because he’s compelled by the universe to be bad. Insert a constant stream of apologetic monologue, “ Hey guys, I really want to save humanity, but the universe won’t cut me some slack…..and BOOM there it goes. I may have torn the world to pieces but all I ever wanted was world peace.”
Hate the power, not the player!
50 shades of grey
Nothing is ever black and white. We all love a villain with shades of grey to him. In fact, moral ambiguity makes everything more interesting. Keep your audience on their toes by making them guess your villain’s intentions along the way. Leave them in the dark as to whether he’s really a villain or not. Nothing is more fun than having an extremely capricious villain, prone to jumping ships at any given moment.
Write a hero fated to fulfill a glorious prophecy, who gains sympathy and emotional investment from the audience. As the audience keeps unequivocally rooting for this tortured character even after he makes questionable choices throughout the journey, make them realize right at the end that he was the villain all along. And it’s too late for redemption. All hail misdirection!
So good, it’s Bad!
Gift your villain with superpowers that can be overburdening while trying to remain on the good side. If a character has the power to read minds or alter reality by simply uttering a few words, the temptation to manipulate the universe is obviously going to be higher than the desire to stay good and repress said powers.
Come to the Dark Side!
……..We have better backstories! Now what if the Villain was right all along? Do a retelling of an old tale with a darker perspective. What if red-lipped, ebony-haired, ivory white Snow White was a vampire, who hypnotized dwarves and entranced animals? And the queen was actually trying to save the town by having the huntsman bring her Snow White’s heart? Flip your regular, dreamy tales into a nightmare as you root for the villain.
Create a villain whose behaviour just screams ‘ It’s criminal to be that funny.’ An attitude that tries to instil terror with ‘All fear me, for I’m the Everlasting Lord of Darkness’ but their actions are unintentionally funny and clumsy, thereby ruining the sinister effect. Have fun writing this self-sabotaging villain who ends up making the job of the hero easier!
Socially Awkward Villain
Now, we’re pretty sure villains don’t come out of the mother’s womb with their signature broody look. In fact, it’s possible not all villains are suavely menacing and emanating inherent ominosity. For instance, you can write a villain who has a mysterious and foreboding aura, which is actually a facade for his social awkwardness. Utterly fed up of human civilization, he prefers to read comfortably in his dark, introverted lair. He’s left with no choice but to rip off the heads of overeager teenagers who keep causing pesky disturbance. “ Human interaction is the worst! I just wanted to be left alone in peace with my books. Why do these idiots keep turning up like cockroaches?”
Break the fourth wall
Make your villain self-aware of their fictional nature by breaking the fourth wall. It can lead to some truly hilarious results. For instance, your villain can directly address the audience like this, “Being evil is a full-time job, and if somebody had to be the villain, that might as well be me. Of course the author had to make my origin a sad sob story! Oh, you think I’m heinous? I’d like to see you pull off my perfect, sinister smirk.”
To Sum Up
Break the cliches surrounding villains and explore your full evil potential as you write all sorts of wacky villains.
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