Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Great Bad Guys

I looooove an awesome bad guy. Like the ones you know are bat-shit insane but you think they'd be kinda cool to hang out with anyway? Or the ones you feel sorry for but they also make you want to do pushups so you can punch them harder?

Consequently, a weak bad guy bores me to tears. I've seen a lot of these lately and it can make an otherwise good story fall flat. I am SOO over the high school bully (boy or girl) who's mean just to be mean. It makes me want to get revenge on the author, instead of the character for whom she intended that emotion.

Someone once told me: "Remember, even Hitler and Hussein didn't think they were bad guys." I always keep that in mind when I'm writing my baddies. They need to have something they love or care about, no matter how despicable they are.

Everything a bad guy does needs to have a reason. They're doing what they're doing because they believe in something, they think it's important. Yes, in real life, a person can be simply crazy and hateful, but in fiction that's unsatisfying. It's probably not fair, but it's true: Fiction has to make sense even when real life doesn't.

Sometimes, for me, developing the motivations of the villain is more fun than the hero: because, for the reader, good is accepted, but evil needs a reason for being.

Who is your favorite bad guy? I kinda have a hate-crush on Valentine from the Mortal Instruments series.


  1. 2-D evil - evil or the sake of it is dull. I have a lot of respect for Long John Silver in Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

  2. Ooh, Valentine is a great example! Yes, there's nothing like an evil villain who you can kind of sympathize with.
    My pet peeve with bad guys is when they do the corny "Scooby-Doo" explanation for their actions during the finale.

  3. Oh, Valentine is a good one. I'm sorta lost on thinking of any more. LOL.

  4. Ooh I love awesome bad guys. I've still yet to write my own post about sympathetic villains. I'm also studying theater in college, and one thing acting classes teach you is that characters--not matter how minor--need motivation and objectives. What are they trying to get in the overarching story, and what do they want in a single scene? Someone doing something just because they can isn't interesting enough--even though, as you said, in real life people DO do some things because they can.

  5. This isn't a book, but oh. my. gosh. the Heath Ledger Joker. Which I think is interesting because you always believe there's motivation for his evil (and he even gives you a couple of fake explanations), but you never know for sure what makes him what he is.

  6. Yes, the Heath Ledger Joker, definitely.

    Hm, I haven't read Mortal Instruments—tried the first book, saw the "twist" coming a mile away, which killed my interest—but there are a few villains I can think of off the top of my head.

    Spider in Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews creeps me out. My brain's stalling on trying to think of others atm. I know I've read them…

    Not books, but the agent from Serenity. And Dukat from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Oh, and Diva from the Blood+ anime, the poor dear.

  7. The best kind of bad guys are the ones that believe they're doing what they're doing for the greater good---where you can see from their POV what their motivation is... Mmm, I love myself a good bad guy!

    (and I didn't care for mortal instruments either, lol)

  8. Sometimes bad guys aren't the bad guys in their eyes, it's all about perspective.

    Btw, I have an award for you all at my blog. :)

  9. My favourite bad guy is Arvin Sloane from the TV show "Alias". Somtimes I felt so bad for him, but then he always did something so evil I remembered why I hated him. That's a good villain!

  10. I love Damon from the series The Vampire Diaries. Perfect bad guy you can't help but love. Great post!

  11. The only bad guy that really comes to mind at the moment is Mrs. Coulter from the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I thought the fact that she cared for her daughter added a lot of depth to her character especially as she had shown she didn't care about other children at all.