I have a confession; I love villains! It started with Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty when I was growing up. Swan Princess was another favorite, and actually got me really thinking about the other side of the story. It may be that these two movies almost have more personality in the villains than the main characters, but I don’t know, you can decide. Whatever it was, I was intrigued with why they chose to use their powers the way they did.
As with any character, a villain needs to be fully developed. This includes the real-life details and quirks, give your villain a sense of humor or some kind of personality. Relatability may not be the right word to apply to villains, however, the reader has to understand them on some level. Purely being evil for the sake of being evil isn’t a good explanation for a villain. Give them at least one good attribute that they twist into their villainy. A perfect example is justice, a virtue in most cases, but can create a villain in and of itself.
I always love the classic marks of a villain, a twirly mustache, blood curdling cackle, etc. These have been helpful in marking the character as a villain for readers. Especially helpful for short stories with limited time, but it might be fun to have some villains that defy the stigma. A pink sparkle fairy could totally be a villain! With a sweet smile and everything.
All villains have secrets. The movie Maleficent is pure awesomeness, in my opinion. Her secret is that she loved Stephen (or rather had a huge crush if you wanted to argue the true love perspective). That simple fact explains the rest of her actions, and it’s something she isn’t even willing to admit to herself anymore. I feel like the secret is the core of a villain’s motivation to do what they end up doing.
Each one of us is capable of being a villain, we only need the right motivation. Simply wanting to be evil just because, isn’t believable for a character. A villain has seen a problem and decides to fix it, without necessarily having the authority or right, and then goes all out. A good, persistent villain believes they are doing the right thing.
Adding a deep secret is a personal element a villain needs to protect, making them that much more dangerous. Make the secret a part of the reason they feel the need to fix the problem. Maleficent saw the problem of greed in humans, when the man she thought she loved betrayed her for greed . . . she became a type of villain.
Create a villain. Choose the dominant characteristics, create the backstory, the ultimate goal, the secret and motivation. Your villain may be stereotypical or out of the ordinary. Either way, I want to hear a bit about it, so share a bit in a comment. Then you can make a story with the character, find a protagonist that’ll match and put a story together. The villain is just as important as the protagonist, so give this a shot.