Love to Hate Villains

3D rendered portrait of a reptilian alien.

Who are your favorite villains in fiction? Or movies? Let’s face it, we all love to hate a mustache-twirling villain, or the stereotypical and evil Cruella Deville. I can’t imagine writing a fictional book–or reading one–without at least one real stinker of a character. It would be like eating food with no seasoning. Fortunately, my novels have an unlimited supply of the good, the bad, and many uglies.

In The Six and the Crystals of Ialana, the main villain is an odiferous reptile named Amrafalus. There are no extenuating circumstances for this creature; he lacks even the most basic signs of humanity. Well, he is not human, so one can only expect him to possess the personality of a snake, or a crocodile. Empathy and kindness are not in his vocabulary. He will do whatever is necessary to obtain what he wants without a smidgeon of conscience to guide him. My six protagonists must not allow this creature to reactivate the powerful crystals beneath the citadel in Rhiannon. They are only six, unarmed young people, and Amrafalus has all the power and backing of an army and a navy. How will they escape the manhunt for them that Amrafalus has set into motion?

When we write about evil characters, it is important to realize that no matter how nasty an antagonist may be, he or she always has a weak spot somewhere. A blind spot that does not allow the character to anticipate certain events. In Amrafalus’ case, his blind spot was—oh well, I’m not going to tell you. It would spoil the book, and I would love for you to spot it too!

Crow girl with feather wig and black eyes, real contact lenses and makeup

Another villain I loved to write about is Branwyn. She is in the second book of the series, The Six and the Gardeners of Ialana. Branwyn, or the Raven, as she likes to be called, is completely different to Amrafalus, but she is just as evil and nasty in her way. Branwyn uses deception rather than physical strength. She is a master of manipulation. In today’s terms, she would be called a sociopath: someone who is lacking in conscience and empathy for others. She knows how to manipulate people using her wiles and beauty, and she also possesses considerable psychic skills that allow her to . . . oops! Don’t want to give away too much here! I just want to say that she too has blind spots and you can try to spot those in the book.

How will the six protect themselves from both Amrafalus and Branwyn?

How do you present your villains? Do any of them have any possibility of getting their way, and how are they defeated? What are their blind spots and weaknesses? While we love the uncomplicated villains, it is advisable not to make them too uncomplicated all of the time. Perhaps one of them had a bad childhood, or perhaps they are misunderstood. Or are they? Some doubt will spice up your book and leave the reader wondering!

In presenting your villain(s), there is a fine line the author must walk. Making them too sympathetic, and then killing them off in the last chapter may turn the reader against the book. Making them way too uncomplicated and evil also makes them feel unreal: a Cruella Deville, for example. Although we all love to hate her, she is obviously not a real person and she probably doesn’t remind us of anyone we know–but we all know people who could be just a little like her though, don’t we?

Mix it up: I think the Fantasy genre allows us much more leeway with the villains (Orcs!) than other genres, but it may be a challenge to make them somewhat believable too. I like to have a sampling of the believable, and the well, not so believable–but awfully nasty characters.

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Villains: are they always totally evil?

cool b-boy in red jacket against black background

Blaidd is my most perplexing character. It is clear, from the beginning, that Blaidd is not quite like the others in the group. He is obviously suspect to the reader, and it comes as no surprise to anyone when he does not fit in with the group’s mission. He is clearly a loose cannon, and it is evident that he is driven by a desire for power that has its origins in another lifetime. He too does not understand what motivates him, except the conviction that he is destined for better things. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a desire for a better life, but in The Six and the Crystals of Ialana Blaidd takes that to a whole new level, seeking power for power’s sake. His desire for ownership of the crystal is overwhelming and drives his every action and thought.

To my own surprise, I discovered I had a sneaking sympathy for Blaidd. Blaidd came from a dysfunctional home, so it was not his fault—(or was it?)—that he turned out the way he did.  I too (like many reviewers and readers) kept hoping that things would change for Blaidd. Whether he does change or not is still to be revealed, and I will not give away here what happens to Blaidd in the future. I will only say that the reader should not give up on this guy, but fasten your seat belt and be prepared for a rough ride through the life of Blaidd.

Do you have a character whom you would love to see grow into a better person? Do you even know if things will change for this character?

In other blog posts this month I will introduce a few more villains from my books. Most are clearly bad to the bone, while others, like Blaidd, may fall into a greyer area. I love writing about them all, from the monstrous to the “still learning” nasties. It is fascinating to explore the mindset of evil and then to see how they may change—or not.