When it comes to villains, it’s important to make sure they stand apart from all the other bad guys your readers have met – not just from other authors’ books, but even from your own line. Personally, I think the most important thing to remember (besides not plagiarizing) is to make each villain unique, so that the reader doesn’t confuse them with someone else. Not very scary if you keep forgetting the villain’s motivation or MO, right?
It’s no secret I love writing villains (related: see my ARROW villains post here and my (very long) theory on why the Joker is the best villain out there here). There’s something about that breakthrough, when you figure out what makes them tick, that pushes me to write their story. One-dimensional villains who want nothing but power are kinda boring. It’s FINE if that’s their end game, but I want to know their backstory, why they are the way they are, how they think, what they want to achieve and why. To me, villains should always believe THEY are the good guy in the story; that their plan will somehow be for the better, even if it’s only for their own goals. (Of course, you have your basic psychos and nut jobs too, but their own self-interests can also be classified as goals.)
I thought today I’d showcase my own villains in order to understand how I try to make each one different. They all have their own talents and strengths (and weaknesses), and no two backstories are the same. Sure, they’re all a little nuts, but they each have different reasons for it!
Here’s a quick breakdown of my villains, including a brand new guy you’ve never met. He’s the big bad that’s coming in IGNITED, Book 4!
Dr. Felix J. Hardy – GIFTED
Human. A brilliant scientist who is small, nerdy, and relies on his massive intellect. He was bullied as a child up through high school by an older student (he still bears the magnifying glass scars on his arms). Dr. Hardy used to be part of the Donovan show, actually, healing and helping those who needed him. Felix, despite his inner crazy streak, still treated everyone with respect, provided they repaid the favor. He was eventually hired by a corporation specializing in gifts. After a lab accident in which he became temporarily gifted, he became obsessed with being gifted himself. His jealousy became too great, causing him to lose his important job and his wife; Felix snapped, retreating into the dark to perform experiments on gifted in order to break through the science. He believes if he becomes gifted himself, others will follow him into the sunset because he can change history.
Medved the Bear – BURNED
Whereas Felix had brains, Medved, a Russian thug, is straight up brawn, his muscles and strength allowing him to lead a revolution. He is a Shapeshifter, favoring his massive bear form to intimidate and kill. He’s by no means charming, but is intelligent enough to gain followers who believe in his cause. He hates humans, especially American ones, and has no use for them, intent on leading the gifted world out of the shadows and into the spotlight. He believes gifted are superior to humans in every way (a common thought in the gifted world). He knows firsthand about experiments; Felix actually tested on him many times, causing Medved’s brute strength to grow. In his backstory, he was orphaned and living on the streets until he was thrown in Russian prison for murder and robbery. There he earned his title amongst thieves and criminals, finally breaking out to lead his own small army against humans and any gifted who protect them.
Alex the Chameleon – HUNTED
Alex is gifted, an intelligent, teenaged Chameleon with street smarts who can change his appearance (not like a Shapeshifter; instead he can change his hair and eye color, freckles, etc). We find out his drug-addled mother cheated on her human husband with a Chameleon; when the kids came out gifted, the husband killed her and went to prison, leaving the kids on their own. Alex and his twin Kayla were in foster care since childhood, running away at 14 and living on the streets. Alex is eventually taken under Medved’s hairy wing to learn the tricks of the trade, taught that gifted are superior and must take control before humans wipe them out. His personal rage against Lucy takes over, pushing him to put his own goals aside so that he can destroy her and her circus.
Augustus Rivers – IGNITED
The biggest and baddest of them all, foreshadowed since Book 2. Think of him as a mafia boss, a legend in his own right as his family has been a leader in the gifted world (for better or worse) for as long as anyone can remember. I don’t want to give too much away ’cause spoilers, but Augustus is a complicated man. He loves power, but he DOES have a conscience, though it’s certainly a tricky one to navigate. He has family, but is it enough to keep him from going after everything he believes he deserves?
Xavier (X) – WITCH HEARTS
This villain is full on psychopath. I had a heck of a time writing him and he scared the pants off me. This dark witch hunts good witches for their powers, using their hearts in dark spells. X spent most of his childhood being abused by his father and jealous of his angelic little sister. (He ends up killing them both as a teenager, which really kicks off his path of crazy.) The kicker to X’s personality is that with each witch he hunts, he ends up falling in love with them (at least, his version of being in love), which makes the murders that much creepier.
Brad – A REAPER MADE
There’s a bigger villain in this story, but it’s also a major spoiler, so you’re getting the second bad guy example! (That’s okay, though, because Brad is pretty complex.) Brad turns out to be a half-witch, something that he detests because there’s no respect for him in the supernatural world. He wants nothing more than to be a full-blown, badass wizard who commands the respect and loyalty of others. Truth is, he’s a 20-year-old kid who’s torn between wanting to be the bad guy and not having enough guts for it. When he sets out on his course to trap Reapers and souls, he thought he was the one pulling the strings. When the truth comes out, he realizes he’s been played – and while part of him still wants in on the big bad plan, the human side of him battles, wanting nothing more than to keep the one person he loves alive.
So now it’s your turn in the comments: what are important elements or characteristics you want in a villain? What do they do that makes your stomach turn yet you can’t stop reading?