A great literary villain can be almost pure evil. Many villains are highly complex and seemingly lost in their amorality. Villains are twisted, dark, and evil.
Random House Dictionary defines a villain as “a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness and crime; a scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.”
Villains are normally very frightening, chaotic, and impulsive. All good literary villains are fairly vocal about their sinister plans and motivations. They also tend to be very impulsive in their actions, which in the end, almost certainly will bring about their doom.
Almost all villains have a deep, dark past that has helped turned them into the sociopath they are today. In reality, sociopaths are very rare and very noticeable, if you’re looking that is, because they simply don’t behave like normal people.
A great literary villain will have aspects of his personality that subtly remind you that they are still human and a part of them is torn by their actions and evil doing. Creating a more sympathetic villain will add complexity to your story and make the readers love him even more.
Some examples of great literary villains are:
• Darth Vader, from Star Wars
• Lord Valdemort, from Harry Potter
• Lago, from Shakespeare’s Othello
• Sauron, from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
• Hannibal Lecter, from the Silence of the Lambs movies
And a more recent addition to the list of great movie villains is:
• Colonel Landa, from Inglourious Bastards
These characters make great literary villains because they strike fear in the hearts of readers and viewers with their dark, menacing ways and seem to be the true embodiment of evil because they have zero remorse for any evil they have ever done.
There is a second type of villain, one that is far more tragic than the pure evil villain. These villains are much more self-aware and intelligent and come across as similar to everyday people. They normally have a history, or back story that makes you feel for them instead of just hating them outright as you would an “evil” villain.
Villains help make a story interesting. Without a villain, or opposing character, what would there be for your hero to do?
A secret of most good villains is that they have a lot of similarities to the hero of the story, down to their very nature. Keep this in mind during the next movie you watch, or next book you read and see if you can tell the difference.